Newspaper Threatened by China Liaison Office

Newspapers in Hong Kong typically fall under one of two, polarized political camps: pro-establishment and pro-Beijing, or pro-democracy. Sing Tao Daily, a traditionally pro-establishment Chinese-language paper with ties to the Chinese Communist Party, has begun to erode its pro-government stance by running anonymous critiques of Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and the Beijing-operated China Liaison Office.

Though Sing Tao has traditionally supported Leung’s regime, it appears as though frustration towards increasing encroachment on internal affairs and press freedom by the Beijing-backed Hong kong government (such as the disqualification of pro-independence candidates) has manifested in the paper’s recent criticism of the Liason Office and its affiliates.

An article in Hong Kong Free Press claimed that Sing Tao’s anonymous writer has accused the Liaison Office (a powerful mouthpiece of the Chinese government in Hong Kong) of interfering in the city’s domestic affairs and “manipulating local legislative elections by supporting groups that divide the pan-democracy camp”. After running a critical editorial on senior Chinese government official Zhang Dejiang, the paper claims to have been “harassed and threatened” by Chinese authorities. Mouthpieces of the Chinese government have since published reports accusing Gu Zhuheng, the chairman of Sing Tao News Corporation, of being a wanted fugitive involved in an illegal money lending platform. These accusations echo other attempts by the Chinese government to silence and suppress criticism by Chinese human rights lawyers and activists, such as the recent incarceration of Chinese artist Ai Weiwei’s former lawyer Xia Lin under alleged fraud charges. The fact that Hong Kong journalists and politicians are now subject to the types of unjust treatment bespeaks the potent and tangible erosion of political and press freedom in a city that once enjoyed freedom and autonomy.

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