A senior official in Fujian Province is being accused of orchestrating the deletion of an unflattering newspaper report about his extravagant spending on expensive personal accessories.
A Sina Weibo posting on Monday, which has been reposted tens of thousands of times, claimed the exposé in Tuesday's edition of the City Times, a newspaper based in Kunming, capital of Yunnan Province, had been replaced by a full-page advertisement.
The story claimed Li Dejin, director of the Fujian Communications Department, owns a 50,000 yuan ($7,905) Rado watch and a Hermès belt that cost some 13,000 yuan.
"As a media practitioner from Fujian, I've never felt so furious and humiliated as today after seeing hundreds of thousands of copies of our newspaper altered," Zhou Zhichen, president of the City Times, wrote on his verified Weibo Tuesday morning.
"I told myself that one has to survive before creating new things," according to Zhou's posting.
Zhou was unavailable for comment as of press time.
"I read Zhou's Weibo posting Monday night saying that Tuesday's City Times would run a story about Li Dejin," Wang Keqin, assistant editor in chief with the Economic Observer newspaper, told the Global Times Tuesday.
"When I talked with Zhou, he told me that the pressrun was underway," Wang told the Global Times.
"He was told Tuesday that page A30 had been replaced with an ad in more than 300,000 copies of the paper," Wang said.
Deng Fei, director of the journalist department of the Phoenix Weekly magazine, wrote on his Weibo Tuesday that reliable sources told him the page proof had not been destroyed and was at the printing plant.
"I was told by people who have read the report that it describes Li's expensive watch and belt. It's totally unnecessary to delete the page," Deng said.
Li Dejin, who was appointed director of the Fujian Communications Department in August 2009, triggered a torrent of protests online after his department incorporated the province's historic Quanzhou Port with several other adjacent ports and renamed it the Meizhou Bay Port.