The chairman of Sing Pao Media Enterprises, which publishes the Chinese-language newspaper Sing Pao Daily News, has rejected reports that he is absconding from the mainland in a bid to avoid arrest over alleged financial irregularities.
Gu Zhuoheng said in a statement late Wednesday that he is being subjected to malicious attacks and that there is no truth in the allegations that he is a wanted man in China.
He added that he is a victim of a political revenge attack for not bowing to “certain forces”.
Media reports that suggested that he was absconding to avoid arrest for a purported financial crime were totally false and libelous, he said.
The false allegations affected his employees’ morale and the reputation of his newspaper, Gu said.
His statement came after the Hong Kong China News Agency carried a report Wednesday that suggested that Gu is a fugitive from justice in China in connection with a financial scheme.
The report, citing the Shenzhen police department, alleged that Gu was involved in a case related to illegal soliciting of deposits worth about 130 million yuan (US$19.46 million) from the public.
The police are trying to track him down but he has fled overseas, the report said.
Pro-Beijing newspaper Wen Wei Po, meanwhile, also published a report that was critical of Gu, accusing him of lacking the integrity that a media person should possess.
Gu said in his statement that he has been facing attacks since last year because he has refused to succumb to some political powers.
He insisted that he is still free to cross the border between mainland and Hong Kong. Meanwhile, he urged his staff to watch out for their personal safety while continuing to do their work.
Sing Pao also lashed out at Wen Wei Po, saying its attack on Gu was tantamount to trampling on press freedom and editorial independence.
The negative media reports on Gu came a day after Sing Pao Daily News published a commentary that was severely critical of Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying.
Leung had deliberately stoked fears about separatism in Hong Kong in a bid to consolidate his power and win a second term in office next year, the commentary suggested, adding that Beijing’s Liaison Office in Hong Kong may have been acting in concert with Leung.
Before Leung took office, there was hardly any talk of independence in Hong Kong, the paper noted.
As Sing Pao is generally considered to be a pro-establishment newspaper, the strong front-page commentary raised a lot of eyebrows.
Political commentator Ching Cheong suspects it was the commentary that landed Gu in trouble.
Johnny Lau Yui-siu, another political observer, said the report carried by Hong Kong China News Agency on Gu’s alleged crime might have been directed by Beijing.
It may have been aimed as a warning to Hong Kong media to tread carefully before the Legislative Council election this Sunday, Lau said.
Gu also pointed out in his statement Wednesday that the “malicious attacks” on him came a day after Sing Pao carried the commentary that “resonated strongly with the Hong Kong public”.
[Chinese version 中文版]
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