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Alibaba buys South China Morning Post, Hong Kong's top newspaper

What could possibly go wrong as Chinese e-commerce giant buys independent outlet?

Chinese e-commerce giant and cloud computing aspirant Alibaba has acquired Hong Kong newspaper, The South China Morning Post.

Terms of the deal haven't been revealed, but what is known is that Alibaba now controls the Post, plus a host of fashion magazines the group also owns.

The deal's billed as combining Alibab's online expertise with the Post's editorial chops.

The inevitable canned statement features quotes by Alibaba Group's executive vice chairman Joe Tsai, who says “The South China Morning Post is unique because it focuses on coverage of China in the English language. This is a proposition that is in high demand by readers around the world who care to understand the world’s second largest economy.”

“Our vision is to expand the SCMP’s readership globally through digital distribution and easier access to content.”

Readers value the Post because its Hong Kong location makes it possible to be more critical of Beijing than is possible for outlets in mainland China.

Beijing's aware that Hong Kong is an ideal location from which to stir things up, which is why in recent months it has changed electoral laws to favour its approved candidates in local elections. That decision's been widely interpreted as eroding democratic values in Hong Kong, and generated lengthy protests in the territory.

Alibaba is not an arm of the state but, like all large enterprises in China, is careful not to do conduct itself in ways the state will find objectionable.

So while promises have been made that the Post will retain its editorial independence, readers in Hong Kong and in Alibaba's hoped-for international audience will surely be keeping a close eye on the paper's evolving position. ®

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