HK daily runs blank columns to protest sacking of top editor

The sacking last week of the executive chief editor of Ming Pao raised concerns about press freedom in Hong Kong. Five blank columns were published in two days: three on Sunday, and two (above) on Monday.
The sacking last week of the executive chief editor of Ming Pao raised concerns about press freedom in Hong Kong. Five blank columns were published in two days: three on Sunday, and two (above) on Monday.PHOTO: HONG KONG FREE PRESS

HONG KONG • Five columnists have submitted blank columns to investigative newspaper Ming Pao in two days in protest against the sacking of a top editor last week.

Mr Keung Kwok Yuen, Ming Pao's former executive chief editor, was fired last Wednesday to cut costs, according to the newspaper's management.

But the sudden dismissal has raised concerns about a perceived decline in press freedom in the city, reported Sunday Morning Post.

Ming Pao's staff union said the move was meant to punish those "who have different opinions on editorial issues", reported Hong Kong Free Press on its website.

The sacking of Mr Keung followed a front-page story last Wednesday analysing the Panama Papers and the Hong Kong politicians and businessmen named in the documents leaked from a law firm.

Of the five empty columns, three were run in Ming Pao's Sunday Life supplementary section. They were were from former lawmaker Audrey Eu, former Ming Pao journalist Eva Chan and veteran commentator Ng Chi Sum. An editor's note was added to say that the dismissal was part of cost-cutting measures.

On Monday, the newspaper printed two more blank columns by radio host Lee Wai Ling - with a headline They Can't Kill Us All - and university journalism educator Vivian Tam. An editor's note was also added to each column.

The Ming Pao Staff Association said the newspaper's chief editor Chong Tien Siong had tried to stop the publication of Sunday's blank columns. Mr Chong is seen as pro-Beijing.

Ming Pao staff yesterday turned up dressed in black at the HK News Awards to protest against the sacking, reported broadcaster RTHK.

"It's very sad that Keung can't share the happiness with us today," said journalist Sin Wan Kei. "We dressed in black to show our anger over the decision and hope he will be back with us."

Speaking at the same ceremony, Chief Executive Leung Chun Ying said the government would continue to defend press freedom in the city.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 26, 2016, with the headline 'HK daily runs blank columns to protest sacking of top editor'. Print Edition | Subscribe