Digital Hong Kong news outlet Initium is quitting the city for Singapore, making it the first media organisation in the SAR to move overseas since the enactment of the controversial national security law.

Initium’s homepage. Photo: Selina Cheng.

Susie Wu, Initium’s executive editor announced the six-year-old publication’s move in an open letter to readers on Tuesday.

“We will move our headquarters to Singapore, produce content through online and decentralised medium, and continue to present the pulse of the times in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan in our in-depth content,” Wu wrote.

Founded in Hong Kong in August 2015, Initium specialises in in-depth feature reporting on issues from the Greater China region including Hong Kong, Taiwan and mainland China and is open to subscribed readers only. It boasts more than 60,000 paying readers.

The award-winning news outlet currently has between 20 and 30 staff in Hong Kong and Taiwan, where it has a small office. It also has a number of overseas correspondents. The move will not lead to staff lay-offs in the city, a source familiar with the news outlet’s operations told HKFP.

Media first

Initium is the first Hong Kong-registered media to relocate and the announcement comes as news outlets and reporters in the city come under increasing pressure as a result of the national security law.

Hong Kong’s largest pro-democracy news outlet Apple Daily was shut down in June after its founder Jimmy Lai and top executives were arrested over alleged foreign collusion.

The New York Times announced plans to relocate some of its Hong Kong hub to Seoul weeks after the enactment the national security law last July, while the visa application of an editor at HKFP was rejected without reason, intensifying concerns that foreign correspondents may soon be forced to leave the city.

Photo: Inmediahk.net, via CC 2.0.

“‘The road to freedom is long, and this is where we start’ — six years ago, we made this promise to you. In these six years, the road to freedom has grown more challenging. We believe, where ever we are, as long as we can connect the pieces of freedom in our hearts, we will be able to reach a wider, free space,” Wu’s letter read.

In response to questions from HKFP, Wu said Hong Kong staff will work remotely instead of from an office.

“The relocation of our headquarters does not mean that we are no longer reporting on Hong Kong, and our mission remains unchanged,” she wrote in response to HKFP.

“[W]e hope that relocating our headquarters to Singapore will enable us to better report for Chinese readers in other parts of the world. At the same time, Singapore is similar to Hong Kong in terms of its financial system and language,” she said.

“We would like to emphasize that this move will not affect our editorial policy and our commitment to the finest journalism. We will continue to cover news of interest to our Chinese-speaking readers, and mainland China and Hong Kong will remain our focus, just as we will continue to care about Taiwan and other Chinese-speaking regions.”

Selina Cheng

Selina Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist who previously worked with HK01, Quartz and AFP Beijing. She also covered the Umbrella Movement for AP and reported for a newspaper in France. Selina has studied investigative reporting at the Columbia Journalism School.