The founder of a free newspaper says advertisers are backing away from the daily because of its editorial stance, in the latest example of pressure on press freedom in the city.
The free sheet's publisher later said all the advertisers were "mainland-backed companies".
Shih Wing-ching, the founder of AM730, accused Beijing of trying to curb press freedom in Hong Kong. "Beijing will try to shrink the press freedom of Hong Kong all around, as they have lost [out] in the city's public opinion since the handover," Shih told Commercial Radio yesterday.
The news from AM730 comes as staff of the Chinese-language newspaper Ming Pao decry the decision to replace its chief editor Kevin Lau Chun-to as a threat to editorial independence.
Shih said three of the city's four Chinese-language free sheets - Headline Daily, Sky Post and Metro Daily - were pro-Beijing or had Beijing ties, leaving AM730 next in line to face suppression. "I thought it would be time for me [to earn money] after the shutdown of [Next Media's] Sharp Daily. But no, it is time for me [to be suppressed]," he said.
Meanwhile, founding chairman of the Democratic Party, Martin Lee Chu-ming, left his legal column in Ming Pao blank yesterday, to voice his anger at the decision to remove Lau. The headline read: "With black hands covering the sun and moon, the newspaper has lost its light."
In Chinese, the characters for sun and moon together form the word "ming" in Ming Pao. Lee said he would continue to use his column to criticise the management's "ridiculous" decision.
Yesterday, Lau was quoted by Ong See Boon - a key Ming Pao management figure - as advising its contributors not to write about the ongoing saga. But Lau told the Post he had only called on the public to give management and staff space to resolve the conflict.
And the Hong Kong Journalists Association called on the public to write to Tiong Hiew King, executive chairman of Ming Pao's parent company, Media Chinese International, urging him to safeguard editorial independence. AM730 is printed by the SCMP Group.