A prominent Beijing-based newspaper will be closed down permanently by the end of this year, amid a harsh business environment for print media on the mainland.
The Beijing Times announced on Sunday that the paper’s management had decided to stop publishing the daily starting from January 1, according to its social media account.
The newspaper, founded in 2001, had failed to solve its financial problems, caused by the impact of new media and changing markets, the statement said.
The shutdown has been rumoured among mainland journalists since last month.
The newspaper was originally affiliated with People’s Daily, and was placed under the supervision of Beijing’s municipal propaganda department in 2011. Observers say that move made it more vulnerable to censorship orders from lower-level bureaus.
The Beijing Times, along with The Beijing News, are known for focusing on social affairs, and playing the role of social watchdog within the limited scope allowed by media censors.
A Friday editorial in the Times cast doubt on the drastic drop in the latest official estimate of the number of China’s “left-behind” children.
These are children in rural areas with inadequate family care and education, who number somewhere around 60 million, according to a 2013 report by the semi-official All-China Women’s Federation.
The newspaper questioned the latest figures from the Ministry of Civil Affairs, which changed the definition of children from those under 18 to those under 16. This cut the number of left-behind children to about nine million.
Some 202 employees of the Beijing Times will be assigned to the Beijing Daily Group, which owns a few publications as well as Beijing Television and the Beijing Radio Station.
All of them strictly adhere to the official line, and seldom challenge misconduct at even low-level government departments.
Some Times employees said there had been no communication between the management and staff, and that they would not accept the reassignment.
One former employee of the Times said it had suffered from restrictions by its management, which did not want stories outside of the capital covered. “This restricted the competitiveness of the paper,” the source said.