Readers of Ming Pao Daily on Sunday may have been surprised to see blank spaces where they might have expected the columns of three of the newspaper’s commentators to be.
Eva Chan Sik-chee, a senior lecturer in the Chinese University of Hong Kong’s School of Journalism; Audrey Eu Yuet-mee, the former leader of the Civic Party; and veteran journalist Sam Ng Chi-sum decided to leave their columns blank except for headlines protesting against the decision to fire executive chief editor Keung Kwok-yuen last week.
The Ming Pao Staff Association said the newspaper’s Malaysian editor-in-chief, Chong Tien Siong, who had the day off on Saturday, returned to the editorial office that night and halted the printing of Sunday’s paper, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reported Monday.
Chong reportedly suggested filling the blanks with other content, but the editorial team balked at the idea.
In the end, Sunday’s papers could only resume printing after it was agreed that an editor’s note reiterating the reason for the axing of Keung would be added to each of the three blank columns.
Chong said limited financial resources were the reason the paper dismissed several staff last week.
The staff association said it strongly opposed Chong’s interference in halting the presses.
The union demanded that Chong admit his handling of the blank columns was wrong, withdraw the decision to remove Keung from office, with an apology, and consult staff on possible solutions to cut costs.
It said it will initiate industrial action if Chong does not respond by 5 p.m. Monday.
The union observed that no editor’s note had been added to the blank columns filed by columnists as a protest in 2014 when Chong’s predecessor as chief editor, Kevin Lau Chun-to, was removed from his job.
The staff association condemned Chong for obstructing the freedom of expression by columnists and said his actions would cast doubts on whether he would be determined and able to defend the freedoms of the press and speech.
Apple Daily reported that former radio talk show host Li Wei-ling and Martin Lee Chu-ming, founding chairman of the Democratic Party, who are also Ming Pao columnists, will leave their columns blank in the coming days in protest against Keung’s termination.
Li said that while many people have been saying that, after all, Ming Pao Daily belongs to its boss, people must not forget that the freedom of the press belongs to all the people of Hong Kong.
Ming Pao staff union mulls action after management snub (April 22, 2016)
Ming Pao staff union raises doubts about senior editor’s sacking (April 21, 2016)
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