Newspaper editorial discourse and the politics of self-censorship in Hong Kong

Francis L.F. LEE, Mei Yi Angel LIN

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlespeer-review

87 Citations (Scopus)


In transitional societies where political pressure on the press is coupled with a commercial media system and a professional journalistic culture, the politics of self-censorship is likely to involve a strategic contest between the media and political actors. Language plays a significant role in this contest. The present study focuses on the case of Hong Kong. It analyzes how two local newspapers, facing an important yet sensitive political issue, constructed two different overall storylines and used two different sets of discursive strategies in their editorials to handle political pressure, market credibility, and journalistic integrity simultaneously. The elite-oriented Ming Pao constructed a storyline of the debate as a factional struggle in order to posit itself as an impartial arbitrator. This approach was further sustained and justified by the discursive strategies of balanced and qualified criticisms and the rhetoric of rational discussion. The mass-oriented Apple Daily, on the other hand, constructed a storyline of a sovereign people whose rights are encroached upon by a powerful entity. The paper was therefore much more critical towards the power center. Nevertheless, it also appropriated the dominant discourse, constructed internal contradictions, and decentralized the Chinese central government to smooth out the radicalism of its criticisms. Copyright © 2006 SAGE Publications.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)331-358
JournalDiscourse and Society
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - May 2006


Lee, F. L. F., & Lin, A. M. Y. (2006). Newspaper editorial discourse and the politics of self-censorship in Hong Kong. Discourse & Society, 17(3), 331-358.


  • Hong Kong
  • Journalistic objectivity
  • Language and politics
  • Media self-censorship
  • Newspaper editorial discourse
  • Positioning theory


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