It is no secret that China’s presence in Hong Kong’s news and media industries has increased significantly in the last few years. Most recently, two prominent mainland investors now have an estimated 20% ownership over the Hong Kong-based i-Cable, a television and internet service provider.
Known for its liberal coverage, i-Cable operates a 24-hour Cantonese-language news network in Hong Kong, and has received plaudits for its investigative journalism in Hong Kong and mainland China according to Hong Kong Free Press. However, with this deal underway, many fear that i-Cable’s editorial independence will be compromised. The South China Morning Post reports that “while mainland investors are forbidden from holding a controlling interest in television stations under the communications regulatory regime, academics argue that the involvement of ‘red capital’ will inevitably affect editorial decisions in local media“.
While this deal appears to be commercially-driven, it is likely that this influx of “red capital” could be politically-motivated—minority ownership over a medium-sized Hong Kong-based media organization will yield no significant financial benefits to Chinese giants, after all. While the magnitude of this growing political influence may be unknown for the time being, i-Cable’s decision to “expand business news coverage” is likely a strategic move to stifle coverage of politically sensitive news about China and Hong Kong-China relations.
With online, news, and media censorship on the rise in China under President Xi, let us hope that the freedom of speech and expression in Hong Kong, whether be expressions of dissent and criticism or expressions of praise and affirmation, will not be lost.