Two outspoken Hong Kong political journals set up in the 1970s to counter communist propaganda in the then British colony have announced they will cease publication.
Cheng Ming, whose title translates as “Controversy” or “Contention,” announced on Tuesday it would fold following four decades of publication, local media reported.
Its sister publication Trend will also cease publication.
“For the past 40 years, both journals have provided a platform for free speech calling for democracy, human rights, freedom, and criticism of dictatorship and decadence,” Cheng Ming magazine said in a farewell message to its readers.
“Together, we have witnessed history,” the message read.
The pro-democracy Apple Daily newspaper marked the closure of the two magazines as “the end of an era” in a city where freedom of speech, press, and association are being eroded under the political influence of the ruling Chinese Communist Party.
Cheng Ming was founded on Nov. 1, 1977 by Guangdong-born editor Wen Hui, with Trend following a year later.
The closure is believed to be linked to recent unconfirmed reports of Wen’s death at the age of 96 in New York, and his family’s unwillingness to continue publishing the loss-making journals, the Apple Daily and Oriental Daily reported.
In their heyday, the journals boasted millions of subscribers around the world, and were hugely popular in Hong Kong and among overseas Chinese.
Now, only the pro-democracy magazine Outpost remains on the city’s newsstands, with Kaifang (Open) magazine migrating online.
Reasons for closing unclear
An employee who answered the phone at Cheng Ming’s editorial offices on Tuesday said they didn’t know the reason for the closure.
“I don’t know, and there aren’t any management here right now,” the employee said. “There hasn’t been any announcement [regarding Wen Hui’s death].”
“I’m just here to answer the phone. My boss isn’t here.”
Hong Kong-based publisher Bao Pu, whose father Bao Tong was a top political aide to late ousted Chinese premier Zhao Ziyang, said he is unsure of the reason behind the magazines’ closure.
“I haven’t even managed to confirm whether or not Wen Hui has died,” Bao said. “I don’t think this has to do with the 19th Party Congress, because Cheng Ming was always [outspoken].”
“But one thing is certain; the era of print magazine publishing has been over for a long time.”
Independent writer Zan Aizong, who has written for both journals in recent years, said he had been prevented from submitting articles to them for the past two years by mainland Chinese authorities.
“Open magazine has already ceased publication,, and now Cheng Ming and Trend are folding too,” Zan said. “It’s a real shame that they had to stop before we could get freedom of the press here on the Chinese mainland.”
“It is a matter of great regret.”
Loss of autonomy
The closure of the magazines comes after the cross-border detentions of five Hong Kong booksellers detained in 2015 by the Chinese authorities for selling “banned” political books to customers across the internal border in mainland China.
In February, authorities in China’s eastern province of Zhejiang handed down prison sentences to two men for selling “banned” political books from Hong Kong, as the ruling Chinese Communist Party continues its campaign against any form of political dissent.
Dai Xuelin, social media editor at the Guangxi Normal University Press, was handed a five-year jail term by a court in Zhejiang’s Ningbo city, while his business partner Zhang Xiaoxiong was jailed for three-and-a-half years, Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post newspaper reported.
The cross-border detentions and interrogation of the five Causeway Bay booksellers has been cited by U.S. and European officials as evidence that Hong Kong is losing the “high degree of autonomy” and traditional freedoms guaranteed for 50 years under the terms of the 1997 handover from the U.K. to Chinese rule.
Reported by Hai Nan for RFA’s Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.