Since last month, on his Facebook page with more than 73 000 followers, Leung Chun-ying (also known as CY Leung), current vice chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference and former Chief Executive of Hong Kong, has been listing the companies that purchase advertising space in Apple Daily newspaper, in an apparent move to call his supporters to boycott this media outlet which does not mince its words about Beijing’s authoritarian regime and its supporters in Hong Kong.
"Such an attack is unacceptable, especially for a former chief executive," said Cédric Alviani, head of Reporters Without Borders (RSF) East Asia bureau, calling that Leung should instead "defend press freedom, which is spelled out in the Basic Law that governs the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.”
Following this attempt to put pressure on Apple Daily, the former chief executive found himself caricatured as the potential next leader of the People's Republic of China on April 8th in an advertisement covering the full front page of the media outlet, purchased by pro democracy activists through a crowdfunding campaign that hit its goal less than 24 hours.
This is not the first time that Leung, who served as Chief Executive between 2012 and 2017, has targeted journalists. In 2018, he brought a defamation lawsuit against Stand News commentator Chung Kim-wah, whom Leung said had made inaccurate allegations about his possible connection with triads. In 2013, following the publication of an article on the same subject, Leung pressured the Hong Kong Economic Journal until it published a letter of apology.
In August 2018, the former chief executive also made himself the mouthpiece of Beijing by attacking the Foreign Correspondents Club of Hong Kong (FCCHK) for organizing a talk that the Chinese regime disapproved of. These attacks against the press come as the Hong Kong administration prepares a revision of the extradition law that, if passed, would make it legal for Beijing to request the extradition of people in Hong Kong, posing a permanent threat to journalists and freedom of information advocates.
In a recent report, the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) denounced the continuous fall in press freedom in the former British colony. Originally placed 18th at the creation of the RSF World Press Freedom Index in 2002, Hong Kong is now ranked 70th out of 180. As for China, it ranks 176th out of 180 countries and territories evaluated.