Press freedom in Hong Kong

Media chief to sue Hong Kong newspaper Apple Daily over altered quote of Beijing official

  • Siu Sai-wo says Apple Daily’s report of what he said after meeting with Huang Kungming ‘contains defamatory content’
PUBLISHED : Friday, 19 October, 2018, 3:12pm
UPDATED : Friday, 19 October, 2018, 3:12pm

A Hong Kong media chief is suing a local newspaper for defamation over a report on an altered quote of a Beijing official he allegedly made.

Siu Sai-wo, chief executive of Sing Tao News Corporation, announced the suit in a statement in Sing Tao Daily on Friday.

On Tuesday Siu altered an earlier quote of Huang Kungming, head of the Communist Party’s Central Propaganda Department, whom a delegation of local media bosses had met in Beijing. Other local outlets pulled the earlier quote from their websites.

Siu said in the statement: “A report by Apple Daily on October 18 that involves me contains defamatory content. I have taken legal actions demanding the newspaper retract its report and apologise.”

A legal letter to Apple Daily from the corporation’s lawyer on behalf of Siu did not spell out the grounds for its case.

Apple Daily’s report on October 18 referred to Siu’s two different versions of Huang’s comments. It also quoted lawmaker and former journalist Claudia Mo Man-ching as saying Siu appeared to have taken the blame following a wider failure of communication.

Ryan Law Wai-kwong, Apple Daily’s editor-in-chief, said he would hand the matter to the paper’s lawyers. But he said the real issue remained other media outlets’ retractions – which the Hong Kong Journalists Association also called on the outlets to explain – and the wider implications for freedom of the press.

Media urged to explain removed Beijing propaganda chief quotes

“I don’t think this should be sidetracked by other minor complications,” Law said.

The controversy began when Siu, speaking to reporters after the Beijing meeting, cited Huang as saying he “hoped Hong Kong media would not turn the city into a base for interfering in mainland politics”.

Commercial Radio, Cable News and TVB News either took down the story or removed the quote, on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.

Siu, who had led the media delegation, said it a statement on Tuesday night that the “exact quote from Huang” was: “Under ‘one country, two systems’, [you] should prevent external forces from turning Hong Kong into a base for interfering with and destroying the mainland.”

He said he made the statement after other delegates pointed out he had misquoted Huang. But on Thursday he denied misquoting the official, but declined to explain further.

By 2.30pm, Siu had not responded to a request for comment on the legal action.