On Tuesday October 16, about 20 Hong Kong media executives met in Beijing with the Chinese Communist Party’s head of the Central Propaganda Department, Huang Kunming. Siu Sai Wo, the head of the delegation and Chief Executive of the Sing Tao Group, told the media what Huang said at the meeting: “I hope that the Hong Kong media will not become a base for interfering with mainland politics.”
Some Hong Kong media broadcast Siu’s words on television and on social media. However, the report about Hong Kong media interfering with the mainland political base later “disappeared.” This triggered concerns over self-censorship in the Hong Kong press, as Chinese officials have never used such strong language targeting the Hong Kong media. However, Siu later told the South China Morning Post that the meeting related content should not be used for interviews and clarified that the original text should be “to prevent external forces from turning Hong Kong into a base for intervening and destroying the mainland.” It was not targeting Hong Kong media.
Bruce Lui, a lecturer at the Hong Kong Baptist University’s Department of Journalism, believed that, as a professional practice, the media has a responsibility to verify the facts. If the interviewee made a false statement, the media and its senior executives should offer clarification, so that the public will not feel that the Hong Kong media, following the practice of the mainland media, will collectively revise their story.
Lui pointed out that the CCP’s Central Propaganda Department mainly takes charge of the ideology inside the Party. “In theory it should not intervene in matters in Hong Kong or Macao.” This time the Central Propaganda Department was directly talking to the senior executives of the Hong Kong media and handing out opinions. It was different from the courtesy visits in the past and was “not normal.” He suspected that the Central Propaganda Department intends to become the direct superior of the Hong Kong media. Possibly it wants to intensify its influence on the Hong Kong media.
The Hong Kong media is different from that in the mainland in that there is a greater degree of freedom in reporting and editing. However, recently, the Asia news editor for the Financial Times, Victor Mallet was denied the renewal of his Hong Kong work visa. It happened after he invited Andy Chan, founder of the pro-independence Hong Kong National Party (HKNP), to give a speech at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club (FCC). The event caused the outside world to be concerned about Hong Kong’s freedom of the press.
According to the Hong Kong Journalists Association’s 2017 survey, the Chinese government controls 35 percent of Hong Kong’s mainstream media or they have received financial investments from China.
Lui expects that the mainland will exert more influence on the Hong Kong media in the future. It will use different political and economic tactics to deal with overseas media more often.
Source: BBC Chinese, October 17, 2018