A quick word of support for the SCMP

Unless it is Apple Daily or an independent online channel unrecognized by officialdom, a Hong Kong news outlet is a pro-establishment news outlet. It will be owned by a businessman with commercial interests locally and, more to the point, in Mainland China. Usually, the tycoon concerned acquired the organ in order to ingratiate himself with the Chinese Communist Party, by ensuring the journalism is sometimes, or frequently, in line with Beijing’s views.

The amateur press baron faces a challenge. The paper or station can’t churn out totally biased gibberish without losing staff and audience-share and becoming a pointless Communist propaganda sheet like Wen Wei Po. Even so, it will probably be a financial burden. And it can be a social/political headache, as the plutocrat worries whether the editorial stance is sufficiently obsequious, to the right person, at the right time, sometimes with unhappy results (as at Ming Pao).

The South China Morning Post today is owned by Mainland e-commerce titan Jack Ma. Ma is closely linked with China’s ruling elite, and the paper seems in some ways more editorially secure and relaxed than under its previous proprietor Robert Kuok, whose panicky eagerness to panda-kowtow led to some hideously hagiographic coverage of China’s repulsive leaders. (Embarrassingly glowing reports on Ma himself are a regular feature – presumably at the behest of a minder with a misplaced sense of loyalty.)

The spin under Ma is relatively subtle and ambitious. The idea is to boost China’s soft power – ‘normalizing’ the nation and its regime by building an image of a Great Power reforming its economy, assuming international responsibilities and implicitly proving through its success that Western ideas about democracy and human rights are wrong. It is a picture in which corruption and pollution are being fixed, Taiwan is an irritant, and a 6.5% GDP growth rate is a real thing. The Hong Kong political coverage follows suit, with the quasi-election presented as a genuine race, and localist kids treated as the cause rather than effect of problems.

Opinion pieces vary from hackneyed democracy-bashing to informed or stimulating comment – especially in the Business section. The editors seem to have an especially hard time filling the op-ed page. Apparently, the paper doesn’t pay for this content, so it is perhaps surprising that it has anything to print at all.

Today’s is fairly typical. The main column wonders earnestly why, after installing three failed administrations, China’s vicious and control-obsessed one-party dictatorship doesn’t allow Hong Kong to freely elect its own government. Another proposes that the same megalomaniac regime might care to sacrifice its grip on power by letting international markets set the value of its currency. A third implores us to empower migrant women (way too worthy to read – but go for it).

Then there’s this Chinese legal wacko freak insisting that Hong Kong cops beating up an arrested man are performing their duty, and their conviction for committing a crime is a sign that the Basic Law is wrong.

The initial comments on Twitter and elsewhere yesterday condemned the SCMP for crossing a line by publishing this article and going beyond a pro-Beijing agenda into pushing a frightening, totalitarian hell. My short point (now I’ve finally got to it) is that the paper is surely innocent here in publishing this piece: even Apple Daily couldn’t do more damage to the Communist Party’s name and reputation in Hong Kong if it tried.


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18 Responses to A quick word of support for the SCMP

  1. Chinese Netizen says:

    Well at least Tian Feilong didn’t get his legal degree at Pyongyang U.

    I think…

  2. old git says:

    The CCP’s preferred mode of transport – Red Flag – is itself a red flag that CCP spends all its time looking in the rear view mirror at its past and not its future.

  3. Probably says:

    I suspect that this is all part of a longer term plan to drop the occasional devout looney article in to soften us all up and then start to increase the volume of such over a period of time until it becomes the accepted norm that police are within their rights to kick seven shades of s*** out of anyone who dares disagree with the CCP.

    As a thought (and not being a part of the journalistic world), if the op-ed articles are unpaid, can we all submit our own for publication?

  4. Chinese Netizen says:

    @old git: And once the official function is over, it’s promptly into the civilian clothed PLA corporal driven Porsche Cayenne…

  5. property developer says:

    In my view, you’re too kind to these hacks: virtually any of your paragraphs contains more insight and intelligence than any amount of such balderdash.

    Buddle has been in the past goodish on narrowly legal questions, but this latest piece is so bland that it ends up going round in circles, or rather tangled up in its own pussyfooted-ness.

    The PIMP specialises in safe issues like pets, the countryside, women or migrants as a way of avoiding the existential questions. I would like to be able to say that it will surely reach its own level (admittedly above the gutter), but sadly realise you can fool many of the people much of the time.

  6. dimuendo says:


    You can try. I have, with zero results to date, not even an acknowledgment but no doubt due to either the topic or my prose.

    But given some of the mundane, repetitive crap that is published, sooner or later a decent article may get published, if enough people submit.

  7. pie-chucker says:

    Best to submit a short subject/content précis first. And any subject-related creds you may have.

    Offering non-contentious solutions to HK problems would help. Any sniff of a potential rant, and a query submission would be binned Post-haste.

  8. LRE says:

    And yet the SCMP still puzzlingly employ Richard Wong, possibly the world’s most confused politics/economics “scholar”.

    His incisive analysis is at a level which convinces me that either he somehow wandered into the economics department only to be mistaken for a political scientist and has run with it ever since, or he wandered into the politics department only to be mistaken for an economist and has run with that ever since.

    Perhaps it was greed, but I suspect it was a shy politeness that spiralled out of control like some ’70s sit-com and now 30 years later, he’s well beyond the point where he can correct this innocent mixup and explain that he was actually there to restock the stationery cupboard, not to accept the emeritus chair in Political Economy, but everyone seemed so happy, so he didn’t like to say anything.

    He generally charges into something with a paragraph of the sort of sloppy thinking that is normally reserved for the really special young earth, literal bible creationists, and then minutely obsesses autistically over the details of his bizarre construction, proving it is internally sound, as long as you accept the initial – obviously wrong and usually just bizarre – premise.

    Today’s offering is a classic.
    I do hope his alma mater’s motto was: “ad Astra per non sequitur

  9. Papa Doc says:

    I keep looking for he most important Hong Kong story today and you have self-censored yourself.

    Maybe you have been reading the SCMP too much. They don’t talk about it either.


  10. Monkey King says:

    @LRE – at least his heart is in the right place – Arrow’s theorem is basically an argument against the ‘will of the people’-based ideologies, that underlie all authoritarian power structures, including the CCP.

    So his article (intentionally or unintentionally) can be construed as a deep critique of the CCP’s fundamental ideology – nice.

    As for Mr. Tian Feilong … lol …

    Dear Mr. Feilong,


    “For the rule of law to work well, a political consensus must first be reached.”

    should read

    “In order for politics to work well, a consensus about the rule of law and its application must first be reached.”

    “A system of law must be bounded by a political order before it can be accepted as universal.”

    Should read

    “A political order must be bounded by a system of law before it can be accepted as universal”.

    Fixed it for you. As you are unpaid, just buy be some nice baozi next time I am up north.


  11. PCC says:

    “Boiling Point”, the weird Hong Kong-based, English language current events video podcast brought to the attention of this blog’s readership a few weeks ago, has announced that it is going to a partial paid subscription model from next week.

    The initial 20-minute segment of the broadcast will remain free but the last two 20-minute segments will be available to paid subscribers only at a bargain basement rate of $500 per month. Only $6,000 per year to listen to those guys? Oh, yes! Where do I sign up?

    Watch it now while you can! Ben, we hardly knew ye.

  12. LRE says:

    @Monkey King
    A very generous interpretation of today’s weirdness, there. As far as I could surmise from his meanderings, he seemed to be using the Arrow theorem as the basis to argue why the pan dems (by insisting on a real democratic process) have been evil populists up ’til this year but have now (by dint of voting and nominating in the rigged and ultimately irrelevant CE selection) graduated to embracing the liberal democracy that the CPC has been trying to give us all along. So we can all stop worrying and go back to not paying any attention to politics, safe in the knowledge that there is nothing to see here.

    To my mind, it basically read as a bit of a poorly thought out 50-cent-er stretch piece, à la Tian Feilong but with a lot more wool and a lot less vitriol. I concluded that either Prof Wong doesn’t yet have tenure yet, or perhaps the CPC has somehow found out about the stationery cupboard mix-up.

    So I suspect you’re being overly magnanimous in saying his heart’s in the right place — but if your interpretation is correct then all I can say is that while his heart may be in the right place, his mind is even further out of bounds than I thought.

    I am in awe of the sort of rigid self-discipline and sheer perseverance required to sit through that more than once! The very thought brings to mind Marlon Brando’s final lines in Apocalypse Now

  13. WTF says:

    Unpaid? That just means the advertisers, regulators (14-K, HungYeeCrooks, CCP, etc), and other stakeholders are allowed to go direct to pay the contributors instead of laundering the slush through the SCMP’s accounts. It’s a Neo-liberal breakthrough in transparency and costs reductions.

    “Gotta love Hong Kong”, any moronic spouting will get one the title expert if you are bold enough to claim it.
    Just like any ex-tour guide could run an entire government subvented “news” organ.

  14. Citizen says:


    You see, this is why you are so frustrated –

    Hung Wing tat has a Masters in Transport planning and Engineering, a PhD in Engineering, has taught Transport studies and Urban Planning for 20 years. He has done dozens of research projects and consultations, organised conferences and won awards. He is hardly just a self-appointed expert.

    Who is the ex-tour guide?

  15. WTF says:


    Ahem, expert (or corrupt insider considering how many root cause analysis never find fault with management of transport companies or government) on transport.

    He is not an expert in any way on international law regarding nationality, boarder control, refuge status, etc. Cargo and people are hugely different legal issues.

    Ex-guide, guess you’re not a regular reader here.

  16. Citizen says:


    He may at least be able spell the word ‘border’.

    I am a regular reader – who are you thinking of?

  17. Citizen says:

    Thanks. I think someone has been pulling your leg, WTF.

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