Chinese digital media outlet Local Press has survived a financial scare after introducing a new shareholder, academic Joel Lau Chi-lai.

Earlier, the outlet had said that if it did not raise enough funds before the end of February, it would end its operations. New shareholder Lau was appointed as its president on Wednesday.

According to Local Press, Lau has been teaching at universities and institutes in Hong Kong for over two decades, and supports the localist movement. “His experience and personal network will bring a new environment to our newsroom,” wrote director Au Wai-lin.

A biography on the website of the Open University of Hong Kong states that Lau teaches sociology, Chinese and Hong Kong society, criminology and globalisation. He has also taught at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, the City University of Hong Kong, and the University of Hong Kong.

‘More defiance’

“The continuation of Local Press… proves that the power of localism will not bow to different forms of suppression,” said Au. “Instead, there will be more defiance.”

“At present, our funds can only cover limited operations,” she added. “We still cannot rebuild an office, and our future development will require continued subscriptions from our readers.”

Established in 2014, Local Press covers local Hong Kong issues, as well as the localism movement.

During the pro-democracy Occupy protests that year, its then editor-in-chief Leung Kam-cheung was arrested on charges of suspected criminal damage, after the police accused him of organising an effort to break into the Legislative Council building on November 19. He was released soon after.

File photo: HKFP.

Localist groups are pro-democracy but many consider traditional democratic activists and pan-democrats within the legislature to be ineffective. The camp is also tied with various movements related to the expansion of Hong Kong’s autonomy, for example advocating for city-state status or outright independence.

The Chinese-language outlet operates a free-to-read website, but encourages “subscriptions” – donations – from readers. It said that many of its staff are working on a semi-voluntary basis.

As a digital media outlet, it remains barred from government events and press conferences.

Elson Tong

Elson Tong is a graduate of international relations and former investigations consultant. He has also written for Stand News.