'Media-silencing campaign' theory is a slippery slope | South China Morning Post
  • Tue
  • Mar 31, 2015
  • Updated: 5:17pm
Public Eye
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 05 March, 2014, 3:46am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 05 March, 2014, 3:46am

'Media-silencing campaign' theory is a slippery slope

BIO

Michael Chugani is a Hong Kong-born American citizen who has worked for many years as a journalist in Hong Kong, the USA and London. Aside from being a South China Morning Post columnist he also hosts ATV’s Newsline show, a radio show and writes for two Chinese-language publications. He has published a number of books on politics which contain English and Chinese versions.
 

'Media-silencing campaign' theory is a slippery slope

What should we make of the savage attack on former Ming Pao chief editor Kevin Lau Chun-to? Was it an assault on media freedom? That would be a reasonable assumption since the assailants specifically targeted a senior journalist who had overseen numerous investigative reports that would have made many powerful people squirm. But was it part of a massive campaign to silence the media as some have alleged?

Here, we enter slippery terrain. A campaign is a series of planned actions aimed at achieving a desired result. It is not an isolated or random act.

Those who say the knifing of Lau was part of a massive campaign to silence the media have pointed to Lau's removal as Ming Pao chief editor; Commercial Radio host Li Wei-ling's sacking; and the alleged decision by some businesses to stop advertising in certain newspapers. Li Wei-ling had alleged that Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying orchestrated her ouster. Newspapers that claimed adverts had been pulled accused mainland organisations of doing it to put pressure on them.

If all four occurrences are really linked, as we must presume in order to believe that there is indeed a silencing campaign, then the finger points to the chief executive and the central government. That puts us in territory worse than the Watergate scandal in the 1970s. Richard Nixon, the then president of the United States, was part of a White House cover-up of the bugging of the Democratic Party headquarters.

But if a silencing campaign is to be believed, then we are talking about our chief executive and the central government arranging a triad hit on a journalist. Fact or fiction? Those whose political interests are served by saying that a massive muzzling campaign is under way want us to believe it is fact. But Public Eye never believes anything unless it is backed up by facts. And most Hongkongers are smart enough to think that way too.

 

Our policymakers must have got their sums wrong

Let's do the maths. By 2017, we will have 70 million visitors a year. By 2023, the number will almost double from last year's 54 million to 100 million, mostly from the mainland. Upgrades covering all of our most congested MTR lines - Island, Kwun Tong, Tsuen Wan and Tseung Kwan O - can only be completed by 2022 and can only increase capacity by 10 per cent.

So we are talking about a 10 per cent increase in rail capacity to handle a 100 per cent increase in visitor numbers. But our policymakers want even more tourists to come here.

As our Commerce Secretary Greg So Kam-leung advised, if you can't squeeze onto one train, you can always wait for the next one.

Policymakers, of course, don't have to do that. Their chauffeur-driven cars are always at the ready to whisk them from home to the office to long lunches to boozy dinners and then back home.

 

Will the real mouthpiece please stand up?

Have the mouthpieces confused their message? First, the Global Times, supposedly a mainland government mouthpiece, mocked Hongkongers for wanting to limit the number of mainland visitors to the city.

It said animosity towards the visitors exposed an inferiority complex - which had made locals mentally unbalanced - because mainlanders had become rich.

But now the People's Daily, supposedly also a mouthpiece, says Hong Kong should impose a quota on mainland visitors because our tourist facilities are already overstretched.

So which is the real mouthpiece?

 

Michael Chugani is a columnist and TV show host. mickchug@gmail.com

 

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