hong kong

Media tycoon Jimmy Lai's arrest sends warning to Hong Kong's free press   12%

For the global business community, which relies on the rule of law and stability that Hong Kong offers, threats to the free press are troubling, said Imogen T. Liu, a political economist affiliated with Maastricht University in the Netherlands

Hong Kongs Most Brazen Arrest Yet   6%

As Hong Kong began to absorb the gravity of a new national-security law forced upon it by Beijing, Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s chief executive, told a reporter that the city’s residents needn’t worry. The city’s Basic Law, its mini-constitution, she said last month, “clearly stated” that the “people of Hong Kong should be able to continue to enjoy the freedom of speech, freedom of press, of publications, protest, assembly and so on.” Lam was reiterating what she had told the United Nations a day earlier.

But today, Jimmy Lai, a media tycoon who runs the popular prodemocracy newspaper Apple Daily, was arrested at his home and perp-walked by police through his own newsroom, his hands handcuffed behind his back as dozens of officers swarmed the building, rummaging through files and reporters’ desks. Lai was detained, along with at least nine others, on allegations that he had breached the national-security law by colluding with foreign forces, police said. The charge carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

Lam’s statements—and the Hong Kong government’s actions—during the height of the city’s prodemocracy protests last year struck those supportive of the movement as half-measures that came too late to defuse the political crisis at best, and arrogant and uncaring at worst. But with the national-security law in place, her words have at times appeared completely unmoored from the realities unfolding in the city. Lai’s arrest thus served a dual purpose, at once confirming the worst fears about the national-security law’s impact on Hong Kong’s long tradition of maintaining a free press, and offering the latest instance in which Lam’s public remarks seem utterly empty. “This is an outrageous assault on press freedom, on a number of levels,” Keith Richburg, the director of the Journalism and Media Studies Centre at the University of Hong Kong and a former Hong Kong and Beijing bureau chief for The Washington Post, told me as the arrest unfolded.

The arrest is also an accelerant to the rapid erosion of trust between Hong Kong’s leaders and its people. Last year, as police deployed heavy-handed tactics to quell street protests, trust in the force, once unironically dubbed “Asia’s Finest,” plummeted. A similar popular distrust has grown toward Hong Kong’s government, thanks in large part to Lam’s continuous doublespeak, her top officials’ unquestioning support, and Beijing’s hostile maneuvers. This distrust is now corrosively permeating the court system, the justice department, and the business community, weakening the territory’s core foundations and international appeal, to say nothing of the safety of its residents.The new law has “worsened the trust deficit,” Surya Deva, an associate professor at the City University of Hong Kong’s law school, told me. It is, he added, “becoming clearer that the chief executive is mostly a front for Beijing authorities to operationalize their thinking.”

[Read: A newsroom at the edge of autocracy]

The erosion of the city’s rights and freedoms has proceeded at an alarming rate in recent weeks: Lam had, for example, unequivocally declared that the national-security law would not be retroactive—allowing, she said, the territory to have a fresh, conflict-free start—only weeks before a dozen prodemocracy candidates were barred from partaking in an election due next month. Officials responsible for screening the candidates often cited candidates’ public comments and months-old social-media posts, made before the national-security law existed, as evidence that they would not do their duty in upholding it or the Basic Law more broadly. Tiffany Yuen, one of those disqualified, told me that the evidence against her included an Instagram post from January, six months before the law was unveiled, of a popular protest slogan, which she had not deleted until she was warned to do so by an official. Her reluctance to remove the post, the official reviewing her application wrote in rejecting her, was evidence “that the candidate has never wanted to dissociate from her political stance, that is, to overthrow the current Government or to advocate the separation” of Hong Kong from China. “This whole thing is definitely a witch hunt,” Yuen said.

Then last week, Lam sat flanked by senior officials in her administration to tell Hong Kongers what most of them already knew: The election would be postponed. Delaying the polls for two weeks at a time could be viewed as an abuse of power, Lam said, invoking instead a colonial-era ordinance to postpone them for an entire year. She blamed the delay on Hong Kong’s coronavirus outbreak, which is already showing early signs of improvement. It was the second such time she has needed to rely on the drastic piece of legislation to move forward her agenda. Immediately, prodemocracy advocates and Western governments leapt at the decision, calling it an effort to further curb the city’s limited democratic freedoms under the guise of pandemic safety. Leaders’ words, in times of crisis, are ideally meant to reassure and calm their populations; Lam’s words most often have the opposite effect. (Beijing also clearly doesn’t trust Lam, who was sanctioned by the U.S. last week, along with 10 others for restricting freedoms in Hong Kong and undermining the city’s autonomy, to govern effectively without overt guidance from above. The young activists disqualified from running in the election see the Legislative Council—Hong Kong’s mini-parliament, which functions with a limited degree of suffrage—merely as a prop in an elaborate role-playing game, better used as a platform for protest than a forum for lawmaking and governance.)


If Lam is leading the effort to undermine Hong Kong’s unique story, perhaps no one embodies that story more than Lai. After fleeing the mainland during his youth, he worked his way up through the garment industry, eventually founding the clothing retailer Giordano. Indeed, if not for his political leanings, he would be held up by the government to illustrate the "Lion Rock spirit,” the sense of community and perseverance ascribed to the hardworking Hong Kongers who helped propel the city’s global rise. Rather than use his wealth and position to cultivate a cozy relationship with Beijing, as most of the city’s business elite did, Lai instead donated money and clothing to the prodemocracy movement. He was deeply affected by the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989, telling The New York Times Magazine that year that he no longer focused on making money just for the sake of it: “Now I make money with an ideal.” Lai eventually built a prodemocracy media business that spans Hong Kong and Taiwan, and more recently, the septuagenarian has often been seen marching alongside demonstrators a quarter his age.

During the protest movement last year, Lai also met with senior U.S. officials in Washington, including Vice President Mike Pence, incensing Beijing and its backers in Hong Kong, who insist the protests were funded and fomented from abroad. His activism has for years made him a persistent target of Chinese state media, leading to harassment and significant financial costs, including being forced to sell his clothing business. When asked during a Facebook Live chat this month about the government’s targeting of overseas activists with the new law, he presciently warned, “I think they will continue to censor people they consider detrimental to the [Chinese Communist Party’s] international standing.” Lai is unlikely to be granted bail.

[Read: Hong Kong is a colony once more]

The Public Opinion Research Institute, an independent polling outfit, found last month that about 60 percent of Hong Kongers surveyed distrust the Hong Kong government. Though their trust in the central authorities had enjoyed a period of increase from 1997 to 2008, since then, it has continuously declined, says Christoph Steinhardt, an assistant professor in the department of East Asian studies at the University of Vienna, who has studied the relationship between Hong Kong identity and government trust. “Beijing has seemingly decided that efforts to sway the population in Hong Kong have failed,” he told me. “Unfortunately, the period until 2008 shows that this is not true, but that is a message Beijing cannot or does not want to hear.”

Closer to home, the lack of trust has come into sharper focus in recent weeks. The city’s head of public prosecutions resigned last month, saying he had been sidelined from cases involving the national-security law, and writing in an email that he could no longer work with the justice secretary, Teresa Cheng. Cheng joined Lam on the U.S. sanctions list, along with the current and former police commissioners. While the government has dismissed the “so-called” sanctions as meaningless, they put Hong Kong officials among the ranks of military chiefs accused of genocide and the heads of narco militias. International banks, which underpin the city’s status as a finance center and gateway to China, have become skittish of the law and of getting caught between Washington and Beijing. Deva said that statements from Hong Kong and Beijing do not give foreign companies operating in the city “any confidence that the law will target only an ‘extremely small minority of illegal and criminal acts and activities,’” as the government has insisted. This, he said, would further imperil Hong Kong’s reputed judicial independence from mainland China and, in turn, its status as an international financial center. “While the chief executive continues to assert that all decisions are being taken strictly in accordance with ‘one country, two systems,’ no objective observer is willing to buy this narrative,” Deva told me, referencing the manner under which the city was supposed to be governed by China until 2047.

Lam is perhaps growing wise to the blatant contradictions in her words and actions. When she was asked how the government would address the legislative vacuum caused by the postponement of the Legislative Council session, Lam said she believed that the current session should be continued, but quickly added that this was only her personal opinion. Ultimately, she admitted, it would be up to Beijing to decide how things are handled.

A Newsroom at the Edge of Autocracy   26%

On the night of August 31, 2019, police officers rushed into a Hong Kong subway station, swinging their batons and chasing suspected anti-government protesters into the narrow carriageways of a parked train as an emergency warning blared overhead.

Like many pivotal moments of the city’s protest movement, the scenes were captured in photographs and live-streams by journalists and bystanders. The most enduring image from the incident shows a small group of people huddled by the subway door. Among them is a man crouching on the floor, holding his hand up toward the police in anguish and fear as he is doused by a thick stream of pepper spray.

Hong Kong’s protest movement was nearly three months old by then, and the police action marked a significant turning point. Reporters across the city tried to make sense of what they were seeing, and to properly explain the enormity of the moment: A subway station, once considered a safe space for commuters, had been breached; and the police, who just months earlier had been seen as trusted members of the community, had assaulted civilians despite no clear evidence of a major security threat.

At the South China Morning Post, Hong Kong’s largest English-language newspaper, the now-familiar breaking news scramble that would last until early the next morning was under way. How the paper handled that story has since become a source of tension among its journalists, sparking a controversy that is emblematic, many of them told me, of the broader conflicts over media freedoms in the territory as it faces an uncertain future. When I asked the paper’s executive editor about the episode, and more general questions about its protest coverage, he voraciously defended the outlet. Critics, he said, had tried to intimidate and bully SCMP journalists to “condition” the newspaper's narrative to their own liking. “Should we bend to this kind of pressure?” he asked.

The SCMP is not as well read as the international outlets that it would like to compete with, but because of its unique position—as the main English-language outlet in a strategically important city—its coverage plays an outsize role in shaping international understanding of events not just in Hong Kong but across the border in China, as well.

An early draft of an initial story about the incident, according to a version that was read to me, had an opening that detailed “chaotic and shocking scenes” as officers went after “cowering commuters.” That was not the account that was eventually published, though. The SCMP’s edited story (which was subsequently updated) instead recounted how “elite Hong Kong police” had chased “radical protesters” wearing “masks” into the subway station.

The incident at the paper, recounted by two people with knowledge of the event, both of whom spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid retribution, exemplified the type of heavy-handed, slanted editing that became common in the SCMP newsroom as the demonstrations carried on. Journalists who spent hours, sometimes in a haze of tear gas, pepper spray, and rubber bullets, saw their work drastically altered by editors before running in print and online. The police were typically portrayed as heroes, and the protesters as villains, with little explanation or context of each side’s motives and grievances. “That was frustrating,” one current reporter involved in coverage of the demonstrations told me. (This journalist, like others I spoke to, did not want to be identified, fearing a backlash from the SCMP.) With these stories appearing on the front page of the paper, the reporter said, “they’ve given an impression that SCMP is anti protesters. As journalists, we should never be pro or against protesters.”

(Chien-Chi Chang / Magnum)

Hong Kong has a long legacy of an aggressive and boisterous media, in both the dominant Cantonese language and English. Newspapers are widely read, and they often carry sharp critiques of government and police failures. Those freedoms have been a hallmark of the “one country, two systems” framework that has set the city apart from mainland China, where journalism is heavily censored and far less free.

Yet even before the recent enactment of a far-reaching national-security law in Hong Kong, the city’s media were under strain. Numerous mainstream outlets have been bought by China-backed figures or pro-establishment businesses, shrinking the diversity of voices. In recent years, vigilantes have carried out attacks against senior editors and Beijing has harassed officials from Cantonese newspapers. And since protests began last summer, the government in Hong Kong has also sought to curb journalists’ freedoms. Dissatisfied with honest accounts of official malfeasance, the authorities have sought to stifle some of the city’s most cutting voices. Radio Television Hong Kong, the government-funded broadcaster that operates akin to the BBC, drew an official rebuke when a reporter pressed a World Health Organization adviser over the contentious issue of Taiwan’s inclusion in the global body and after its long-running satirical program took aim at the Hong Kong police. That program, Headliner, has since been suspended. Top newsroom executives have stepped down, and the broadcaster is now under government review. Police continue to harass journalists reporting on protests, which have shrunk dramatically in size and frequency due to a combination of the pandemic, new police tactics, and the national security law.

[Read: The leader who killed her city]

The new law has worsened the climate further. Reporters and editors in Hong Kong have been left wondering what journalistic activity may now constitute a crime, and they have received few assurances from the city’s leaders. A number of local newspaper columnists have resigned from their positions, fearing that they may fall afoul of the national-security law. This month, The New York Times announced that it would move a portion of its staff to South Korea, a decision that is likely to be followed by other foreign outlets; at least three major Western news organizations, including the Times and The Wall Street Journal, are facing delays in securing new visas or visa renewals for their staff, according to people familiar with the details who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation. “The purpose of the law is precisely to manufacture a climate of fear among all the governed here,” Kwai-Chueng Lo, the head of the writing program at Hong Kong Baptist University who has researched Hong Kong’s media, told me.

The SCMP sits at the center of many of these tensions. Founded in 1903, when Hong Kong was a British colony, the newspaper has long been the broadsheet of the city’s elites, “the paper to be gripped while riding the bus or to be seen on one’s doorstep in the morning,” the veteran journalist Yuen-ying Chan wrote in an academic article examining Hong Kong’s English-language media. Even beyond China, the SCMP has stood apart, operating free from the onerous press restrictions enforced in other Asian countries such as Singapore. Today, it is arguably the city’s most important title internationally, a position gained from a combination of both its size and its ownership (it is controlled by Jack Ma’s Alibaba Group, one of China’s most successful tech companies).

But last year’s protests tested the paper, as the global media spotlight shifted to Hong Kong, and the SCMP’s reporters found themselves butting up against senior editors who often appeared to be overly deferential to authorities and largely unquestioning of police narratives, even as evidence of misconduct mounted.

Largely due to its association with Hong Kong’s establishment, and that establishment’s growing reliance on business dealings with mainland China, the SCMP has always been a more staid outlet than its Cantonese counterparts. Through the late 1980s and into the mid-2000s, the paper was owned by the media tycoon Rupert Murdoch and then the Malaysian billionaire Robert Kuok, and while SCMP veterans often speak of a bygone golden era in which the paper was more critical, there have in fact long been instances that gave rise to questions about its editorial stance and censorship.

The South China Morning Post newsroom. (Paul Yeung / Bloomberg / Getty)

When Alibaba purchased the paper in 2015, the company brought an infusion of much-needed cash. The SCMP hired additional staff, moved into new offices (complete with an on-site pub), and expanded editorial offerings, including the tech-focused Abacus and Goldthread, a video-heavy vertical that reports on Chinese culture. The paper—long a must-read for English-language China watchers, its coverage being far more credible than any mainland outlet—expanded its ambitions, courting a global readership hungry for news from China by dropping its paywall and eventually beefing up its team of China-based reporters to around 50. In 2018, it announced a tie-up with Politico that Gary Liu, the SCMP’s CEO, said in an internal email was a sign of the newspaper’s “growing credibility and authority.” (The SCMP has approached The Atlantic about coproducing events in the U.S. and Hong Kong, according to a spokeswoman for The Atlantic, but the partnership has never materialized. In recent years, the SCMP has also spoken to The Washington Post, according to a person familiar with the matter. A spokesperson for the Post did not respond to request for comment.)

Thanks to those factors, as well as drastically increased interest in China, where, of course, the coronavirus pandemic began, the SCMP has seen a sharp rise in readership. Though its daily print circulation is relatively limited, at just over 100,000, it averages more than 50 million monthly active users—a tenfold increase over the past three years—and nearly 200 million pageviews a month. Around a third of that audience is in the United States, Liu said in a podcast interview with Digiday. Yet despite the largesse of its ownership, SCMP remains at the whim of the media market: The newspaper is unprofitable, Liu said during a Recode podcast, and its reliance on advertising has “set off alarm bells.” Staff were recently forced to take unpaid leave for three weeks, and management pay was cut. The SCMP is hoping to open up other revenue streams and will soon reintroduce its paywall.

[Read: Hong Kong is a colony once more]

Over the course of its history, the SCMP has largely fought off English-language challengers, both in Hong Kong and elsewhere in the region. Today, its position atop Hong Kong’s English media scene is largely unrivaled, but its ambitious goals—and its new ownership—have brought greater scrutiny, which the paper does not always seem comfortable with. In particular, there are questions about whether the 117-year-old institution could someday resemble the propaganda outlets trumpeting the party line over the border in China. Liu, who joined the paper in 2017 from the tech company Digg, has consistently pushed back against these concerns. “There is an immediate assumption that because Alibaba is a Chinese company that they are going to meddle in editorial,” he said in the Digiday podcast. “That has never been the case.” Yet Liu has acknowledged how tenuous the paper’s editorial independence is. “If the laws of this city and the judiciary that protects those laws change to the point where there is no longer press freedoms in this city, the South China Morning Post will change,” he told Digiday. (The owners have spoken about how they think coverage should be driven: “A lot of journalists working with these Western media organisations may not agree with the system of governance in China, and that taints their view of coverage,” Joe Tsai, chairman of the SCMP’s board of directors and Alibaba’s executive vice chairman, said shortly after the sale was completed. “We see things differently, we believe things should be presented as they are.”)

Concerns have been raised over the newspaper’s ethics, and its willingness to cooperate with Beijing since the sale. In 2018, the SCMP faced backlash when it conducted a government-arranged interview of Gui Minhai—a Hong Kong bookseller and Swedish citizen who disappeared in 2015 and then reappeared in Chinese custody a year later—in a detention facility while guards loomed over him. Liu has stood behind the interview and article, arguing that the SCMP agreed to the interview after discussions with editors, that there were no strings attached, and that the newspaper made a point of highlighting that Gui was accompanied by security personnel. But Angela Gui, the bookseller’s daughter, told me she was unhappy with the paper’s decision and its continued defense of the interview, which she says Beijing orchestrated to advance its own misleading narrative about her father’s situation. “My father was, after years of illegal detention and torture, subjected to public humiliation by the Chinese government, and the SCMP was complicit by disseminating and legitimizing it as a ‘news story,’” she said.

(Paul Yeung / Bloomberg / Getty)

When it comes to China, the SCMP’s overall coverage remains far from Communist Party mouthpieces such as China Daily or Global Times. Indeed, its website—like that of The Atlantic and other major Western publications, including the Times, the Journal, and others—is blocked on mainland China.

More illustrative has been its coverage of the Hong Kong protests, which proved to be an unexpected test for the paper. Liu told Recode that the newspaper strove to remove emotion from the reporting and editing of stories on the crisis. Those views were welcome on the opinion pages, Liu said, but not in the news section. “That separation for us is sacrament.”

However, nine current and former SCMP employees told me that the lines were often far less clear. Nearly all pointed to Yonden Lhatoo, the SCMP’s chief news editor—and among those responsible for editing the subway story—as an example. Lhatoo, a former TV journalist who was described by current and former colleagues as an abrasive and mercurial presence prone to angry outbursts and frequent shouting, is part of a trio of senior editors seen as contributing to a sometimes caustic newsroom environment. Lhatoo also writes a regular opinion column and news stories as well. His editing of various articles that recapped days of protest grated on some journalists, particularly those reporting from the street. The tone was not missed by close readers of the newspaper. “There are choices of language and vocabulary that are in themselves a reflection of bias,” said Louisa Lim, a former Beijing correspondent for NPR who is now a senior lecturer at the Center for Advancing Journalism at the University of Melbourne, pointing to the use of terms like riot and rampage that often made it into the final versions of stories recounting protests.

Members of the newsroom were particularly unhappy with a story Lhatoo wrote in October that ran in the news section of the paper, pushing a theory popular among pro-Beijing figures that there was a “silent majority” in Hong Kong that was against the protests but had been scared into silence. They were concerned enough to request a meeting with senior editors after the story’s publication to discuss their concerns over Lhatoo and editing more broadly. Chow Chung Yan, the executive editor, and Zuraidah Ibrahim, the deputy executive editor, met with disgruntled staff, but “there was no attempt to try and reconcile anybody,” one person present at the meeting told me. “It was just, ‘This is the situation; if you don’t like it, there is the door.’” Over the course of the protests and in the months that followed, a number of journalists central to coverage did leave the newspaper, and at least one other editor is expected to depart shortly, according to people familiar with the matter. More recently, Lhatoo, in a May 16 column, urged Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s chief executive, to take a page from Donald Trump’s book and strike back at “malicious journalists” by labeling them “fake news” and a “disgrace.” One former reporter likened it to “asking for an attack on press freedom itself.”

[Read: The end of Hong Kong]

Liu did not respond to a message seeking comment. The paper’s spokesman, Elgen Kua, sent a statement in response to a list of questions this month and suggested a visit to the outlet’s newsroom once Hong Kong is past its latest wave of COVID-19 cases. In a follow-up call, Kua said, despite not having seen the comments themselves, that remarks made by current and former SCMP employees to me were “quite libelous” and that Lhatoo had become the target of a “hate campaign,” something Lhatoo has addressed in his column. Shortly before this story was due to publish, and weeks after multiple interview requests were submitted, the SCMP made Chow available for an interview. Chow told me he believed The Atlantic was biased against the SCMP and in a combative interview, which lasted nearly 40 minutes, challenged the sourcing of this story, the timeline of when The Atlantic contacted the SCMP for comment, and defended the paper’s protest coverage as well as its editorial standards and newsroom culture. “I think actually, from the beginning, you already set your mind about the story angle,” he said. “From your line of questioning I have this worry that I don’t think the SCMP will get fair coverage and I also think some of your story is maybe based on incomplete information.”

“We occupy the middle ground; that means some people are bound to feel like their views are not the dominant views and they feel resentful for that,” he said of the paper’s position. When asked about the Gui story, Chow compared the editorial decision to ones news organizations make when they are invited on government-organized tours of Xinjiang, where China has carried out a brutal crackdown. Regarding the story recapping the subway incident, he said the article was updated numerous times to reflect the chaotic situation on the ground and the end result was a balanced recount of the events of the day.

Concerns over bias in favor of the authorities, particularly the Hong Kong Police Force, exist in the newsroom: In one case, a reporter who has landed numerous scoops for the newspaper on police actions, and has conducted a series of high-profile interviews, was ousted from a group chat with other journalists over concerns that she was possibly leaking information to the force, according to people familiar with the matter. (It was unclear if this ever occurred.) In another case, a story in June marking the anniversary of the protest movement featured a police officer who was injured by demonstrators when he was covered with unknown chemicals. The piece was similar to a report that ran in a recent issue of OffBeat, the police force’s official magazine, featuring the same officer. Another article was an interview with a British police officer serving in Hong Kong that some in the newsroom felt gave him a free pass for police actions during the protests and played down his role in a property scandal unearthed by another outlet. “It’s not critical at all,” one current reporter told me of the interview. (Chow said that while he believed Hong Kong’s police had room for improvement, they had become demonized by the public and the voice of the force was often missing from media coverage of the protests. “If you draw the comparison between the Hong Kong police and the police in the U.S. and U.K. and any other part of the world,” he said “I would say they are not particularly bad.” Chow added that The Atlantic was “in a sense joining the bullying gang,” by singling out the SCMP’s police coverage because of the difficulties faced by reporters who wrote positively about the force.)

On the opinion side, the SCMP has withdrawn five stories purportedly written by Lin Nguyen, a fictitious personality who was part of a network of fake journalists exposed by the Daily Beast that published opinion pieces in various publications around the globe. The retractions came days after Alex Lo, a columnist based in Canada, unequivocally declared that the “US has been exposed for funding last year’s Hong Kong protests,” in a piece that was based on a Time magazine report and offered scant evidence to back up the claim, a popular narrative pushed by Beijing and Lam’s administration. Chow said the paper had committed a “slip of judgment,” when it came to the Nguyen stories, and emphasized that Lo’s piece ran in the opinion section, adding that the paper could not verify if  “Time magazine’s story is true or not.” Kua said in his statement that the SCMP reviewed and strengthened its verification process for submissions in response to the Daily Beast revelations.

Still, concerns abound. As restrictions grow on international media in Hong Kong and across China, and smaller news organizations in the city are put under greater scrutiny—the founder of Hong Kong Free Press, an English-language outlet, argued in The Guardian that the confusion set out by the national-security law was “a feature, not a bug,” and was designed to push journalists to “self-censor”—the SCMP’s importance when it comes to coverage of the country will only grow. How it manages the balance between these new, blurry, red lines and Hong Kong’s history of a free and open press will matter far beyond the territory’s borders.

Liu, Chow, other senior editors, and some journalists have bristled at criticism of the newspaper, lamenting that its ownership makes it an unfair target. Following a 2018 story in the Times that was critical of the SCMP, Liu sent an email to staff, reviewed by The Atlantic, in which he said the article “disappoints me, it does not surprise me,” and that it “misrepresents our mission and mischaracterizes our transformation.” (No corrections or clarifications have been made to the Times story.) At the end of his interview with The Atlantic, Chow offered a vague warning about writing critically about the newspaper. “The last thing I want to say is I hope your story can be factual. If it is not, if it is anyway defamatory to SCMP and our colleagues, we will defend ourselves,” he said. Asked how he would do this, Chow responded, “I don’t need to tell you, Tim. But I can tell you we will defend ourselves.”

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The UK, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the US have issued a joint statement to call for Hong Kong elections.

Hong Kong third wave: another elderly Covid-19 patient dies, taking citys death toll to 56  

Another elderly Covid-19 patient has died in Hong Kong, bringing the city’s death toll to 56.The 79-year-old man, who was treated in Tseung Kwan O Hospital, died on Monday 11.19pm.The patient, who suffered from long-term illness, was admitted on July 27 with a persistent cough and fever.His condition deteriorated and he was sent to the intensive care unit on August 2.Hong Kong recorded three coronavirus-related deaths on Monday, in people aged 85 to 94.How do vaccines and immune systems work?…

Hong Kong third wave: restaurant industry group to roll out HK$50 million food safety scheme to rescue sector   -30%

Leaders of Hong Kong’s catering industry are set to roll out a HK$50 million citywide certification scheme for food safety aimed at the city’s 16,000 restaurants next month, in a desperate bid to help contain the spread of Covid-19, create jobs and rescue the battered food and drink sector.Simon Wong Ka-wo, president of the Hong Kong Federation of Restaurants and Related Trades, told the Post on Monday he was working with various industry leaders and organisations – such as the Hong Kong…

WHO urges world not to despair as global virus cases hit 20 million   -50%

The coronavirus pandemic chalked up another horrific milestone Tuesday as the world surpassed 20 million recorded cases of infection from the tiny killer that has upended life just about everywhere.The number as of 11am Hong Kong time was 20,011,186 cases with 734,664 deaths recorded, according to a tally by the US-based Johns Hopkins University.In yet another staggering landmark, the death toll was expected to surpass 750,000 in a matter of days as the global health crisis rages on.It took…

Beijings expected decision to let disqualified Hong Kong lawmakers finish Legco term seen as effort to mollify US, restore harmony   8%

Beijing’s unexpected decision to allow four disqualified lawmakers to serve out the extended term of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council has caught many pro-establishment figures by surprise, given the central government’s hardball approach towards the city in the past few months.One pro-establishment heavyweight said they believed Beijing wanted to avoid direct confrontation with Washington ahead of the US presidential election on November 3, while mainland academics said they expected the…

Hong Kong police scheme to give only trusted media access to cordoned off areas draws press backlash  

Hong Kong police have adopted a new system where only journalists from “trusted media outlets” are allowed to report from inside the force’s cordoned off areas, drawing a backlash from press groups.The arrangement was in place on Monday as reporters covered police raids on the offices of Apple Daily newspaper, after the arrest of its founder Jimmy Lai Chee-ying.Commissioner of Police Chris Tang Ping-keung later confirmed in an interview with local media outlet HK01 that the practice was a pilot…

The big test for Beijing: will Hongkongers accept a made-in-China coronavirus vaccine?   32%

What do Hong Kong people really think of China? Let’s imagine a time, perhaps not that far away, when mainland scientists claim to have created a safe and effective Covid-19 vaccine. Beijing, in a show of goodwill, donates a shot for every resident. Local authorities are grateful, seeing a way to put the crisis behind them; they mandate that everyone has to be injected.This may be hypothetical, but the reality may not be far off. Russia already says it has developed a vaccine, although the…

Hong Kong arrest of media tycoon Jimmy Lai sparks international condemnation   3%

Hong Kong’s arrest of local media mogul Jimmy Lai Chee-ying sparked a round of international condemnation with Washington, Brussels and others calling the move the latest example of the government’s use of a new national security law to silence political dissents.The rapid responses to the move against Apple Daily founder Lai and others linked to the newspaper – which is known for its criticism of Beijing and the Hong Kong government – included a tweet from US Vice President Mike Pence…

Hong Kong man jailed for 16 months for duping 33 people into buying surgical masks he claimed he had for sale   3%

A Hong Kong man has been jailed for 16 months for duping 33 people out of more than HK$160,000 (US$20,600) by falsely claiming he had surgical masks for sale.Kowloon City Court on Monday jailed Cheng Shing-to over the offences he first committed on January 27, five days after Hong Kong recorded its first coronavirus case.As mask shortages bite, how should Carrie Lam fix Hong Kong’s supply crisis?The 32-year-old con artist was said to have posed as a seller of surgical masks on online shopping…

British police officers could face prosecution in UK over Hong Kong torture claims   -2%

British officers serving with the Hong Kong Police Force could face a private prosecution in Britain over alleged acts of torture committed during last year’s protests.Nathan Law Kwun-chung, a Hong Kong activist now self-exiled in London, launched a campaign on Monday calling for evidence to help in the ongoing investigation, so far handled by lawyers engaged by campaigners.People who were trapped and tear-gassed in Citic Tower in Wan Chai on June 12 last year should come forward and give…

Hong Kong student gets 12 months probation for vandalising office of pro-Beijing lawmaker filmed shaking hands with mob attack suspects   1%

A 19-year-old student has been given 12 months’ probation for vandalising the office of a pro-Beijing lawmaker in Hong Kong, after the politician was filmed shaking hands with men who were later suspected to be linked with an indiscriminate mob attack at a railway station during last year’s social unrest.Anson Chu Pui-hang was spared jail at Sha Tin Court on Monday for smashing a glass wall with a metal stand at Junius Ho Kwan-yiu’s branch office in Tsuen Wan on July 22.Lawmaker sues political…

Hong Kong third wave: gyms, sports clubs, dance studios will be forced to close in three months without subsidies, fitness sector warns   -5%

Fitness centre operators on Monday warned that three in four gyms, sports clubs and dance studios in Hong Kong could suffer financial collapse in three months, amid forced closures due to the Covid-19 pandemic, if the government did not provide the sector with a fresh round of subsidies.The government’s anti-epidemic scheme provided fitness centres with a HK$100,000 (US$13,000) one-off subsidy in April, but sector representatives said that was not enough to cover operators’ losses, adding that…

Coronavirus: Hong Kong health experts urge authorities to use various testing methods for residents of different age groups  

Hong Kong health experts have urged authorities to use various coronavirus testing methods on people from different age groups to maximise the effectiveness of Covid-19 screening, as the city is expecting to test 5 million residents for the disease.While specific details of the universal testing programme have yet to be finalised, the health minister on Monday said the Innovation and Technology Bureau would set up a registration system to facilitate the process, expected to be carried out in…

China says it will sanction US Republican senators and NGO chiefs for behaving badly over Hong Kong  

China on Monday announced sanctions on a group of 11 Americans, including lawmakers and top executives of American NGOs, in retaliation for US sanctions on a group of Hong Kong and mainland Chinese officials.Foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a regular press conference that Beijing would impose sanctions on Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri, Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, and Representative…

Shares of Jimmy Lais Next Digital skyrocket after arrest, amid backing from supporters, speculation about sale of listed entity   2%

Shares of Next Digital, the parent company of Hong Kong newspaper Apple Daily, skyrocketed in frenzied trading on Monday, after police arrested its founder Jimmy Lai Chee-ying under the new national security law.Next Digital, formerly known as Next Media, soared by as much as 344 per cent in the afternoon, before paring some of the gains to 183 per cent to close at HK$0.255.It marks a dramatic turnaround for the stock in a roller-coaster day of trading. It had fallen 17 per cent in the morning…

Chinas Ottawa embassy hits back at Five Eyes concerns over Hong Kong  

China’s embassy in Ottawa has slammed a joint statement from the Western countries which form the Five Eyes intelligence alliance condemning the postponement of legislative elections in Hong Kong and expressing concerns over the city’s national security law.In a statement on Monday, the embassy accused the foreign ministers of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Britain and the US of interfering in the city, where the government has delayed September’s Legislative Council elections until next year,…

China urged to avoid retaliation over US sanctions on officials behind Hong Kong security law   -9%

Beijing should avoid a tit-for-tat response to US sanctions on Hong Kong and mainland Chinese officials over the city’s national security law, government advisers warned on Saturday.They said China expected tough action in the run-up to the US presidential election and should be cautious about reacting to each step with counter measures.“China could totally ignore the sanctions,” said Wang Huiyao, the director of Beijing-based think tank Centre for China and Globalisation and an adviser to the…

National security law: for Hong Kong scholars, a fear of the unknown   6%

Last month, the American Political Science Association announced it would relocate an upcoming workshop, themed “Contentious Politics and its Repercussions in Asia”, to Seoul, South Korea, due to concerns Hong Kong’s new national security law would “limit free academic inquiry and exchange”.Also last month, the Association for Asian Studies, which has about 6,500 members worldwide, called on universities to be “extremely cautious” about recording, storing and transmitting recordings of…

US sanctions Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam for implementing Beijings policies of suppression   5%

The Trump administration on Friday imposed economic sanctions on 11 current and former Chinese officials, including Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, marking a drastic escalation in tensions with Beijing over its imposition of a national security law in the semi-autonomous city.The US Treasury Department singled out Lam for “implementing Beijing’s policies of suppression of freedom and democratic processes,” citing her role last year in attempting to pass an extradition…

National security law: Hong Kong says it strongly deplored and opposed US consulate statement   -3%

The Hong Kong government said it “strongly deplored and opposed” a statement by the United States consulate on Friday calling the new national security legislation a “draconian” law that would have a chilling effect on the city.The statement “incorrectly and inappropriately commented that the law of the People's Republic of China on safeguarding national security” in Hong Kong “would affect the freedom of speech of Hong Kong residents,” the government said in a response.The Hong Kong government…

National security law: Beijing, Hong Kong slam France for halting ratification of extradition treaty with city   3%

The Chinese and Hong Kong governments have hit out at France for halting the ratification of an extradition treaty with the city after Beijing imposed a controversial national security law in the former British colony.The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing said on Tuesday the central government was firmly opposed to France’s “false remarks” and measures on Hong Kong that interfered in China’s internal affairs.That followed a statement on Monday in which the French foreign ministry bitterly…

German minister Michael Roth urges EU to resist Chinas divide-and-rule tactics   -12%

There will be “no business as usual” between the European Union and China following the assertive political moves on Hong Kong, Germany’s Europe minister has warned, urging fellow EU nations not to “be afraid to lock horns” with Beijing.In a critical assessment of China’s recent manoeuvres, Michael Roth also signalled that Berlin would make it a priority this year to step up the 27-nations’ capability to resist Beijing’s divide-and-rule tactics within the bloc.Roth, the second most senior…

Germany suspends Hong Kong extradition agreement after election delay and amid national security law furore   -5%

Germany has suspended its extradition agreement with Hong Kong, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said, following other Western countries in a move that reflected widespread concern over Beijing’s national security law in the city.Maas made the statement on Friday, on the same day Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam postponed a September 6 election of the city’s legislature by a year, and put independence activist Ray Wong Toi-yeung – who has been granted asylum status by German authorities – on a wanted…