The journalists at the South China Morning Post aren’t happy with their new overlords.
Earlier this week, China’s e-commerce giant Alibaba Holdings bought the historic Hong Kong newspaper. Alibaba’s executives said they want to use the paper as a way to counteract the negative portrayal of China in the western media.
But SCMP hasn’t exactly been part of the western media. For 113 years, the paper has served as the voice of the people of Hong Kong. And in since British rule ended, it’s tended to carry far less of the politically correct information published by papers in Mainland China.
However, considering Alibaba’s founder and executive chairman Jack Ma has extensive contacts on the mainland many expect the paper will become another mouthpiece for government propaganda. As we said earlier this week, in 2012, the New York Times reported that senior executive ranks of China’s e-commerce giant “included sons or grandsons of the most powerful members of the ruling Communist Party.”
In light of that dozens of journalists and editorial employees have left since the deal was announced last December, and there are currently about 30 positions open at the paper, according to Quartz.
Asia Unhedged can understand why our journalistic brothers and sisters don’t want to work for a mouthpiece of the Chinese government, or any government for that matter. Why would they? They want to tell the stories that need to be told.
Well, here’s a few reasons, Ma and former newspaper owner Robert Kuok are paying “cash gifts” to staff and full-time contractors who promise to stay, former and current employees told Quartz. A letter circulated to SCMP staff on April 5 said: “To show our appreciation, the SCMP will be distributing a one-off cash gift to all staff.”
The payments will occur Friday and vary depending on employees’ years of service, Chief Executive Robin Hu said in an email.
While the details weren’t spelled out, Quartz reported that people briefed on the payouts said individuals with less than two years at the SCMP were getting bonuses of more than HK$5,000 ($644), while longer-term employees were offered payouts based on their years of service. One person said there was a cap of HK$15,000 ($1,933), a second said employees were being offered multiples of their monthly salaries.
Of course, to get the “cash gift,” employees need to agree to stay for a certain number of years.
On the other hand, under Kuok, who also has ties to China, it’s not like the paper was doing hard-hitting exposes on China.
One SCMP employee told Quartz that many staffers didn’t get an annual bonus, which is normally distributed in January — and those who did got a smaller one than usual. “Many people are very angry,” he said.
Well, the editorial staff may want to take a few minutes to think about it. This Asia Unhedged writer has worked as a journalist for more than 25 years and never received an annual bonus. And with journalism outfits shutting down daily, the editorial staff may not find another job soon. Or they could come to the Asia Times, which has figured out a way to counteract the negative portrayal of China in the western media without becoming a government stooge.