Journalist Song Zhibiao has been suspended by the Southern Metropolis Daily for writing an editorial remembering the Sichuan earthquake, referring also to the dissident artist Ai Weiwei.
The Chinese editorial not only referred to Ai Weiwei’s installations, such as the sunflower seeds in London’s Tate Modern, but also his campaign to find out numbers and names of schoolchildren who had died in the earthquake in 2008, a task handled without transparency by the government.
Deutsche Welle, a German newspaper known for its international output, reported that a member of the editorial team at SMD sent a microblog on Sina:
[Song Zhibiao] is temporarily being suspended. Unfortunately it will be a good long while before he can write another editorial or comment article.
The same DW report said that it might be a case of self-censorship as the Chinese Communist Party’s Propaganda chiefs Li Changchun and Liu Yunshan are to visit Guangdong province, where the Southern Media Group is based.
The paper wanted to make sure that nothing could implicate them in a crackdown. The same report quoted a journalist at the paper, who said they are working in very sensitive times.
An editorial employee told UNCUT today that Song is not taking interviews, but biding his time whilst a self-criticism that has been submitted to the provincial propaganda department is passed. Once that is over, the exact terms of the suspension, or punishment, will become clear.
Last week the Chinese government announced that Ai Weiwei’s company Fake evaded huge amounts of tax as well as destroyed accounting documents. Ai Weiwei’s sentence for the so-called crime has not yet been delivered and his four friends and employees remain missing.