Earlier this month, the editor of the South China Morning Post, Jonathan Fenby, wrote a fiery article in The Observer, the London newspaper which he once edited, taking to task critics of the Post whom he said were 'malevolent and contemptuous of reality'. Fenby's ire was aroused by reports in Britain and the United States about a new recruit at the Post, Feng Xiliang, who is the paper's 'consultant'. Feng, an urbane Shanghainese in his mid-70s, is one of the founding editors of the China Daily, an official English-language mainland newspaper. He has also worked for Window, a pro-Beijing magazine which folded last year. Many suspect he is a member of the Chinese Communist Party. The fact Feng occupies an office opposite Fenby's has sparked rumours that he would replace him. This was hotly denied by Fenby, who said: 'A consultant is a consultant is a consultant.' However journalists at the paper said Fenby apparently was not consulted on Feng's appointment. When approached by foreign correspondents, I remarked that hiring a pro-Beijing consultant is controversial because what is at stake is the newspaper's credibility. If people dismiss it as the 'New China Morning Post ', what is left? In the media, the story failed to ignite any interest. It was only written up by a few columnists in one or two Chinese-language newspapers. After my remarks appeared in foreign newspapers, I received a letter from Fenby, in which he accused me of bad mouthing his newspaper. He also said I always fail to mention that the Post is the only Hong Kong paper to run my column. The fact is a number of Chinese-language newspapers regularly publish my articles. While Fenby conceded in The Observer article that 'of course the arrival of a former editor of China Daily caused concern among the Post's staff. I hope I have dealt with that and assured everybody that I still have full authority to edit the paper'. 'Everybody' apparently means readers of The Observer. As far as I am aware, there has been no formal announcement within the Post about the responsibility of Feng, nor was he introduced to the staff. Echoing Fenby's concern about the foreign press chanting a preset mantra of doom and gloom, an ad appeared in the Post on April 22 and declared war on the foreign news media: 'Help Us Stop 5 Billion People Being Fed Garbage.' The ad was placed by Advance Hong Kong, a group which describes itself as a strictly non-political embryonic association of businessmen and professionals. It said Hong Kong is being rubbished by foreign journalists and it is convening a meeting at a hotel in Central this evening to try 'to correct the misconceptions and set the record straight'. Thousands of foreign journalists are converging on Hong Kong to cover the historic handover. It would be tragic and ironic if they get caught up in this row about 'bad mouthing' Hong Kong. Jonathan Fenby writes: 1. My quote in the first paragraph specifically referred to British and US reporting. 2. Who appointed Feng makes no difference to his role. 3. Ms Lau is too modest. It was she who told The Times and The Independent: 'I think I will now call it the New China Post.' 4. A columnist and a contributor of articles are two different things. 5. My quote about reassuring 'everybody' clearly refers to the Post staff, not Observer readers. 6. For competitive reasons, newspapers often prefer not to announce their plans, but I have been talking about the appointment to staff over the past 10 days.