#Asia Confirmed: Alibaba buys Hong Kong’s SCMP

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Early Christmas shopping spree for mainland Internet company leaves some feeling uneasy

Jack Ma

The rumors have been confirmed: Alibaba Group, China’s biggest online shopping company, is buying Hong Kong’s influential English-language newspaper, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) as well as the SCMP Group’s listed operations.

Also Read: Alibaba allegedly buying SCMP

Other publications which will fall to Alibaba’s influence include magazines Esquire, Elle, Cosmopolitan, The PEAK and Harper’s Bazaar.

The deal was announced late on Friday followed by a letter to readers penned by Joseph Tsai, Alibaba’s Executive Vice Chairman. “Alibaba is in an excellent position to leverage technology to create content more efficiently and expand distribution without borders,” he writes.

Tsai also states that Alibaba will remove the paywall that currently blocks unsubscribed members, as well as rev up SCMP’s digital content.

The news has sparked concern over what will become of the paper’s editorial objectivity in covering Beijing and China-related issues.

“Great news for Hong Kong Free Press,” comments Ha Ying-sang on an article on the topic published by independent media outlet, Hong Kong Free Press. 

In a separate interview with the SCMP, Tsai addressed issues over concerns over the future of the paper and potentially slanted content, stating:

“We have to have the readers’ trust. That will depend on reporting that is objective, balanced and fair. If we don’t have that trust, we cannot build up our readership. Even though we are the corporate owner, we will let the editors decide the editorial policy and direction of coverage for any story. That’s our basic principle.”

Regarding the buy, Hong Kong Journalists Association published a statement on their website: “The Hong Kong Journalist Association is concerned that a control of South China Morning Post by Alibaba Group will further compromise press freedom in Hong Kong.”

The news comes after Alibaba’s acquisition of video service Youku Tudou, in a deal estimated at US$4.8 billion. Alibaba is acquiring SCMP from Malaysian typhoon Robert Kuok for an undisclosed amount.

Wang Xiangwei, SCMP’s first mainland-born Editor in Chief, stepped down on November 6 and will be succeeded by his Deputy, Tammy Tam.

 Also Read: [Updated] Alibaba officially launches US$129M Hong Kong Entrepreneurs Fund

Image Credit: GongTo, Shutterstock 

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