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Facebook Blocks Chinese Billionaire Who Tells Tales of Corruption

The move comes at a sensitive time for both the Chinese government and Facebook.

China has taken several steps in recent months to clamp down on public discourse ahead of a major Communist Party gathering scheduled to take place this month. President Xi Jinping, the party’s top leader, is widely expected to use the meeting to cement his power and to make personnel changes that could have wide repercussions in coming years. Chinese leaders, who prize stability above all else, want the meeting to go off without a hitch.

Last week, Chinese officials largely blocked the WhatsApp messaging app, which is owned by Facebook. It also punished three of the biggest Chinese social media and chat forums, fining Tencent Holdings, Baidu and Weibo for failing to supervise users and prevent banned content like pornography and violence on their platforms.

For Facebook, it is the latest setback to the company’s efforts to expand in China. Mark Zuckerberg, its founder, has made a series of grand gestures to gain market access, including meeting with Chinese politicians, learning to speak Mandarin and even reading Communist Party propaganda, most of it to little avail. Many Facebook apps have been blocked in China for years.

Facebook has nonetheless signaled its continued interest in China, even though operating there under current laws would require it to bend to Chinese laws on censorship and personal information disclosure. Facebook insiders said last year that they had worked on a tool that could appeal to China’s censors. This spring, Facebook quietly authorized a small Chinese company to release a version of Moments, its picture-sharing app.

Meanwhile, Facebook is facing scrutiny in the United States, where it faces a congressional investigation for hosting ads linked to Russia that may have played a role in the 2016 presidential election.

Many of Mr. Guo’s accusations have seemed outlandish, but he has remained a thorn in the side of the Chinese government. This spring, China asked Interpol to issue a request for his arrest. At the time, both Facebook and Twitter suspended Mr. Guo’s accounts. Facebook later said the suspension was a mistake.

Some evidence that Mr. Guo has presented to back up his claims is easy to refute. But others have been corroborated by The New York Times.

More recently, Mr. Guo, who is in the United States on a tourist visa and who lives in a $ 68 million apartment overlooking Central Park in Manhattan, has sought asylum because of what his lawyer claimed was his status as “a political opponent of the Chinese regime.”

Chinese news outlets, many of them controlled by the government, have ramped up scrutiny of Mr. Guo, with reports accusing him of fraud, money laundering and even rape. Mr. Guo has denied the allegations, calling them a smear campaign.

The blocks affect both the profile under Mr. Guo’s name and an associated Facebook page, a type of account often used by businesses and other organizations.

Neither will be able to add content while the block is in place, Facebook said; the company would not specify how long the block would last. It also said that the page associated with Mr. Guo would remain off the site unless an administrator for the page appealed to company.

On Sunday, the profile with Mr. Guo’s name was still visible, but with what Facebook said was a “temporary feature block.” A verified page with Mr. Guo’s name remained on Facebook.

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NYT > Technology

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