Sing Pao axes column of veteran commentator

PUBLISHED : Monday, 16 April, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 16 April, 2012, 12:00am


Sing Pao has dropped the column of veteran China-watcher Johnny Lau Yui-siu, a month after the newspaper admitted twisting a commentary by Lau to imply that he supported Leung Chun-ying in the chief executive race.

The newspaper told Lau on Thursday his column would be suspended immediately because of changes in the paper's design and content.

But according to the Hong Kong Journalists Association, only Lau's column has been removed as a result of the changes.

Lau said he respected the decision and was neither disappointed nor had any regrets.

He said he hoped the media and the public would guard against threats to freedom of expression and the press.

His column last month - intended as a rejection of eventual winner Leung and former chief secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen - ran under the headline: 'Out of the two, [I] would rather choose Leung Chun-ying'. The move prompted a public outcry and forced the publication of a front-page apology by chief editor Ngai Kai-kwong.

The association said it was angry about what it called self-censorship. It believes an April 10 column in which Lau paid tribute to the late astrophysicist and dissident Fang Lizhi, who died in the United States, led to the decision to axe his column.

The newspaper's website, which is usually accessible on the mainland, was blocked there that day, 'allegedly because of the article on Fang', the association said.

Ngai last month denied the paper had come under pressure from the central government's liaison office, which reportedly lobbied Election Committee members to vote for Leung.

He later apologised and blamed himself for 'rookie [editing] mistakes' that twisted Lau's opinions. He said he was busy when a colleague handed him Lau's article and he mistook it for a side-bar story to run with a news article.

Lau said Ngai's explanation of the paper's operation sounded 'unusual', since columns for feature sections - where his piece was published - usually did not require the chief editor's attention.