City Times, a newspaper in the Chinese province of Yunnan, was due to publish a controversial story recently about a local official, Fujian Communication Department director Li Dejin, and his controversial lifestyle — stating that he wears a watch worth 50,000 yuan ($7,930) and a belt worth 13,000 yuan ($2,000).
The article was published in a paper in Yunnan, thousands of miles away from Fujian province, apparently in an effort to evade censorship. That effort failed, and the article was spiked after pressure from the local government, Shanghaiist reports. Thousands of copies of the newspaper were pulped.
A few years ago, this would have been the end of the story, but this being modern-day China, the article found a new home – Weibo. And pictures of Li’s watches spread like wildfire:
Photo: Weibo via Shanghaiist
Xinhua reports that one post containing details of the story forwarded almost 100,000 times in just two days, while the editor of City Times has wrote a message that said he was ashamed that the copies were withdrawn, and it was because “someone behind the curtains from far away.”
Perhaps the most remarkable response has come from the state-run newspaper Global Times.
“Chinese media outlets are constantly frustrated by interference from special interest groups, sometimes even powerful individuals,” the paper complained in an editorial.
“The more influential the outlet is, the more interventions it may suffer. This has put traditional media in a disadvantageous position compared to online media.”
The story echoes the recent case of Yang Dacai, head of the Shaanxi Provincial Bureau of Work Safety, who was fired earlier this year after photos of him wearing expensive watches circulated on Weibo.
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