(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.