Newspaper chairman 'ruled like an emperor'

PUBLISHED : Friday, 09 March, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 09 March, 2001, 12:00am

The former chairman of the Oriental Press Group, Ma Ching-kwan, had been described as ruling the company like an emperor presiding over his feudal kingdom, a court heard yesterday.

Karl Wilson, who was foreign editor at the Eastern Express after its 1994 launch, told the Court of First Instance that a senior reporter had told him of seeing Mr Ma coming on to the editorial floor and seeing a Cultural Revolution poster. 'He [Mr Ma] said: 'There is only one chairman in this building and it is me',' the court heard.

Mr Wilson said the difference in working for a newspaper with a Chinese management style and an English-language one was like 'night and day'.

He said he was told by the reporter that Mr Ma 'rules it [OPG] like a feudal kingdom. He is the emperor'.

Mr Wilson was testifying in a civil case OPG launched after it claimed an article in Next Magazine libelled the group by accusing it of interfering with the editorial independence of Hong Kong's now-defunct third English-language newspaper. The article, published on September 16, 1994, detailed circumstances surrounding the dismissal of founding editor Stephen Vines.

The magazine, its editor-in-chief, Cheung Kim-hung, and printer Toppan Printing Co (HK) Ltd, are facing the libel suit. OPG claims Mr Vines was sacked for being a 'very bad administrator'.

Mr Wilson told Mr Justice David Yam Yee-kwan that Mr Vines was a fine administrator. He said Mr Vines wanted to set up an 'independent, free-thinking' newspaper - an idea which was echoed by Mr Ma.

He said Mr Ma also had another goal - to surpass the South China Morning Post within six months.

But Mr Wilson said that shortly after the paper started up, jealousy among the staff within the group led to a sabotage campaign aimed at harming the paper's success. 'Within certain quarters they did not want to see that paper succeed, it was the impression we got.'

The case continues.