Hong Kong Economic Journal (HKEJ) has dropped the column of veteran pro-democracy commentator Lai Chak-fun
Lai’s weekly column in the prominent Chinese-language business newspaper will conclude their three-year run next Wednesday, due to what an HKEJ editor told Lai were changes to the paper’s design and content.
In his latest column, Lai wrote: “I did not feel sad and was relieved. Rather than staying in the ‘jar’ and associating with the evil, I would sooner choose to leave and not bury myself with them.”
“Until the passing of ‘Internet Article 23‘, I can still speak freely on my webpage, continue to voice out and bear witness to the downfall of Hong Kong,” Lai said.
Lai also told Apple Daily that when he started his column, HKEJ executives had sent a message through Albert Cheng Jing-han—former writer of the column—that he “should not criticise [Chief Executive] Leung Chun-ying too much.”
He added that his articles were regularly modified, such as when he called The South China Morning Post “pro-Communist media” in his recent column on the paper’s purchase by Alibaba—a phrase later deleted by editors.
“The phrase was very mild. The editor of the SCMP is a Communist Party member, how come it is not a pro-Communist media? The HKEJ is also pro-Communist,” he said.
Alice Kwok Yim-ming, the chief editor of HKEJ, told Stand News, “[the decision to axe Lai’s column] was a normal redesign exercise. I have nothing to add.”
Lai Chak-fun’s is not the only politically sensitive column to be cut by the HKEJ in recent years.
Lai Tak-yee, a columnist of four years, was also dropped in June. Lai suspected it was due to his criticism toward mainland Chinese in foreign countries and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
In early September 2014, before the start of the Occupy protests, nine-year veteran Edward Chin Chi-kin—a support of the pro-democracy protest movement—also had his column cancelled.
The newspaper was also criticised for self-censorship in 2o13, when a political analysis page was pulled after accusing local station TVB of only broadcasting speeches supporting Leung Chun-ying.
The team responsible for the page subsequently resigned.
Richard Li Tzar-kai, son of Hong Kong’s richest man Li Ka-shing, has been major shareholder of HKEJ since 2006.