Pro-Beijing Chinese-language newspaper Sing Tao Daily, whose global headquarters is in Hong Kong and whose Canadian operations are partly owned by Canadian media company Torstar Corporation, announced immediate layoffs of 15 employees Tuesday afternoon.
Layoffs will include all its translators and page editors who are not part of the management.
Howard Law, a representative at the Southern Ontario Newspaper Guild, said Sing Tao notified its staff of the layoffs.
“They are taking all the editing jobs and moving them to Sing Tao Hong Kong so they will not have any more editors (in Toronto),” said Law. Law does not know what Sing Tao will do with the managers.
Law believes the quality of the newspaper will be affected.
He said, “If they go ahead with editing and translation done in Hong Kong, we’d expect there would be at least slightly lower quality because they will have people who don’t know Toronto and don’t know Canada, and don’t know Canadian idioms. So I think they will have some mistakes.”
Law said management has yet to explain to the union the reasons for the layoffs, or why translation and editing work is being moved to Hong Kong.
He said the union will meet with the members affected and decide what to do next.
“The collect agreement does not prevent the company (Sing Tao) from contracting out work, but any contracting out still has to be legal”. They will consider what legal options they might have.Peter Li, Sing Tao Daily vice president of operation, told Chinese newspaper Ming Pao Tuesday that the decision was made after careful consideration over a long period of time. The layoffs will keep the paper competitive by taking proactive measures to keep costs down, he said.
Ties to the Chinese regime
In Canada Sing Tao is majority-owned by Torstar, though the newspaper maintains an editorial relationship with the Sing Tao parent company in Hong Kong, Sing Tao News Group.
The Chairman of Sing Tao News Group, Charles Ho, is a member of the Standing Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, a distinction reserved for the Chinese Communist Party’s closest allies.
The Jamestown Foundation, a U.S.-based think-tank that monitors threats to democracy and freedom, analyzed Beijing’s influence on overseas Chinese media in 2001.
It found that the Sing Tao Daily and three other Chinese newspapers were under the direct influence of the Chinese communist regime.
“As preparation for Hong Kong’s return to China in 1997, the Chinese government made vigorous attempts in the early 1990s to purchase several major media agencies in Hong Kong. This was done through the use of third-party merchants who have close business ties with China,” said the report.
In the case of Sing Tao, the regime provided financial help to then-owner Sally Aw Sian, who encountered a financial crisis in the late 1980s, Jamestown said. What followed was the publication’s transformation into a pro-communist paper that even saw a former editor of the People’s Daily (the regime’s official mouthpiece) take the helm.
According to political commentator Kengchit So, Sing Tao has changed to become one of the most pro-communist-party newspapers in Hong Kong.
So used to have a political column in the global edition of Sing Tao in which he frequently criticized the Chinese regime. The column was cut, and So says an editor told him it was because then-owner Sally Aw Sian was preparing to meet with Chinese Communist Party chairman Jiang Zemin.