Sing Tao Daily, a Chinese-language newspaper circulated in North America and Europe, has published a full-page commentary in Toronto and New York by the paper’s chairman in support of Beijing’s plan to implement controversial national security legislation in Hong Kong.
Titled “Absolutely Necessary” and written by Ho Tsu-Kwok, the majority shareholder of the paper, the article repeats the Chinese Communist Party’s remarks on the Kong Kong people’s fight for democracy and autonomy and supports the regime’s push to enact the new national security law.
“In the past year or so, some people have blatantly engaged in Hong Kong independence … attacking ‘One Country, Two Systems’ and challenging the country’s bottom line. The central government [of the People’s Republic of China] has reached the end of its patience,” Ho wrote in the article, published May 22.
He also blamed Western countries for inciting the Hong Kong people, even “underage teenagers have been deceived” and become “thugs” to subvert the Chinese government and engage in rebellious divisions, he wrote.
“If these countries are not plotting to incite subversion of the PRC, or rebellion, or split, what is the reason to object to Hong Kong’s security law?” he wrote, going on to defend implementing the security legislation.
Beijing’s announcement on May 21 that it would pass a national security law for Hong Kong—bypassing the city’s own legislature—has attracted international condemnation and reignited mass protests in the city, with plans for more in the coming weeks.
Supporting Beijing’s Interests
Sing Tao Daily, Hong Kong’s second-largest Chinese-language newspaper, is owned by Sing Tao News Corporation Limited, of which Ho Tsu Kwok is the chair.
Ho is a member of the pro-Beijing camp in Hong Kong and maintains good relations with the Chinese regime.
According to a 2018 Hoover Institution report examining Chinese Communist Party (CCP) influence in the United States, in 1998 Ho became a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, which functions as part of the United Front, an organization tasked with spreading Beijing’s influence abroad.
“Sing Tao’s coverage of China is clearly now aligned with that of state-run media from Beijing. In fact, in May 2001, the year he purchased Sing Tao, the owner established a joint venture with the Xinhua News Agency to create an information-service company known as Xinhua online,” states the report.
In 2003, together with state-owned CCP mouthpiece Xinhua and the China Economic Information Network, Ho launched the Beijing Xinhua Online Information Technology Co. Ltd. and began developing media and information technology businesses in mainland China.
Over the years, he has formed alliances with Xinhua, People’s Daily (also state-owned), China University of International Business and Economics, Peking University Founder Group, Sanlian Group, and others.
In 2003, when the CCP tried to enact Article 23 in Hong Kong—which triggered massive protests over concerns that it would limit freedoms in the autonomous region—Sing Tao published commentary for two days in a row in support of the legislation.
During the 2014 Hong Kong Umbrella Movement, Ho pretended to play the role of the middleman, on the one hand praising the police for “being very restrained, its professional action deserving respect,” and on the other hand persuading students and citizens to “fight for democracy in a legal way.”
Apple Daily reported on Aug. 30, 2014, that Ho commented in an interview on the civil nomination proposal demanded by members of the pro-democracy camp for the 2017 Hong Kong chief executive election, saying there’s no such thing as “civil nomination” in any political system worldwide and that he feared it may result in a member of the Triad organized crime syndicate getting nominated for the post.
Su Gengzhe, a senior political commentator from Hong Kong, told The Epoch Times that in Toronto in 2014, a Sing Tao staff member told him that Ho once announced to his management team that whoever made an anti-communist statement would be “pouring my rice” (meaning “jeopardize my livelihood”).
During the anti-extradition protests in Hong Kong last year, Ho published a full-page article titled “Wait and See,” which criticized Chief Executive Carrie Lam for being inefficient in “stopping violence and preventing chaos.”
The Epoch Times contacted Sing Tao for comment but received no response.
Canadian Hong Kong Community Concerned
Canadian citizen Wang Zhuoyan, who grew up in Hong Kong, said she worries the city’s autonomy will be damaged by the national security legislation because the CCP is bypassing the Hong Kong Legislative Council to establish the law, which is a direct violation of the “Sino-British Union Statement” and the principle of “One Country, Two Systems.”
“Once the law is implemented, freedom of speech, freedom of publication, and freedom of assembly will be in danger” Wang told The Epoch Times. “We have seen people with different political views who were punished and persecuted in mainland China. I believe it will happen in Hong Kong.”
Wang, who is the executive director of Alliance Canada Hong Kong, said that last year she saw many Hong Kong protesters being abused and attacked when detained by police. “We are shocked,” she said, that the Hong Kong Police Force, once hailed as one of the best police forces in Asia, has sunk to such a level.
“When this law is implemented, we have to face not only the corrupted police in Hong Kong but also people sent by the CCP,” she said.
“Looking at the trend of police violence in Hong Kong in the past year, it’s been very worrying. And I cannot imagine how much worse this situation will become.”
Critics fear that the national security law, which bans acts of “secession, subversion, and terrorism activities,” would be used by Beijing to suppress and persecute dissenting voices. Local pro-democracy activists and lawmakers note that national security laws are frequently used to prosecute and jail dissidents in the mainland.
The law also opens up the possibility of Beijing’s security agencies setting up operations in Hong Kong.
Former Chinese lawyer Lai Jianping believes the CCP wants to strengthen its control of Hong Kong as part of its push to strengthen its control of the entire Chinese world.
The regime is also afraid that the spirit of protest in Hong Kong will spread to mainland China, and that the people of mainland China will learn from Hong Kong’s wave of fighting for democracy and freedom.
“Therefore, it must conquer Hong Kong as soon as possible,” Lai said.
CCP and Overseas Chinese Media
According to a 2001 report by the Jamestown Foundation, four main tactics have been utilized by Beijing to control Chinese media in the United States.
First is the attempt to directly control media by purchasing ownership of newspapers, television stations, and radio stations. Second is making use of economic ties to influence independent media that have business relations with China. Sing Tao is a good example. This leverage ensures that “unfavorable” content is avoided.
Third is the purchase of broadcast time and advertising space by Beijing, as well as the regime providing free, ready-to-go programming and content. And the fourth is the deployment of government personnel to work in independent media and achieve influence from within.
“These tactics have been applied with much effect to both national- and local-level Chinese media throughout the United States,” the report said.
The report also described how the four main Chinese newspapers in the United States were directly or indirectly controlled by the CCP. It said the deputy chief editor at Sing Tao’s North America headquarters in San Francisco, Larry Lee (Li Ge), is himself a former editor of the People’s Daily, the mouthpiece of the CCP.
Last year, the Hong Kong government’s attempt to enact legislation allowing extradition to mainland China led to several months of protests in the city. Ho published in Sing Tao 12 “crimes” of Chief Executive Lam for her ineffectiveness in “stopping violence” and urged Lam to act in accordance with Beijing’s instructions.
“Even though we are in Canada or in Australia or Europe, most Chinese media are under the influence of the Chinese communist regime. This is a very sad reality,” said Sheng Xue, chair of the Federation for a Democratic China.
The Beijing regime has infiltrated Chinese communities and networks in Canada, Sheng said, and business owners and others fear reprisals and exclusion from the community if they oppose the regime.
“If you’re not following the regime, then you are not with them,” she said. “For Chinese media, it is very hard to stay neutral.”
A conference paper by Anne-Marie Brady, global fellow of the Wilson Center and a professor at the University of Canterbury, states that “the People’s Republic of China’s foreign influence activities are part of a global strategy.”
Brady said China’s “go-global, multi-platform, national and international strategic communication strategy aims to influence international perceptions about China, shape international debates about the Chinese government, and strengthen management over the Chinese-language public sphere in China, as well as globally.”
She also noted that China’s foreign media outlets such as China Global Television Network are “employing more foreigners so as to have foreign faces explaining CCP policies.”
The Chinese state media advertorial supplement “China Watch” runs regularly in major North American newspapers, and state-owned China Central Television dominates the Chinese-language cable programs in Canada and the United States.
The Hoover Institution report stated that along with Sing Tao, the World Journal, Ming Pao, online and social media outlets such as WeChat, and Chinese-language schools as well as Chinese-backed organizations are all part of the United Front.