NEW YORK—The dismissal of a top editor at Ming Pao, one of Hong Kong’s most respected papers, after the publication of a story about Hong Kong residents implicated in the Panama Papers revelations raises deep concern about growing pressures on independent news reporting, PEN America said in a statement today.

Keung Kwok-yuen, the second in command in Ming Pao’s newsroom, was fired following the publication of the April 20 issue, which led with a front-page story on the Panama Papers and the offshore holdings of local figures including celebrities, politicians, and businessmen. While the paper claimed that a “difficult business environment” required it to cut staff, employees and many political leaders raised concerns that Ming Pao’s management had dismissed Keung because of the sensitive story. 

“Mr. Keung’s dismissal immediately after publishing a story about the Panama Papers raises a red flag for press freedom in Hong Kong,” said Katy Glenn Bass, deputy director of PEN’s free expression program. “Editorial independence is critical to any newspaper’s ability to report without fear or favor. Ming Pao’s leadership needs to reaffirm its commitment to that principle by reinstating Mr. Keung, or risk destroying its hard-won reputation as a respected news source.”

PEN America documented growing threats to press freedom in Hong Kong in a 2015 report, Threatened Harbor, including several instances of alleged interference with editorial decisions by newspapers’ management teams.

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PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression at home and abroad. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world.  Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.

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Sarah Edkins, Deputy Director for Communications: +1 646-779-4830, sedkins@pen.org