China's media watchdog has asked for popular television anchor Bi Fujian to be severely punished over jokes made at a dinner party making fun of the country's founding father Mao Zedong.
Bi's comments were filmed and posted online in April and caused a social media furor. He was suspended from the TV station, CCTV despite apologising for his actions. He has not been seen in public since, The Hollywood Reporter says.
People's Daily said that the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television is demanding that Bi's employer, CCTV "handles the issue seriously and imposes severe punishment."
It said the 56-year-old anchor was recorded making "disparaging remarks about Chairman Mao Zedong."
The TV star has been working with CCTV since 1989 and is best known for hosting the show Star Boulevard, the newspaper said.
South China Morning Post, which is based in Hong Kong, said China Discipline Inspection Daily, a newspaper affiliated with the country's graft watchdog said in a report on Sunday (9 August) that Bi had "used ridicule to harm the image of the older generation of the Communist Party and the [late] state leader."
"[The authorities] demanded the discipline inspection committee at CCTV to deal with the matter seriously and to educate the station to warn against [such behaviour]," the report said.
South China Morning Post said in a leaked video, Bi was seen with friends singing Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy, one of the eight revolutionary operas produced during the Cultural Revolution.
The song dramatises a 1946 incident where a soldier infiltrates and helps to destroy a group of bandits.
The video, running only for 76 seconds, shows Bi making jokes in between the lyrics. According to the Straits Times, Bi was seen singing part of the song and interjecting the lyrics with comments, including: "The Communist Party, Chairman Mao - Ugh, let's not talk about this son of a bitch any longer, he's caused us so much suffering."
Bi's TV station had promised in April to "investigate and handle" the incident seriously, adding that "as a CCTV host, Bi's comments in the online video clip have caused a serious social impact."
The TV station suspended Bi from on-air duties in April when the video was first leaked. In his Weibo microblog in April, Bi apologised for the incident, saying: "As a public figure, I must learn my lesson, and learn to have high standards and strict self-discipline."