Finally. The South China Morning Post is finally free. No more paywall.

To signify the completion of its acquisition of Hong Kong’s leading English language newspaper, Alibaba Holdings announced that the online and mobile editions of SCMP will be free starting today.


Of course, we also mean, the South China Morning Post will be free of the restrictions and rules that govern professional journalists. 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. But now the fear is that the SCMP will just become another arm of Xinhua, China’s state news service.

Jack Ma, the founder and executive chairman of Alibaba, didn’t get to be the richest man in China without having something to do with the government. 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” including “New Horizon Capital, a private equity firm co-founded by the son of China’s prime minister at the time, Wen Jiabao.”

Specifically, “four Chinese companies investing in Alibaba have had executives who are either sons or grandsons of the two dozen men who have since 2002 served on the Politburo Standing Committee, the most elite group of leaders,” reported the Times.

Fears that the paper’s editorial independence will be compromised, and that free speech in Hong Kong will increasingly be aligned with government-ordained policies in mainland China, has been an issue since the deal was announced in December.

Joe Tsai, executive vice chairman of Alibaba, has denied this will happen.

But all things considered, the tea leaves don’t bode well for the SCMP doing any hard hitting investigative exposes on the Chinese government any time soon.

Alibaba also bought the rest of SCMP Group’s media businesses, which also includes the local editions of Harpers Bazaar, Esquire, ELLE, Cosmopolitan and two Chinese-language websites. The remaining SCMP Group will be renamed Armada Holdings and focus on property investment.

Rumors are also swirling around that Alibaba is thinking of investing in Caixin, an investigative financial publication in China, which is close to completing a series C funding round with several institutional investors.

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