LAUREN CHEN WRITES – Kevin Lau Chun, editor in chief of the Ming Pao newspaper, transferred suddenly to the parent company’s new unit for electronic books and teaching materials. This action has been perceived as a threat to editorial independence. Word on the street is that Lau’s replacement will be Chong Tien-siong, Malaysian journalist and supporter of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

The staff is not fond of the switch, fearing the newcomer will lack knowledge in local affairs, and doubting his ability to run Ming Pao effectively. The swap is said “to have stemmed from management’s unhappiness with its extensive coverage of another assault on media freedom and diversity: the refusal of the government to grant a television license to HKTV.”

Silently voicing his criticism at the removal of Lau, founding chairman of the Democratic Party Martin Lee Chu-ming, otherwise known as Hong Kong’s “Father of Democracy,” left his legal column in Ming Pao blank, with only a headline reading: “With black hands covering the sun and moon, the newspaper has lost its light.” Other writers have followed in Lee’s footsteps by leaving their columns blank.

Shih Wing-ching, founder of AM730 newspaper in Hong Kong, told Commercial Radio that “Beijing will try to shrink the press freedom of Hong Kong all around, as they have lost [out] in the city’s public opinion since the handover.”

Sources told Epoch Times that Lau was replaced due to power struggles among CCP leaders, and that most of Ming Pao‘s staff are unaware that big decisions at the publication are made by the Jiang Zemin-Bo Xilai faction of the CCP, with retired CCP official Zeng Qinghong making calls backstage.

Is the CCP abandoning subtlety in its behind-the-scenes control of media? Having Chong Tien Siong at the helm furthers Hong Kong media’s credibility problem, and the decline in public trust is not surprising.