An original version of this article appeared in Hong Kong Free Press on July 15, 2015:
It’s only “a matter of time” before more newspapers close down. That was the reaction of a journalists’ leader to the news that the company publishing Sing Pao is on the brink of liquidation. Another newspaper, Hong Kong Daily News, ceased publication on Sunday.
“It’s only a matter of time that some papers will have to close down,” said the vice-chairman of the Hong Kong Journalist Association, Shirley Yam.
The High Court appointed two provisional liquidators to be in charge of the financial conditions of Sing Pao Media Enterprises Limited on Monday as the 76-year-old newspaper faces an uncertain future.
The liquidation application was filed against the media corporation after land owners accused the company of not paying rent. Sing Pao currently rents its office space at United Overseas Plaza in Kwun Tong.
Earlier this week, the Hong Kong Daily Newspaper – like Sing Pao a Chinese-language newspaper with a pro-Beijing stance – ceased publication after 56 years.
The vice-chairperson of Hong Kong Journalists Association, Shirley Yam, told HKFP that these incidents were “the result of the economic pressure and financial pressure that the Hong Kong media have been facing for some time.”
She added: “With a working population about 3 million something people, we have 18 newspapers and that’s where the overpopulation is indeed quite significant. So it’s only a matter of time that some papers will have to close down.”
The provisional liquidators will take over the running of the company to avoid asset loss. They will also help the company to search for potential buyers. The company may be dissolved at the end of the process.
Edward Middleton, Head of Restructuring of KPMG China, is among the two provisional liquidators named by the court.
On Thursday, Sing Pao issued a statement that “the appointment of provisional liquidators is only targeted at the Sing Pao Media Enterprises Limited, and is unrelated to the Sing Pao newspaper or other publications by the company. The publication of Sing Pao will not be affected.”
The company said that trading of its shares had been suspended since April 2005 and will remain suspended until further notice.
Sing Pao is a Chinese-language newspaper that began publication in Hong Kong in 1939. The newspaper was the highest circulating newspaper in Hong Kong during the 1960s. Its market share decreased after the appearance of Oriental Daily in 1969, and dropped further after Apple Daily began publishing in 1995.
Carson Yeung Ka-sing, former owner of English football club Birmingham City FC, was also a majority shareholder of the Sing Pao Media Enterprises Limited. His company purchased the newspaper in 2008. Yeung is currently serving a jail sentence after he was convicted of money laundering.