Leung Chun-ying (left) sarcastically praised Apple Daily for embracing Belt and Road Initiatives. Photo: Google Maps/Facebook

Hong Kong’s Apple Daily newspaper, which in the past has been critical of mainland China’s Belt and Road initiative and is seen as anti-communist, received some rare praise from Hong Kong’s former chief executive Leung Chun-ying on Thursday.

The paper, owner by Next Digital chairman Jimmy Lai Chee-ying, recently said: “The rebalancing of the economy to the services and consumption sectors, along with the Belt and Road Initiative, will open up new opportunities to the media industry. The Group is prepared on all fronts to seize these opportunities through a suite of innovative products and services, while diversifying revenue sources and realizing and potential synergies internally and externally.”

On Thursday Leung, who stepped down nearly a year ago, made a sarcastic Facebook post on Next Digital, whom he welcomed and encouraged – for a change – along with Hong Kong people, to seize the opportunities being bought about by Beijing’s Belt and Road initiative.

According to Leung, the paper’s change of tone was related to losses of close to HK$500 million in a report released this week. The losses have continued for three consecutive years for a total of HK$1.2 billion.

It is unclear why Next Digital, which always challenged China’s Belt and Road Initiative, suddenly changed its mind. While many pro-Beijing media also do not make much money by promoting the Belt and Road Initiative, it is unlikely that Next Digital can outperform them.

Leung, who cited an Apple Daily commentary published 30 months ago that criticized his policy address promoting the Belt and Road initiative, asked if the paper had now betrayed its readers.

His latest Facebook post was the fourth made criticizing media, a rare gesture in a city where press freedom has been seen to decline as Beijing tightens its rule on Hong Kong.

About four months ago, Leung claimed he was chased by the paper’s paparazzi in Central for 10 minutes. The reporter he claimed was taking photos and videos of him in the shopping mall failed to show proper media identification upon request.

His altercations with the media are not expected to end any time soon.

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