The Guangzhou-based New Express newspaper was missing most of its regular sections for the second day in a row yesterday following the removal of its editor-in-chief on Monday.
Analysts and journalists attribute the move to tightened censorship ahead of this year's Communist Party national congress.
Wang Yang , the provincial party boss, is regarded as a leading contender forelevation to the party's leadership.
The editorial page was once again missing, while only two pages were devoted to national and international news (on Monday there were none). The city and community news section was much bigger than usual.
Although veteran Guangdong journalists said the punishment was a result of the newspaper's reprinting on July 10 of a full page of reports from the Jinan Daily, a Shandong government mouthpiece, about the early lives of five Politburo members, the Jinan Daily has not received any punishment. The same report, which was also carried by the People's Daily's website and China News Service, was in Jinan Daily's online archive yesterday.
Professor Hu Xingdou, of the Beijing Institute of Technology, said Guangdong's media were the most influential on the mainland. 'The whole country can hear once they speak,' he said. 'That's probably why only New Express was censored while the original author, the Jinan Daily, survived.'
Zhu Jianguo, a Shenzhen-based independent commentator, said the censorship suggested that Guangdong, once renowned for having a much more liberal environment for the expression of public opinion than the rest of the mainland, had been placed under stricter control than other provinces because Wang , wanted to make sure of a smooth run-up to the announcement of the new Politburo Standing Committee at the party congress in the autumn.
'There's been lots of social unrest and protests in Guangdong recently, which has attracted Beijing's attention,' he said. 'It's possible that Wang decided to further tighten control of the media to ensure there's zero trouble during the last few months of his tenure.
'In fact, the province just appointed a new propaganda chief from Beijing in May, with his iron-fisted style disgusting many Guangdong journalists.'
Zhu said the way Guangdong propaganda authorities punished the New Express served as a warning to other newspapers, meaning newsrooms were likely to exercise increasing self-censorship and only choose safe news topics.
'The New Express was the only active newspaper in Guangdong after The Southern Metropolis News and the Southern Weekly were muzzled,' he said.
A veteran Guangdong journalist who declined to be named said the report about the early lives of five Politburo members may have been the last straw, given the propaganda authorities' long-standing disquiet over the paper's bold front pages.