A man shovels snow on the destroyed Yalu bridge, right, next to the Friendship Bridge linking China and North Korea. (AP/Aritz Parra)
A man shovels snow on the destroyed Yalu bridge, right, next to the Friendship Bridge linking China and North Korea. (AP/Aritz Parra)

Chinese editor suspended for op-ed on North Korea ties

New York, April 2, 2013–An editor for an influential Chinese Communist Party journal said Monday he was suspended after his column appeared in a British publication calling on China to re-evaluate its relations with North Korea, according to news reports.

Deng Yuwen, deputy editor of the Study Times, a weekly journal of the Central Party School, which trains rising officials for China’s Communist Party, told the South Korean paper Chosun Ilbo that China’s foreign ministry had expressed its strong disapproval over his recent opinion piece titled “China should abandon North Korea.” He was then relieved from his position, he told Chosun Ilbo. Deng’s piece, which appeared in Britain’s Financial Times on February 27, argued that China should abandon its “outdated” alliance with North Korea, citing the possibility that Pyongyang could use its nuclear weapons to blackmail China.

“China has become a sophisticated modern society and it is perfectly normal for different views about foreign policy to be aired and debated in public,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “Stifling critical commentary impedes the leadership’s ability to make informed decisions.”

Deng told the South Korean paper that he has been suspended with pay indefinitely. However, The Wall Street Journal cited unnamed sources as saying the editor had been suspended for one month. Deng declined to comment when reached by the Journal.

In recent years, Chinese officials have used internal reprimands such as fines, enforced leave, demotion, or dismissal to keep mainstream journalists in line, CPJ research shows. In February, veteran investigative reporter Wang Keqin left The Economic Observer amid official pressure. In 2012, authorities removed top executives at two outspoken domestic papers, Guangzhou’s New Express and Shanghai’s Oriental Morning Post.

Deng’s piece in the FT urged the Chinese government to pursue Korean reunification, and was seen by many Western analysts as a sign that China was revisiting its ties with Pyongyang amid rising tensions in the region, the Journal reported. However, Deng also has a history of commenting critically on Chinese leadership, according to The New York Times.

  • For more data and analysis on China, visit CPJ’s March 2013 special report, Challenged in China.