‘Little Eye on Big Media’ Special Series: Part 1 – HSBC and Standard Chartered have been forced by Beijing to stop advertising in Hong Kong’s last pro-democracy newspaper, Apple Daily. According to Mark Simon, a senior executive at the newspaper, the two British banks were pressured by mainland authorities to withdraw advertising from the tabloid worth around US$7.6million annually. He called the move “Putin-esque” whilst HSBC told Foreign Policy that the decision was “commercial“. Standard Chartered told The New York Times that it was a “marketing decision“.
The banks stopped advertising last September and the story was first reported in late May. At the time of writing, it had still not been reported by the South China Morning Post.
Jimmy Lai’s paper, founded in 1995, is often critical of the local and national government and played an integral part in the 2003 protests that led to Hong Kong’s first post-colonial leader, Tung Chee-hwa, stepping down. More recently, the Apple Daily was first to publish an expose on the wealth of the Communist Party elite.
Lai continues to donate millions of dollars to local pro-democracy causes.
Hong Kong’s leader CY Leung has previously written to the newspaper to complain about its coverage and, last June, three masked men threatened distribution workers with knife, burned 26,000 print copies. Earlier that month, a stolen car was rammed into the front of Jimmy Lai’s home. A journalist for sister publication Sharp Daily was beaten two days later.
With the Ming Pao and SCMP succumbing to self-censorship, Next Media have seemingly become the last stand for press freedom in the city.
For more on HSBC, and how to switch banks, click here.