BEIJING - One of China's most famous television hosts has had his shows taken off the air after allegedly insulting Communist China's founding father Mao Zedong, according to reports.
State broadcaster CCTV said in a statement that it was investigating employee Bi Fujian for having caused a "serious social impact", Agence France-Presse reported.
"We will seriously handle the matter in line with related regulations," the statement added.
A video posted online early this week showed Bi - who has been anchor host for CCTV's New Year Gala, the most watched television programme in the world, since 2011 - calling Mao a "son of a b****" and mocking the revolutionary leader while singing in Peking Opera style at a dinner.
The video showed that the people dining with him were mostly Westerners.
Internet news portal Tencent reported a source as saying that there was at least one foreign envoy among them.
Bi's programmes will be taken off the air for four days up to midnight on Saturday, Tencent reported, citing CCTV staff.
A TV singing talent show - Avenue Of Stars, which Bi, 56, has hosted since its launch in 2004 - has also been suspended, reported the news portal Sohu.
It is uncertain when the show will return.
In the video, Bi is seen parodying a song from Taking Tiger Mountain By Strategy, one of the eight model operas allowed during the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution.
Aside from directly insulting Mao, Bi punctuated lines from the song with "we've suffered enough", a reference to the harsh conditions ordinary people endured throughout Mao's rule, which ended with his death in 1976.
The video is still circulating on social media sites.
It is not known who recorded the video, but many suspect the uploader was an academic belonging to what the Chinese call the "neo-leftist" camp.
The timing might also be unfortunate for Bi as, just earlier this week, Nie Chenxi, deputy chief of China's censorship authority, doubled up as head of CCTV, the first non-journalist to lead the station in 30 years.
Chinese social media was filled with comments both supporting and criticising Bi.
"He was only castigated because he's a public figure, and because we don't have freedom of speech in this country," said one netizen yesterday on China's Twitter-like microblogging service, Sina Weibo.
Another said: "He must be punished, one must not insult the founding leader, that's the bottom line."
An op-ed in the state-owned Global Times condemned Bi, saying in an article: "It should be noted that even though it was only for fun, Bi's adaptation of the epic play is quite vulgar."
"If what he sang is really what he thinks, then it is understandable that many people are disappointed in him," it added.
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