In a classic example of protesting too much, the South China Morning Post carries a loooooong op-ed column denying that it buried the Panama Papers story earlier this week.
The gist of the 700-word whine… Bitter ex-staff and ignorant on-line know-it-alls are stirring up nonsense about SCMP censorship. The paper non-buried its data-leak report on page 3 of the City section because a year earlier it had covered the part implicating China’s leadership. It initially stayed silent on the other, new, details to see how things unfolded, and is now reporting these with great energy and enthusiasm.
Are we convinced? Any paper that had scooped the rest of the world’s press would make the most of it. “How the SCMP exclusively unveiled Xi Jinping’s corrupt money-laundering scumbag family last year!!!” it would shriek. Instead, it treated its sensational exposé as an acute embarrassment. Newspapers are not known for this sort of modesty. And the strenuous account of waiting as more details emerged is cringe-making. Newspapers do not sit around patiently while competitors churn out copy.
Most of all, you don’t put a 700-word protestation of innocence on your own op-ed pages unless you’ve got a guilty conscience. Witness the Hong Kong government’s incessant, childish, over-sensitive and hyper-defensive rejections and denials about everything.
A more plausible excuse for the SCMP’s unfortunate initial handling of the Panama leaks story would be that the countdown to ownership by Alibaba was going on at the same time. Jack Ma was knocking at the door, and a new, self-conscious and patriotic chief editor panicked and stuffed some unwelcome dirty laundry behind the sofa. You can almost sympathize.
Just next to the ‘butthurt’ piece, censorship is visibly absent as Professor Steve Tsang delivers some serious criticism of Xi Jinping, essentially accusing the power-obsessed Chinese leader of risking economic damage to the nation in order to satisfy his own megalomania.
I declare the weekend open with something else for the ‘to read’ list – an impressive argument that the Hong Kong pro-dems’ ‘failures’ have actually defended the city from the malevolence of the Chinese Communist Party.