Empty columns in the Toronto edition of Ming Pao were filled with drawings on Monday, as staff protested the sudden firing of respected executive chief editor Keung Kwok-yuen last Wednesday. Over two days, five columnists have submitted blank columns to the newspaper.

Keung was fired to cut costs, according to the newspaper’s management. However, the Ming Pao Staff Association said that the move was meant to punish those “who have different opinions on editorial issues.”

Most of the blank columns appeared in the local edition but they were replaced in the Toronto edition with drawings by Chinese painter Feng Zikai, also a renowned comic artist.

Empty columns in Canadian Ming Pao
Empty columns in Canadian Ming Pao. Photo: Stand News.

Further action

The Ming Pao Staff Association published a statement on Facebook on Monday saying that they were disappointed that Ong See Boon, Special Assistant to the Media Chinese Group Executive Chairman, said that the decision to fire Keung would not be rescinded.

The Association said it felt “angry and disappointed and have decided to take action.” The Association suggested that staff could partake in a voluntary cost-cutting programme to provide the editorial department with the means to rehire Keung.

Ming Pao union protest against Chong Tien Siong.
Ming Pao union protest against Chong Tien Siong. Photo: Facebook/Ming Pao Staff Association.

The Association also said that the management should stop meddling with columns that were left empty in protest. The Monday edition of Ming Pao also saw an editor’s note left in some empty column space, which the association said was “severely meddling with the column writer’s freedom of expression.” The Association said that, if management did not respond to their demands, they may take further action.

Ming Pao staff also attended a news awards ceremony on Monday in black to protest Keung’s termination.

“It’s very sad that [Keung] can’t share the happiness with us today. So we wear in black to show our anger about the decision and hope he will be back with us,” journalist Sin Wan-kei told RTHK.

Update 27/4: A previous version of the article referred to Ming Pao’s Canadian edition. In fact, there are two Canadian editions of the newspaper; only the Toronto edition replaced empty columns with drawings.

Chantal Yuen is a Hong Kong journalist interested in issues dealing with religion and immigration. She majored in German and minored in Middle Eastern studies at Princeton University.