Sat, Jun 14, 2014 - Page 9 News List

Hong Kong media outlets feel Beijing’s pressure as ads vanish

By Michael Forsythe and Neil Gough  /  NY Times News Service, HONG KONG

The two banks had spent a combined US$3.6 million last year on Next Media advertising before HSBC’s spending ended in August and Standard Chartered’s ended in December, Simon said. Neither has advertised since.

“Our decisionmaking regarding deployment of marketing is based on commercial considerations with respect to the purpose of the campaigns involved and target segments,” Gareth Hewett, an HSBC spokesman based in Hong Kong, said in a statement.

Gabriel Kwan, a spokeswoman at Standard Chartered, said, “It’s a marketing decision.”

HSBC and Standard Chartered’s advertising covered not just the group’s flagship Apple Daily newspaper print edition, but also magazine and Internet ads. Apple Daily’s Web site is one of the most widely visited in Hong Kong, with 1.5 million daily unique users, stock exchange filings show. And both banks maintain large retail and trading operations in Hong Kong, with their namesake skyscrapers planted in the center of the city’s central business district.

The “H” in HSBC stands for Hong Kong, but the “S” stands for “Shanghai,” and both HSBC and Standard Chartered have been expanding in China after rules restricting foreign banks were relaxed as a condition for China’s entering the WTO more than a decade ago. HSBC has also relocated thousands of so-called “back-office” workers to the mainland.

Simon said two local advertisers, Bank of East Asia and Hang Seng Bank, an HSBC subsidiary, also stopped advertising at about the same time as HSBC and Standard Chartered last year.

Simon’s accusations, reported in the Sydney Morning Herald, come in the face of increasing apprehension in Hong Kong about the encroaching influence of China in its economic and political affairs, and a surge in attacks against journalists.

A poll released in April found that for the first time in a decade, most Hong Kong residents disapproved of the way the central government in Beijing was handling its relations with Hong Kong.

In February, Kevin Lau (劉進圖), the former editor-in-chief of Ming Pao, who had been pushed aside the previous month, was attacked by assailants wielding cleavers, the weapon of choice of the territory’s organized crime gangs.

In June last year, a vehicle rammed into the front gate of the Hong Kong home of Lai, the Next Media owner, and an ax and a knife were left at the scene. Thousands of Apple Daily newspapers were set on fire in two separate cases that month. The company detailed the events in an animated video.

Additional reporting by Chris Buckley

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