A former editor at pro-Beijing Hong Kong newspaper Commercial Daily has said he is seeking asylum in the US.

Long Zhenyang resigned as assistant editor-in-chief of the Commercial Daily, a Beijing-backed newspaper in Hong Kong, after being placed under “political measures” at the paper for over a year, he told US-funded Radio Free Asia on Wednesday. The 47-year-old arrived in the US last year.

Long Zhenyang at a memorial for political prisoner Peng Ming in San Francisco. Photo: supplied by Long Zhenyang to RFA.

The Commercial Daily is dubbed “China’s international media window” by the central government, and is used by mainland government departments at several levels to advertise to the outside world and attract investment, according to the description on its website.

Atmosphere of distrust 

He said that those at the paper stopped trusting him after he made several comments during the time of the 2014 pro-democracy Occupy protests in Hong Kong and during the demolition of churches in Zhejiang.

“I had already been placed under political measures at the paper for over a year, which basically meant that they didn’t trust my politics,” he said.

He had not been to work in over a year, though the paper was still paying his salary, he said. His position as assistant editor gave him the status of a party cadre at the level of deputy division chief.

In a resignation letter, Long wrote to his editor-in-chief on February 5: “The sociopolitical climate in Chinese politics has grown more and more like the Cultural Revolution in recent years. All hope for social reform, and reforms to China’s political system, have now been extinguished. Due to my [religious] beliefs and my political views, I am no longer able to agree with and render my services to  the Hong Kong Commercial Daily, which is controlled by the Communist Party regime, and so I have decided resign my post as assistant editor-in-chief of the Commercial Daily.”

Long Zhenyang’s resignation letter. Photo: Supplied by Long Zhenyang to RFA.

However, an internal document provided to HK01 showed that Long left his post on January 1 and was removed from his position.

An unidentified source familiar with Long told Hong Kong newspaper Ming Pao on Wednesday that Long, a Christian, was outspoken and often posted criticism of the current political system on WeChat. His posts prompted dissatisfaction from superiors at the paper, who disciplined him last year and later gave him leave without pay.

Long also claimed that the paper’s former investors – the Joint Publishing Group – were all directly managed by the China Liaison Office, Beijing’s organ in Hong Kong. He said that the new owners wanted to replace staff it distrusted.

Catherine Lai

Catherine is a Canadian journalist and photographer who lived in Beijing for almost two years, working in TV and online media. Aside from Hong Kong and mainland affairs, she is also interested in urban spaces, art and feminism. She holds a BA in Literature and Art History from the University of British Columbia.