The National Post
January 16, 2006
Jasper Becker and his defenders say the former South China Morning Post reporter was the victim of a new climate of self-censorship as Beijing imposes the ‘correct attitude’ on the Hong Kong media.
Hong Kong: In one of his last articles for the South China Morning Post, Jasper Becker, the newspaper’s Beijing bureau chief, wrote about the Chinese government’s fear of words. The occasion was a literary festival in Hong Kong: the guest list included not a single well-known Chinese dissident writer. Ever since the 19th century, Becker wrote, Hong Kong “has served as a sanctuary for writers and politicians who feel out of favour with the powers that be…. If that changes, Hong Kong will lose its unique importance in the Chinese world.” A week later, Becker – for seven years the newpaper’s best-known writer, author of two definitive books on China and winner of a number of human rights awards – was fired for “insubordination.” The story made headlines in Washington, Paris and other world capitals. The Morning Post is the most important of Hong Kong’s English-language papers It flourished during the British colonial period, and many saw it as a critical Western eye on China. But that has changed. His bosses said Becker, 45, had become too difficult; he wouldn’t work “within the system.” But Becker and his defenders have another explanation: he was the victim, they say, of a new climate of self-censorship in Hong Kong in which leading institutions including the news media, are eager to demonstrate to Beijing that they’re ready to play by the new rules of the post-colonial era.