HONG KONG – A Hong Kong pro-democracy media magnate appeared in a humorous video to counter a fake obituary of him published Thursday in a rival newspaper.
Next Media boss Jimmy Lai says in the video he is “sorry to disappoint” whoever paid for the full-page announcement in the Oriental Daily.
It wasn’t clear who took out the fake obituary, which said Lai Chee-ying died at 65 from AIDS and multiple cancers. It referred to Lai by his Chinese name but used a different written character for Chee that sounds the same.
The graphic style of the fake obituary mirrored that of real obituaries in Hong Kong media. It said the tycoon was also known as “Fatty Lai” and that his family members also had severe diseases and couldn’t attend his funeral. It offered condolences to staff at Two Media, a disguised reference to Lai’s company. The literal translation of the Chinese characters in his company’s name is One Media.
Lai owns Apple Daily, Hong Kong’s sole pro-democracy newspaper. It and Oriental Daily, which hasn’t commented on the fake obit, are among the most popular publications in the semiautonomous Chinese territory.
It’s the latest incident to raise fears about press freedom in Hong Kong, which has tumbled in a ranking by international watchdog group Reporters Without Borders to 61st place from No. 18 in 2002.
The video intersperses cartoon images with shots of Lai filming himself, selfie-style. The plot has Lai being taken to the afterlife by traditional Chinese gods of the underworld but sent back because his name doesn’t match.
“This joke isn’t good enough because I still don’t have AIDS,” Lai says. “If you want me to die, you’ll have to keep cursing me.”
Next Media Ltd. is known for firing out animated clips summarizing big news events for its readers. One of its best-known videos portrayed Tiger Woods’ infamous car crash that preceded the golfer’s divorce.