A Chinese journalist has been suspended after publishing an article challenging the Chinese Communist Party’s official take on a national hero, a newspaper reported, in the latest example of a reporter pushing the limits of censorship only to have authorities rein them back in.
Magazine journalist Zhao Lingmin (趙靈敏) was suspended on Monday because of a question-and-answer interview she did with a Taiwanese historian that portrayed modern China’s founding father, Sun Yat-sen (孫逸仙), in an unfavorable light, Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post reported on Thursday.
Zhao works for Nanfeng Chuang, a magazine in Guangdong Province, which is home to several publications known for relatively fearless reporting. The Post said Nanfeng Chuang’s president, Chen Zhong (陳中), was demoted because of the piece.
An editor at the magazine who refused to give his name denied the report on Friday, saying Zhao was working as usual, but a reporter who refused to give her name confirmed that Zhao was suspended. Both said they couldn’t give their names because they weren’t authorized to handle media queries. The reporter referred questions about Chen to the magazine’s publicity official, who was unavailable on Friday.
Nanfeng Chuang has no official English name, but is sometimes called “Window on the South” or “South Wind Window.”
Zhao said in an open letter to colleagues dated on Tuesday that her dispute with authorities was linked to her piece about Sun and alleged mistakes she made in political judgement. The letter and an English translation were posted online on Thursday by David Bandurski, a media issues expert and China watcher at the University of Hong Kong.
Zhao wrote that she hoped her colleagues at the magazine would be able to maintain their “independent character and judgment” despite the tough reporting conditions they faced.
Bandurski said Zhao’s case reflects a constant push and pull between Chinese media and the authorities.
“What we tend to see is when media becomes more robust like this, then the control apparatus, if you will, strikes back,” Bandurski said. “We can see an action like this at Nanfeng Chuang and still see next week hard-hitting investigative reports in another media.”
Chinese media have grown increasingly daring in their coverage of corruption by officials, food safety and other sensitive issues. In one recent example, numerous print and television media outlets refused to downplay a high-speed rail train crash that killed 40 people and instead challenged the government’s handling of the accident.