South China Morning Post

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South China Morning Post
SCMP logo.svg
Front Page of South China Morning Post.png
SCMP front page on 7 February 2018
Type Daily newspaper
Format Broadsheet
Owner(s) Alibaba Group
Publisher SCMP Publishers
PresidentCatherine So, CEO
Editor-in-chiefTammy Tam
Managing editorEugene Tang, Yonden Lhatoo
Opinion editorRobert Haddow
Sports editorJoshua Ball (acting)
Photo editorRobert Ng
Executive EditorChow Chung-yan
Founded6 November 1903;120 years ago (1903-11-06)
(43,839 issues)
HeadquartersGlobal: Morning Post Centre
22 Dai Fat Street
Tai Po Industrial Estate
Tai Po, New Territories
Hong Kong
Overseas: 56 Mott Street
New York, NY 10013
  • 105,347 (Daily, 2016)
  • 82,117 (Sunday, 2016)
  • 17,000 (Digital, 2019) [1]
ISSN 1021-6731  (print)
1563-9371  (web)
OCLC number 648902513

The South China Morning Post purchased us at the right time, and for sensible reasons. The media landscape was changing dramatically, as it continues to do, and their ownership bought us a few final years of life. But, like "One Country, Two Systems", this odd and uncomfortable marriage was never going to last.

To be a truly independent press, you cannot be beholden to anyone except your readers. But, to my great dismay, this is becoming an increasing impossibility in Hong Kong, in both the mainstream Chinese and much-smaller English media. SCMP is owned by Alibaba, perhaps the biggest pro-China organization in the world, if you don't count the Communist Party. The paper's business interests are also drifting away from Hong Kong, and toward readers in the United States and the rest of the west. HK Magazine is a canary in the coal mine. [...]

As this sad end to HK Magazine shows, it is clear that it is time now for someone else to step up and provide an alternative voice for Hong Kong. If you care about free speech and the liberal values that make Hong Kong what it is, say something about it. Do something about it. Support independent outlets like Hong Kong Free Press and FactWire. You have a voice. Use it. Or you will surely lose it.

Initially SCMP stated that the HK Magazine website would be deleted from the internet, [51] but the move was criticised. The Hong Kong Journalists Association lodged an inquiry with SCMP management. Hines stated, "It is unthinkable that a newspaper of record would ever consider deleting content from its archive. The SCMP should be held to proper journalistic standards. HK Magazine was an important feature of Hong Kong's media landscape, and it must be preserved. Deleting it would be an utter travesty of journalistic principles – and a slap in the face to SCMP's readers and to Hong Kong society in general." [52] Following the negative reaction, SCMP stated that HK Magazine content would be migrated to the South China Morning Post website before the HK Magazine website was deleted. [53] Additionally, Hong Kong data scientist Mart van de Ven launched a public appeal to help archive back issues of the magazine, expressing doubt that SCMP would preserve the full archive. [54] However, he found that he was unable to access issue 1,103, which featured Leung Chun-ying on the cover. [54]

Circulation and profitability

The paper's average audited circulation for the first half of 2007 stood at 106,054; while its Sunday edition, the Sunday Morning Post, has a readership of 80,865. In 2012, the readership of the SCMP and the Sunday Morning Post was estimated at 396,000. [55] Its readership outside Hong Kong remains at some 6,825 copies for the same period, again, relatively unchanged. [56] It also had the position as the most profitable newspaper in the world on a per reader basis, profit declined since peaking in 1997 at HK$805 million. [57] Its average audited circulation for the first half of 2015 stood at 101,652 copies, with the print edition representing 75 percent of the number of copies; [58] the Sunday edition registered 80,779 copies on average during the same period. [59]

The Group reported net profit of HK$338 million for the year 2006 (2005 = HK$246m), the operating profit of HK$419m (2005 = HK$306m) was attributable mainly to the newspaper operation. [60]

The selling price of the paper is HK$9 each from Monday to Saturday, and HK$10 for the Sunday Morning Post. A discounted student subscription is also available. It was increased 14.5% (from HK$7) and 25% (from HK$8) respectively in August 2011.

As of 26 August 2010, SCMP Group posted a profit of $52.3 million in the first half of 2010. [61]


The printed version of the SCMP is in a broadsheet format, in sections: Main, City, Sport, Business, Classifieds, Property (Wednesday), Racing (Wednesday), Technology (Tuesday), Education (Saturday), Style magazine (first Friday of every month); the Sunday edition contains Main, a Review section, a Post Magazine, Racing, "At Your Service", a services directory, and "Young Post", targeted at younger readers.

On 26 March 2007, the SCMP was given a facelift, with new presentation and fonts. [62] Another redesign in 2011 changed the typefaces to Farnham and Amplitude for headlines, Utopia for text, and Freight for headers. [63]

Online version had started out as a subscription-only service, which also allows the retrieval of archive articles dating back from 1993. It was launched online in December 1996. On 30 May 2007, relaunched with a new look, features, and multimedia content. Headlines and the introduction to stories were now free to view, while the full articles are available to subscribers. Archive photos and articles are available for purchase.

On 16 July 2007, launched its first-ever viral video marketing campaign targeting a global audience and highlighting the new multimedia features of the website.

At present, SCMP also provides free subscription to "The South China Morning Post iPad edition" for the Apple iPad. [64] launched a major redesign on 20 April 2015. [38]

Upon having been acquired by Alibaba, the new owners announced that the paywall would be removed. [38] The paywall was subsequently removed on the night of 4 April 2016. By doing so, SCMP wished to increase its readership globally and allow the global community to have access to its news of China. It vowed to better adapt to the reading habits of the readers. [40] The news site remains blocked in mainland China as of 2018. [65] [9]

SCMP also provided a "China-focused" Chinese-language version of The Post,, but was shut down in 2016. [66]

Editorial stance and staff

The previous owners of the publication, Kerry Group's Robert Kuok and his family, are claimed to be inclined towards the central government of the People's Republic of China, and questions were raised over the paper's editorial independence and self-censorship. [57] The paper's editors nevertheless did assert their independence during Kuok's ownership. There have been concerns, denied by Kuok, over the forced departures, in rapid succession, of several staff and contributors who were considered critical of China's government or its supporters in Hong Kong. These included, in the mid-1990s, cartoonist Larry Feign, humour columnist Nury Vittachi, and numerous China-desk staff, namely 2000–01 editorial pages editor Danny Gittings, Beijing correspondent Jasper Becker and China pages editor Willy Lam. [67] [68] [69] [70]

Not long after Kuok's purchase of the newspaper, and after running several cartoons about the culling of human body parts from Chinese prisoners, Larry Feign was abruptly dismissed and his satirical comic strip "Lily Wong" axed in 1995. His firing was defended as "cost cutting", but was widely viewed as political self-censorship in the face of the imminent handover of Hong Kong to the PRC. [71] In his book North Wind, Hong Kong author Nury Vittachi documented that then-editor Jonathan Fenby, who had joined from The Observer of London, suppressed letters querying the disappearance of the popular strip and then busied himself writing letters to international media that had covered the Feign case defending the sacking. [72] Vittachi explained his own departure from the journal in his book, linking it to the pressures he – and other contributors – faced from top management and editors to abstain from writing on topics that were deemed "sensitive", basically in denial of the free speech rights enshrined in the Hong Kong Basic Law and the one country, two systems policy. [72]

In 2000, Fenby was succeeded by Robert Keatley, a former Wall Street Journal journalist. After the paper ran a story by Willy Lam on its front page about a delegation of Hong Kong tycoons meeting with Chinese President and General Secretary of the Communist Party Jiang Zemin, [3] in which it was reported that business opportunities in China were being offered as a quid pro quo for the tycoons' political support, the Chinese Liaison Office raised objections of insensitivity as well as incurring the owner's wrath. [3] Kuok berated Keatley in his office and wrote a two-page letter, which Keatley published in the letters section of the paper. Kuok stepped down as group chairman that year. [3]

Editorial page editor Gittings complained that in January 2001 he was told to take a "realistic" view of editorial independence and ordered not to run extracts of the Tiananmen Papers, though ultimately was allowed, after protesting "strenuously", to do so. The editor stated that there had already been sufficient coverage. [73]

At the launch of a joint report published by the Hong Kong Journalists' Association and Article 19 in July 2001, the chairman of the Hong Kong Journalists' Association said: "More and more newspapers self-censor themselves because they are controlled by either a businessman with close ties to Beijing, or part of a large enterprise, which has financial interests over the border." [67]

Editor-in-chief Wang Xiangwei, appointed by the owner in 2012 after consultation with the Liaison Office, was criticised for his decision to reduce the paper's coverage of the death of Li Wangyang on 7 June 2012. [32] Wang, who had left the office for the day, reportedly returned to the paper after midnight to reverse the staff editors' decision to run a full story. The SCMP published a two-paragraph report inside the paper; other news media reported it prominently. [74] A senior staff member who sought to understand the decision circulated the resulting email exchanges, that indicate he received a stern rebuff from Wang. [75] [76] Wang made a statement on 21 June, in which he said he understood the "huge responsibility to deliver news... [and]... the journalistic heritage we have inherited". and said that his decision not to pursue extensive coverage as the story broke was pending "more facts and details surrounding the circumstances of this case". [77] Wang admitted that his decision on Li Wangyang was a bad one in retrospect. [78]

Reporter Paul Mooney said that the Li Wangyang story was not an isolated incident: Wang Xiangwei has "long had a reputation as being a censor of the newsTalk to anyone on the China reporting team at the South China Morning Post and they'll tell you a story about how Wang has cut their stories, or asked them to do an uninteresting story that was favorable to [mainland] China." Mooney, whose contract with the paper was not renewed in May 2012 reportedly because of budgetary reasons, said he had won more journalism awards than anyone else in the news team, but that for seven months prior to his departure from the newspaper, Wang had marginalised him by blocking him from writing any China stories, and then reportedly hiring several new young reporters, many from mainland China, after he had been ousted. [79]

Despite the reported sentiments of the owners, the SCMP does report on commemorations of the Tiananmen Square Massacre, [80] and ran an editorial criticising the one-child policy in 2013. [81] The SCMP published an interview with Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba and a member of the CCP, in which Ma defended late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping's decision to crack down on pro-democracy student protests, saying it was "the most correct decision". The relevant remark was deleted not long after the article was published; the reporter responsible for the interview was suspended and later was resigned. Alibaba said that Ma had been quoted "improperly", and demanded a rectification, but the editor-in-chief refused. [3] [82] The New York Times stated that Alibaba is steering the newspaper into promoting the PRC's soft power, and several critical stories about China's current government have been rewritten in an act of self-censorship by the top editors. [83] However, a few academics pointed out in 2013, 2016 and 2021 that there was a negative or discriminatory discourse present in SCMP's coverage of mainland Chinese people. [84] [85] [86] [87]

Zhao Wei Incident

Questions were raised about the relationship between the publication and Chinese authorities after the SCMP was able to secure an interview with Zhao Wei, the legal assistant of human rights defender Li Heping, who was in the custody of Chinese police. [88] The SCMP was able to make contact with Zhao Wei a few days after her release from prison while she was still in the custody of Chinese security forces and at a time when neither her husband nor lawyer were able to reach her. The interview quoted Zhao giving what was taken to be a telephone confession, including "I have come to realise that I have taken the wrong path... I repent for what I did. I'm now a brand new person." [88]

Retraction of Shirley Yam's commentary

On 22 July 2017, SCMP published a commentary by Shirley Yam insinuating that Li Qianxin, a woman with an uncommon surname (estimated 300,000 in China), is the daughter of Li Zhanshu, a close ally of Xi Jinping. [89] It also showed public records connecting Li Qianxin to a Singaporean investor named Chua Hwa Por. The piece was later removed by SCMP and replaced with a statement citing "multiple unverifiable insinuations". [90] [91] Yam eventually resigned. [92]

Publication of an interview made under duress

In 2018 the South China Morning Post published an interview with Gui Minhai, who was detained in China at the time. This raised concerns about the interview being fake or scripted, which caused backlash against SCMP. Magnus Fiskesjö, an associate professor at Cornell University and friend of Gui, [93] commented that: [94]

[...] the spectacle's producers included not just the usual propaganda arms of the regime (e.g. the Xinhua News Agency, etc.), but also the formerly independent South China Morning Post (SCMP) of Hong Kong. In agreeing to "interview" a torture victim in between the torture sessions, the paper gave in to pressure from China.

As a result of this incident, Fiskesjö said that "SCMP can no longer be trusted as an independent news organisation." [94]

Rejection of report on human rights abuses in Xinjiang

In October 2022, Peter Langan, a former senior editor at the SCMP, said he resigned after the outlet rejected the publication of his three-month investigation into human rights abuses in China’s Xinjiang region. SCMP stated that the report failed to meet its "editorial verification process and publishing standards." [95]

Awards and recognition

SCMP won 3 awards at the 2018 WAN-IFRA Asian Digital Media Event. [96] The paper won 11 awards the next year in the same contest [97] and in 2021, won 9 awards at WAN-IFRA's 20th Asian Media Awards competition. [98]

The newspaper won a 2019 Sigma Delta Chi Award in Informational Graphics for their coverage of the 2019 Hong Kong protests. [99] In 2020, SCMP won another Sigma Delta Chi award in the same category for their coverage of COVID-19. [100]

The paper won 23 awards at the Society for News Design's 2020 Best of Digital Design competition, including 3 on articles covering the Hong Kong protests. [101] The paper also won 4 gold medals at the 2020 Malofiej Awards, including 3 for their coverage of the Hong Kong protests. [102]

SCMP was announced as the winner of the Online News Association's 2020 General Excellence in Online Journalism award for large newsrooms. [103] [104]

The newspaper won the grand prize at the 2020 Lorenzo Natali Media Awards for its report titled ""The 'thin yellow line' standing between Hong Kong police and protestors". [105] [106] The paper was also awarded the 2nd prize at the 2020 World Press Photo Digital Storytelling Contest in the shorts category for the same story. [107]

SCMP's piece titled "Hong Kong Protests: 100 days of protests rock Hong Kong" was an honoree at the 2020 Webby Awards for Best Individual Editorial Feature. [108] The paper won another Webby in 2021 for its video titled "China's Rebel City – The Hong Kong Protests". [109]

SCMP Group

South China Morning Post
Traditional Chinese
Simplified Chinese
South China Morning Post Publishers Limited
Native name
Type Private
  • Newspaper publishing
  • Online media
Predecessor Great Wall Pan Asia Holdings
Headquarters Hong Kong
Key people
  • Gary Liu (CEO)
  • Elsie Cheung (COO)
Owner Alibaba Group
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese 南華早報出版有限公司
Simplified Chinese 南华早报出版有限公司
Taxi advertising in Central for the Classified Post by SCMP, circa 2008 HK Central Taxi n South China Morning Post ads Classified Post.JPG
Taxi advertising in Central for the Classified Post by SCMP, circa 2008

Before the acquisition in 2016 by Alibaba, South China Morning Post belonged to the SCMP Group Limited, a company also involved in property investment and convenience store operation. In April 2016, the company announced that the transaction of their media businesses with Alibaba was completed. As the intellectual property rights to the name "SCMP" was also transferred, the company changed its name to Armada Holdings Limited, then to Great Wall Pan Asia Holdings. [110] [111]

Now, the current publisher for the SCMP is South China Morning Post Publishers Limited (still commonly known as SCMP Group), which currently publishes, along with the South China Morning Post and Sunday Morning Post, the following newspapers, magazines and online platforms: [112]


Writers employed by the SCMP include:

See also

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