Ming Pao Daily News employees have questioned an alleged decision by the paper’s editor-in-chief Chong Tien-siong to accord reduced prominence to a story related to the June 4, 1989 Tiananmen Square incidents, Apple Daily reported.
A story that would discuss confidential files related to Beijing’s violent crackdown on pro-democracy activists had been scheduled to run as the lead article in Ming Pao’s Feb. 2 edition, but was replaced at the last minute by Chong, causing discontent among the editorial staff, the report said.
Chong was said to be on leave but still showed up in the office Sunday afternoon and sat in on an editorial meeting where it was agreed that the Tiananmen story would be used as the main lead on the front page.
But later at around 11 pm the same day, Chong changed his mind and instructed that the story be relegated to the second lead, and that an article on the Alibaba Group — relating to the e-commerce giant’s HK$1 billion fund for young Hong Kong entrepreneurs — be made the headline feature, the report said.
The editorial call drew criticism from Ming Pao employees, with the staff association describing Chong’s move as deplorable, Apple Daily said.
Journalists wondered why Chong backtracked on a collective decision taken at the editorial meeting to accord top billing to the Tiananmen story, it said.
The association said the editorial team had been working on the June 4, 1989 story all through last week and that they can’t understand why it was given reduced prominence.
Chong declined to answer media queries on the matter, the report said. He did not show up in the office on Monday, prompting some staff members to speculate that he may have chosen to attend the editorial meeting Sunday only to look into the Tiananmen story despite being on leave.
Responding to the news, Civic Party legislator Claudia Mo questioned Chong’s news judgment and said the top editor appears to be wanting to shield Beijing from embarrassment, instead of acting in the interests of the public and protecting their right to information.
Democratic Party’s Emily Lau said the chief editor must come out and explain his actions, not just to his staff but also to readers, as the alleged incident could have a profound impact on Ming Pao’s credibility.
Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China, a pro-democratic organization, said Chong is destroying the freedom of press. It demanded an explanation and an open apology from the editor.
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