Hong Kong newspaper faces closure before launch

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is concerned by reports that a company planning to launch a new newspaper in Hong Kong is considering suspending the venture after a leading figure in the company was detained by Mainland officials.The Chinese-language Hong Kong Morning News was due to issue its first edition on July 1. A source within the paper said the company’s management had told all staff they would be laid off, but their positions would be preserved if the company was able to find another shareholder in coming weeks.Online news organisation Bastille Post reported thatKuai Cheyuan was detained when he entered the Mainland, but this has not been confirmed by either Mainland officials or the newspaper management itself. A source informed IFJ that Kuai is the guarantor for the major shareholder and is widely believed to be the major financier of the planned paper. Kuai, who has emigrated to Australia, is a former director of the Hong Kong and Macau Development Strategy Research Center.Around 200 staff members, including those scheduled to work on the new paper, will be laid off by the end of May, the source said. However, management did not indicate whether laid-off staff would receive the minimum seven days’ severance payment in accordance with the Hong Kong’s Employment Ordinance.The IFJ said: “It is deeply regrettable that this new Hong Kong media venture has been hobbled financially in this way. Nevertheless, it is the company’s duty to pay the staff all wages, including severance pay.”“At the same time, in the interest of freedom of speech we ask the company to respond publicly to the rumours of Kuai’s detention.”The IFJ hopes that the management of Hong Kong Morning News Newspaper is able to secure alternate investment options in order to meet the legal obligations to staff.We urge the Hong Kong Labour Department to support all staff to obtain their legal rights.

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