A ton of stuff from the weekend…

(Might spend a few days next week meditating.)

Bloomberg reports that Beijing is arranging for state-owned Bauhinia Culture to buy the SCMP from Alibaba. SCMP management assures the paper’s staff that ‘there are no discussions’ etc, but that’s irrelevant – Jack Ma will do whatever he is told. 

The report is credible simply because, under the circumstances (ongoing absorption of Hong Kong into Mainland system, semi-purge of Ma, Xi Jinping’s all-round tightening of CCP control), it is hard to imagine that Beijing would not be planning such a move. 

The leak to Bloomberg must have come from Mainland officials – who else could it have been? So whatever happens, the SCMP looks set to become part of the happy state-media family. Bauhinia Culture is an obvious choice, being run by the Liaison Office, and having taken over state-friendly Phoenix TV from PLA-tycoon Liu Changle earlier this year.

It will be fascinating, in a morbid way, to watch how SCMP transforms editorially from its current patchy semi-independence and mawkish kowtowing to overtly CCP-managed output. It will be run by the same people who head Ta Kung Pao and Wen Wei Po, aiming to combine the dignified classiness of China Daily and the cosmopolitan panache of Global Times.

Or at least pleasing their bosses. A great thread on the current state of Chinese media aimed at foreigners.

In a Foreign Correspondents Club survey, 46% of journalists who responded were thinking of leaving Hong Kong and 56% reported self-censorship. China’s Foreign Ministry in Hong Kong could reasonably note that the sample was small and leave it at that – but instead they reach for the tantrum freak-out button…

FCC has walked away from its professional ethics … Its smearing of Hong Kong’s press freedom and playing-up of the chilling effect are interference in Hong Kong affairs…

We urge the FCC to distinguish right from wrong, respect the rule of law in the HKSAR, and stop driving wedge in Hong Kong and meddling in Hong Kong affairs under whatever pretext.

(The Chinese version is more mouth-frothing – ‘despicable acts of deliberately making “noise” and blatantly instigating incidents’, etc.)

Unlike other Beijing-directed agencies in town (including the Hong Kong government itself), the Foreign Ministry’s branch office doesn’t often get the chance to join in the patriotic mission to bring Hong Kong to heel – so that might partly account for the cantankerous outburst. MOFA mostly deals with local diplomats and seems to have jurisdiction over the FCC because of the ‘foreign’ tag; other organs would have ranted if the HK Journalists Association or the HK Jockey Club had done the survey.

Meanwhile, another independent local outlet shuts down, and an editor (whose media-executive wife is in jail) pulls out.

HK universities begin creepy compulsory NatSec classes on…

…the dangers of breaking the law, in one case demonstrating how a message in a chat group could be interpreted as a serious breach, punishable by up to life in prison…

At Baptist University, the course took the form of a two-hour seminar by pro-Beijing lawyer Alex Fan, who … warned students of the sweeping powers of the security law and the severity of punishments for breaking it, according to a 200-page PowerPoint presentation…

The presentation was followed by a compulsory 20-question multiple-choice test … in which students had to identify security law violations by characters with names such as “Ms Naughty” and “Mr Breach”. Several students told Reuters they failed the test.

There are barely enough candidates being nominated for the December LegCo ‘election’ to fill all the seats available. And this is before a vetting process begins to weed out any ‘unpatriotic’ hopefuls.

With the vetting results set to be announced as little as three weeks before the election, Chinese University political scientist Ma Ngok said disqualification of a candidate could cause confusion.

…Tik Chi-yuen, from the centrist Third Side party, said the situation was not sensible and would have a bearing on how much money a candidate was willing to spend during the election.

“What if he spends a lot of money and ends up being disqualified,” he said, suggesting there was no need to wait until the nomination period ended to start vetting work.

This sounds chaotic – until you factor in the presence of Beijing’s officials behind the scenes stage-managing the whole ‘election’ show. This is the way they scripted it, the winners have already been decided, and there will be no surprises.

Two threads in one: BBC China guy on the possible historic goings-on at the coming CCP Central Committee Plenum; and (jump straight to here if you’re not into plenums) on Xinhua’s bizarre recent output on the ‘awesomeness’ of Xi Jinping.

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12 Responses to A ton of stuff from the weekend…

  1. Chinese Netizen says:

    As the saying goes: “Stick a fork in it…”

  2. Bloody Well Right says:

    Last time China’s maximum leader’s swimming passion was propagandized, the Cultural Revolution followed. Buckle up!

  3. Low Profile says:

    I am not sure how many people buy Ta Kung Pao or Wen Wei Po, but no doubt the revamped SCMP will soon emulate their remarkable sales figures.

  4. Joe Blow says:

    If the Liaison Office buys the Morning Yawn I shall resolutely stop skimming the headline of its copy at the gym.

  5. Cassowary says:

    @Low Profile: one of the DAB grandpas who live next door to me is a Ta Kung Pao subscriber. The nice thick pages make good rabbit cage liners. Can’t say the same of the SCMP.

  6. Sean O'Herlihy says:

    “…according to a 200-page PowerPoint presentation…”

    Saints preserve us!

  7. Quentin Quarantino says:

    After the Acquisition, how long will it take before they fire all the gwailos and Indians (and other non-pure Hans)?

  8. Pressed freedom says:

    Love the ‘arguing against ourselves’ tantrum from the Ministry of Petty Reactions over the FCC survey: “Foreign correspondents must stop reporting on the loss of press freedom in Hong Kong immediately.” Couldn’t make it up…

    As to the SCMP, I don’t really see who they’re trying to fool other than their employees by pretending they have any say in whether they sell or not.

    After all, the only rational reason for Alibaba to buy the thing in the first place is that the CCP told them they had to. Commercially, Alibaba needed an Hong Kong English Language (niche audience in a niche city) newspaper like the proverbial fish needs a velocipede.

    Sure, in most places, companies buy newspapers for soft power — paying cash for respect and influence (through fear of bad press), but in China those rules just don’t apply. As a Chinese newspaper owner, Alibaba can only really look forward to getting into trouble with authorities: their absolutely best case scenario is “not annoying authorities too often” with the proviso that you will always be under their watchful gaze. It’s all losses and problems with zero benefits.

  9. Chinese Netizen says:

    @QQ: They won’t fire them. Useful idiots will be brought in or retained to ensure that at least the writing won’t easily come across as being done by mainlanders with degrees in “English” from such noble institutions as the “Lanzhou Institute of Journalism and Animal Husbandry” or the “PLA Number 376 University of Science and Hospitality”.

  10. Low Profile says:

    @Quentin Q – read the thread Hemlock links to above for insight into the role of useful foreigners in China’s English-language media. They won’t be going anywhere, except further away from balanced reporting.

  11. Mary Melville says:

    Chief Executive Carrie Lam said on Tuesday that the government will soon announce arrangements for Hong Kong residents on the mainland to vote in Legco elections next month…………
    “We will make an announcement as soon as possible because we also want a registration process, so we can know approximately how many Hongkongers on the mainland want to vote. Then we can plan how many stations to set up at the borders.”
    This indicates that there should be no reason why data cannot be provided as to how many voters are bused to the two border polling stations.
    It will be interesting to compare percentage turnout with those of the other locations.

  12. Goatboy says:

    In a probably doomed attempt at ‘balance’, the FCC has invited Xinjiang denier Sir Vince Cable to a webinar. But nothing will placate CY.

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