China wants the Hong Kong media to speak the language of Beijing. It’s firing and hiring journalists

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A government sponsored advertisement promoting a new national security law in Hong Kong. | Bloomberg

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NOTabela Qoser was the face flourishing media industry in multicultural Hong Kong. A Hong Kong native of Pakistani origin, Nabela became the first Cantonese-speaking journalist of non-Chinese origin.

His employer Hong Kong Radio Television (RTHK), the public broadcaster of the special administrative region, has decided not to renew his contract. Many say Nabela’s contract was canceled due to her difficult questioning of government officials during the 2019 pro-democracy protest movement.

On May 8, the pro-Beijing group Politihk Social Strategic staging a demonstration in front of the RTHK office holding a racist banner that read, “India needs Nabela Qoser. Save the people, save the freedom of the press ”.

The Hong Kong public broadcaster has come under pressure from the government for reporting on the pro-democracy movement and questioning Beijing’s excesses.

Hong Kong’s media industry plays a unique role in shaping the wider world of Chinese-language media. Tighter control could give Beijing access to a new tool to influence discourse on China.


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The media gag

Hong Kong bureaucrat Patrick Li Pak-chuen was appointed as the main boss of RTHK March 1. Li replaced veteran journalist Leung Ka-wing who resigned just before the publication of a report criticizing the broadcaster.

According to Morning Message from South China (SCMP), Li ordered that “the plug be removed” from the news show Legco review, which featured guests discussing Beijing’s electoral changes. Li is said to have halted production on several other shows that don’t fit the new narrative Beijing is trying to create in Hong Kong.

About twenty senior employees as talk show host Brian Chow resigned RTHK after the appointment of Patrick Li.

The Hong Kong government had accused RTHK for violating the “one-China principle” after one of their journalists request Bruce Aylward of the World Health Organization on Taiwan’s participation in the World Health Assembly.

RTHK announced on May 3 that TV shows over a year old would be deleted from YouTube and Facebook. The action was seen as an attempt to erase content related to Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement from 2019.

February 12, RTHK Beijing tracking decision to ban the broadcasting of the BBC in mainland China by canceling the World Service radio relay in Hong Kong.

“RTHK is a public broadcaster that has produced programs that we all love over the years. But RTHK is also a public service, whether it is a government service or a public broadcaster, it has to follow rules and regulations ”. mentionned Hong Kong Managing Director Carrie Lam.

Bao Choy, an independent producer, has been found guilty investigate the vehicle license plates of those involved in the 2019 Yuen Long mob attacks at the height of pro-democracy protests, and fined HK $ 6,000 by a court from Hong Kong. The case was widely condemned by the Hong Kong news media fraternity.

Before joining RTHK, Nabela worked for TVB and Ming Pao, two Chinese-language media outlets, which represented a thriving media industry serving ethnic Chinese in Asia – all over the world.

Difficulty is also preparing for Phoenix Media Network, which is the world’s largest Chinese-language broadcaster.

In April, Phoenix Media Chairman Liu Changle, ad that it will sell its stake to the Beijing-backed publisher Bauhinia Culture Holdings and to the company Shun Tak Holdings Ltd. by Pansy Ho. Pansy Ho is a Canadian citizen and resident of Hong Kong, daughter of billionaire Macau businessman Stanley Ho.

Liu Changle’s son-in-law, He Xin, was detained by Hainan Province Police for their role in a failed peer-to-peer money lending platform. Some have speculated on the link between the ownership and the sale of the stake in Phoenix Media by Liu Changle.

The directors of Phoenix Media were replaced by three people who have worked closely with Beijing in the past. Hong Kong’s Chinese-language media have never been completely free. Press houses were affecting through the activities of the United Front Work department in Hong Kong. But these new appointments suggest that Beijing wants to exercise directly affecting on the media industry in Hong Kong.


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Pressure on Maa

The print media industry in Hong Kong was already suffering from declining advertising revenues. But SCMP is one of the major news outlets that has continued to hire staff despite these challenges – made possible largely by Alibaba Group’s backing from billionaire businessman Jack Ma, owner of the English newspaper.

In March, The Wall Street Journal reported that China asked Jack Ma’s Alibaba Group Holding to strip its participation in media assets. Besides the property of SCMP, Alibaba Group also owns a $ 3.5 billion stake in the Twitter-like social media platform Sina Weibo.

“Rest assured that Alibaba’s commitment to SCMP remains unchanged and continues to support our mission and business goals,” an internal memo written by SCMPsaid general manager Gary Liu.

“Only by gaining control of Hong Kong by the patriots can the overall governance of the central government of the Special Administrative Region be effectively implemented, that the constitutional order established by the Constitution and the Basic Law can be effectively implemented. be effectively maintained, various deeply rooted problems can be effectively addressed. , and Hong Kong can be achieved, ”President Xi Jinping said in April during a video conference with Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam.

Major international media organizations such as The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal have moved some of their journalists out of Hong Kong. The international media have set up their new bases in Taipei or Seoul.

Beijing’s National Security Law and Hong Kong’s new election law have strengthened Beijing’s grip on Hong Kong. The media remain largely free to criticize the Hong Kong government and Beijing outreach. It may not last too long.

The author is a freelance columnist and journalist. He was previously a Chinese media reporter for the BBC World Service. Opinions are personal.

(Edited by Anurag Chaubey)

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