The official Chinese report that disgraced politician Bo Xilai's wife will be tried for murder was a top online topic in the country Friday, but web users' attempts to discuss the story were blocked.
State news agency Xinhua's report saying Gu Kailai had been charged with poisoning a British businessman was the third most reposted story on China's most popular microblog Sina Weibo on Friday morning.
But users trying to comment on the subject on Weibo received a message saying they were barred from doing so by "relevant laws and policies", while attempts to search for Gu Kailai's name and her initials were also blocked.
Sina Weibo has become wildly popular with members of China's middle class, who often use the site to share news stories. Sina claims the microblogging platform has at least 350 million registered users, mostly in mainland China.
But Beijing maintains tight control over what its citizens are able to view and post online with a vast censorship system known as the Great Firewall.
Its efforts to block online discussion of Bo and Gu have been particularly strenuous, reflecting the huge sensitivity of the case after Bo was dramatically removed from his post as leader of the megacity of Chongqing in March.
His dismissal highlighted rifts in China's ruling party ahead of a key leadership transition later this year, and threatened to open up public discussion of financial misconduct among the families of Chinese officials.
News of an attempt by Chongqing's police chief to seek asylum at a US consulate in March, which led to Bo's dismissal, first emerged on Chinese microblogs, quickly becoming the subject of intense speculation.
Beijing's propaganda ministry moved to clamp down on microblogs in April after Bo's spectacular fall from grace sparked a series of rumours, including one of a military coup led by an ally of the former leader.
Following that incident, three of China's top Internet portals pledged to "firmly support and cooperate with relevant government departments in cracking down and probing web rumours".
China's state-run newspapers gave low prominence to news of Gu's impending trial Friday, limiting their coverage to the Xinhua report.
Popular online news portals such as Baidu gave the story a low billing on Friday, or left it off their front pages altogether.© ANP/AFP