More blank columns appeared in Ming Pao on Wednesday, the fourth consecutive day that writers have been protesting the sacking of a top editor last week.
Keung Kwok-yuen, Ming Pao’s former executive chief editor, was fired last Wednesday to cut costs, according to the newspaper’s management. But its staff union suspected the move was aimed at punishing those “who have different opinions on editorial issues”.
Empty columns appeared in the Viewpoint page on Wednesday, a major section of the Chinese-language newspaper, as well as other sections over the past three days.
Brian Fong Chi-hang, assistant professor of politics at the Hong Kong Institute of Education, submitted a column entitled “Support On Yu” – the pen name of Keung – with no content.
Dr. Alfred Wong Yam-hong of the medical professional group Médecins Inspirés also submitted an empty column entitled “How sad for Ming Pao”.
Wong included a footnote saying he planned to submit a 1,000-word article on the sacking of Keung, but he was “shocked” by Ming Pao chief operation officer Keith Kam Woon-ting’s assertion that the newspaper was “generous” in allowing the empty columns. Therefore, he decided not to submit one.
Both columns were accompanied by an editor’s note justifying the cost cutting measure.
‘This is a joke’
Meanwhile on the same page, veteran commentator Sam Ng Chi-sum submitted a column criticising the editor’s note, entitled “There is no need to add an editor’s note”.
Ng submitted an empty column which was printed on Sunday, when the editor’s note was added for the first time.
“Such ‘editor’s notes’ appeared frequently everywhere on Ming Pao’s pages, repeating and repeating, like an annoying buzzing sound near the ears, this is a joke,” he said. He added that such arrangements did not respect writers and readers.
Ng said that he knew his articles must have angered Ming Pao’s management and his column may be cut with an excuse. The same editor’s note appeared at the end of his article.
In the supplement page on Wednesday, three more columns criticised the decision to fire Keung, including another one from Ng.
Ming Pao’s Eastern Canadian edition covered empty columns with drawings on Tuesday. The edition, mostly the same as Hong Kong’s version, did the same for Monday’s empty columns.
A Ming Pao staff member coincidentally met with chief editor Chong Tien Siong in Hung Hom on Monday, when he left a direct train from China. Chong was questioned by the staffer as to why he did not meet with Ming Pao employees on that day. Chong said he would meet with them on Wednesday.