Share

A Storied Hong Kong Newspaper Feels The Heat From China

A South China Morning Post announcement during a Hong Kong transport station.

Rob Schmitz/NPR


hide caption

toggle caption

Rob Schmitz/NPR

A South China Morning Post announcement during a Hong Kong transport station.

Rob Schmitz/NPR

When Alibaba owner Jack Ma bought a South China Morning Post in Dec of 2015, he hold a assembly with his new employees. The billionaire tech aristocrat from mainland China told reporters he wanted them to cover China some-more deeply, some-more broadly and some-more correctly.

“The some-more we know about a outward bargain of China,” Ma pronounced in English to his newly-acquired editorial staff, “the some-more we feel that many of a things are not correct.”

He railed opposite “biased” unfamiliar news coverage of China and pronounced he wanted a paper to arise above a rest.

The South China Morning Post is deliberate by many to be a paper of record in Hong Kong. It was founded in 1903, and depends Rupert Murdoch and Hong Kong genuine estate aristocrat Robert Kuok among a past owners. In a city jam-packed with news, it’s a largest English-language daily, and was once among a many essential newspapers on a planet.

In new years, though, a Post‘s coverage of mainland China has gradually malleable and it’s separated some of a calm entirely: In early September, a paper close down a Chinese-language website, deletion a archives.

And customarily this week, a Post announced it will, after 25 years, stop book Hong Kong Magazine, a renouned weekly underline of a paper.

This didn’t start with Jack Ma.

Change Comes To The Post

When Wang Feng was hired as digital editor of a South China Morning Post in 2012, he was called into a assembly full of other newly-hired immature mainland reporters with then-editor-in-chief Wang Xiangwei.

“He common his visions with us,” recalls Wang. “He assured us that he wanted to make a paper even some-more authoritative, even some-more judicious on China. That’s something we all wanted.”

Wang Feng, now editor of a Chinese book of a Financial Times, is a former digital editor of a South China Morning Post. He remembers stories deemed “too sensitive” being censored by editorial staff on a weekly basement while during a Post.

Rob Schmitz/NPR


hide caption

toggle caption

Rob Schmitz/NPR

Wang Feng, now editor of a Chinese book of a Financial Times, is a former digital editor of a South China Morning Post. He remembers stories deemed “too sensitive” being censored by editorial staff on a weekly basement while during a Post.

Rob Schmitz/NPR

Wang’s new trainer was a newspaper’s initial Chinese-born editor-in-chief, and as a former mainland journalist, that desirous him. But it didn’t take prolonged for a impulse to wear off.

“Some stories were, for example, killed during a editorial meetings in a brainstorming phase,” remembers Wang. “Other stories were downplayed, placed online only, instead of going to a paper, condensed and altered to reduction critical pages or locations. Headlines changed. Certain quotes taken out, things like that.”

Wang says stories were possibly censored or peaked by his new editor-in-chief during slightest once a week, mostly by an email to him, “…saying ‘You substantially need to change that headline.’ And apparently we ask why. ‘Well, since we told we so.’ Other times, he would customarily say, ‘That was too negative. The interviewee called. He didn’t like it.'”

Wang Xiangwei did not respond to an talk ask from NPR. He left his position a month before Jack Ma bought a newspaper.

“I consider South China Morning Post, you can consider of it as a thoughtfulness of what Hong Kong is,” says David Bandurski, editor of a China Media Project during a University of Hong Kong.

Bandurski says Hong Kong used to see itself as a running light to a northern neighbor. “And a thought was that ideas in Hong Kong and giveaway space in Hong Kong could enthuse China. we consider we’re observant a doorway is open now, and unequivocally a trade is entrance a other direction.”

An “Exclusive” Interview – With No Byline

In July, a South China Morning Post ran what it called an “exclusive” talk with incarcerated Chinese authorised romantic Zhao Wei. She told a Post she regretted her activism.

“I have come to comprehend that we have taken a wrong path. we grieve for what we did. I’m now a code new person,” she was quoted as saying.

The article, that lacked a byline, was odd. Her possess father hadn’t been means to hit her in prison. How did a South China Morning Post? Yuen Chan, techer during a Chinese University of Hong Kong and former South China Morning Post journalist, says it was a initial time a paper was used as a apparatus by Beijing to tell a confession, that is customarily how China’s supervision uses a possess media. Chan says it repelled readers.

Former South China Morning Post publisher Yuen Chan is a techer during a Chinese University of Hong Kong. She says a Post‘s readers were repelled when a paper ran a admission by a incarcerated authorised romantic in mainland China – Beijing customarily uses a possess state-controlled media for such purposes.

Rob Schmitz/NPR


hide caption

toggle caption

Rob Schmitz/NPR

Former South China Morning Post publisher Yuen Chan is a techer during a Chinese University of Hong Kong. She says a Post‘s readers were repelled when a paper ran a admission by a incarcerated authorised romantic in mainland China – Beijing customarily uses a possess state-controlled media for such purposes.

Rob Schmitz/NPR

“They didn’t design to see it there. They don’t unequivocally design to see a English-language media also being manipulated. And we consider that that unequivocally jolted them.”

The South China Morning Post declined an talk request, writing, “Editorial liberty is one of a core values of a South China Morning Post…There is no change to this value.”

Yuen Chan says she’s not really astounded by a Post‘s new Beijing-friendly coverage, suggesting a journal hasn’t altered really most from a beginning days as a paper of record for a British colonialists.

“If we demeanour during it in a early days, it was really most a paper that was review by and would have sources in a Hong Kong government, that being a colonial government. So privately we don’t feel that it’s such a outrageous startle to find that a South China Morning Post is now pro-establishment, solely now a investiture has changed.”