Alibaba founder Jack Ma was heartbroken last week after Western media attacked his company’s $266 million purchase of Hong Kong’s top English-language newspaper, the South China Morning Post, with charges that the publication’s integrity and independence would soon be compromised by its new mainland Chinese ownership.
At this week’s Second World Internet Conference in Wuzhen, Ma defended the acquisition, saying to the Wall Street Journal:
Trust us. Why do people have to think that if we have it, it will lose its independence? Why not with others? We also read the newspapers. We also want media independence and fairness. What basis is there that with us, there will be no more independence.
Observers had based their criticism on the fact that Alibaba revealed one of their goals in the SCMP takeover is to help create a better global image for China. Critics also worried about Ma’s close connections with China’s leadership, as well as his agreement with many of Beijing’s views.
The SCMP has been known to use its home base safety in Hong Kong to cover forbidden topics including politics and human rights. It also has become Beijing’s chosen destination for leaks to the English-language media.
Ma responded that people should not think “too little of” Alibaba.
In fact, people are thinking very much about Alibaba lately, earlier today rumors flared up about the company’s interest in also purchasing another one of Hong Kong’s most trusted newspapers, the Ming Pao.
However, Ma instantly denied rumors that he wants to be China’s Rupert Murdoch, denying any talks and urging loyal Alibaba customers to remember the importance of trust.
Though, it seems like he’s going to have to earn that.
By Emily Lam