Guangdong gags media reporting of attack on Ming Pao editor Kevin Lau

PUBLISHED : Friday, 28 February, 2014, 3:23am
UPDATED : Friday, 28 February, 2014, 8:01am

News of the violent attack on former Ming Pao chief editor Kevin Lau Chun-to was conspicuously absent from Guangdong media yesterday because of a gagging order from the party censor, according to several editors.

But the news was carried by Xinhua and several media outlets, including China National Radio, although many of the stories were from the semi-official Chinese News Service.

The Beijing-based Global Times' Chinese edition carried an editorial condemning the attack.

A leaked message from the Guangdong provincial party propaganda department ordered local media outlets to refrain from "reporting and hyping" the attack and stories related to Ming Pao's change of editorship.

A Guangdong government press officer yesterday said she had no knowledge of any censoring of the news.

Ming Pao's decision last month to replace Lau with a Malaysian who journalists say has little knowledge of local affairs sparked fears over self-censorship at the 55-year-old daily.

Cheng Yizhong, the former chief editor of the outspoken Southern Metropolis Daily, said the ban didn't surprise him. "Anything that involves press freedom and freedom of speech, or the intimidation of media outlets, is always forbidden," he said.

While Hong Kong's neighbour kept quiet, news media around the world Including the BBC, CNN, Time magazine, The New York Times, Al Jazeera and The Guardian continued to cover developments on the Lau story.

Chinese-language media in Taiwan, Singapore and Malaysia also carried commentaries and extensive coverage.

Meanwhile, Yang Jian, deputy director of the central government's liaison office, condemned the attack and urged authorities to crack the case swiftly in a highly unusual show of support for a freedom-of-speech issue.

"We're closely watching the attack ... and strongly condemn the unlawful act of the criminals," Yang said.

"We firmly support the Hong Kong government to spare no effort, arrest the culprits and punish them in line with the law."

The EU Heads of Mission accredited to Hong Kong voiced its shock at "the cruel attack against the life of Mr Kevin Lau".

Additional reporting by Reuters