T：Let’s go back. Why did you start a media company when you were still a clothing retailer.
L：Tiananmen Square. I participated in the event and thought that would be the beginning of China’s opening up, and media would be the biggest participant.
T：So where does China’s media stand today?
L：It’s still under censorship.
T：Then how could it be changed?
L：Who knows? Nobody knows.
T：You must have some insight on this matter.
L：It’s difficult to be changed. Only a right time can change it.
T：When is that right time?
L：When China becomes more and more open, when the world and its common values have greater influence on China, and when everyone requires more freedom, democracy and law, and justice. China has to change.
T：Have you seen any sign of such a change?
L：I think China is gradually changing in a good direction. No matter how China controls and censors, people’s command is definitely greater.
T：You wrote letters criticising certain Chinese leaders, but it’s been a long time since your last outburst. Are you still brave and fierce?
L：I think I’m still holding fast to my beliefs and I will continue doing newspapers in this stand. But people grow old and their attitudes will change. You won’t be as fierce as you used to be.
T：Do you now think this new attitude might bring about a better result?
L：I won’t think of it, because first there’s no way to do it all over again, and second I don’t think I did it wrong. You mean whether I regret? I don’t regret.
T：Nowadays most people are saying Hong Kong has less freedom of speech.
L：I don’t think so.
L：Apple Daily is not censored.
T：Yes but there’s less freedom than before.
L：I don’t think so.
T：Okay, people also say the Hong Kong government is under tighter control from the Central Government and becoming a ‘provincial government’. What do you think of that?
L：I think everyone knows that it has been under control since day one [of the handover]. It’s no surprise. It’s also unavoidable that the Chinese government’s ideology will affect Hong Kong and even Hong Kong’s government.
T：Is that bad news for Hong Kong?
L：Of course it’s bad, but you can’t help.
T：Will there be a good side?
L：A good side, well… the Mainland won’t focus on us that much, and won’t send many people here and make the situation so intense. But, in the long term, it’s definitely bad for us, making Hong Kong lose its own quality, its ideology, as a successful international city, of freedom and common values. I think Hong Kong people need to wake up and stick to our own values.
T：Do you think Hongkongers, by sticking to their values, can change the status quo?
L：Hong Kong people have been standing on a more solid ground, and the ‘post-80s’ generation has also realised that they need to have their beliefs and let their voice be heard. I think Hong Kong people will keep doing this.
T：Earlier this year, in an interview with RTHK, you said if mainland China allowed you in, you would do a New York Times-type of newspaper there…
L：I never said this.
T：But I watched it.
L：I never said this.
T：Okay, then if the Mainland did open its doors to you, would you go there to do a New York Times or another Apple Daily?
L：I’ll still do Apple. I won’t do New York Times.
L：It would be impossible [to do New York Times] in terms of talent and needs of the society, which haven’t reached the level.
T：Do you want to do media in the Mainland?
L：It’s meaningless whether I want to. What’s the use to want to do something if it’s impossible?
T：You mean the Chinese media environment is not suitable for someone like you?
L：Of course not. There’s so much control.
T：What do you think are the differences between Mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan audiences?
L：I think in the end what they want would be more or less the same. You can exclude the Mainland, because you won’t get what you want. Hong Kong and Taiwan audiences can basically have what they want.
T：And what do they want?
L：What they need [is] to lead their lives. To know what is happening. To have access to information that enables them to live more conveniently.
T：Have you ever considered other media markets overseas?
L：Media is local. You can’t do it wherever you want. Each place has its own culture, customs, values and habits, which are very local. A newspaper is to resonate with people, to include a city’s own issues. Those things are not like in a book — that you can understand them after you read it — you have to feel them. I can’t do it [overseas].
T：What do you think of Vice Premier Li Keqiang’s visit to the University of Hong Kong and the conflict between student protesters and the police it caused?
L：I think [getting police to secure the campus and separating protesters] was what Li Keqiang needed. He is going to be promoted and he didn’t want to face situations that might embarrass him, or where he didn’t know how to respond or what his responses might cause. Another reason may be that the Hong Kong government felt too nervous. After all, the Hong Kong government made an unwise move by embarrassing the whole society for a leader’s visit. I think [the government] knew that it was an unwise move.
T：Do you have a prediction for our next Chief Executive?
L：No, I don’t have one.
T：We’re certain it’s Henry Tang. What are your expectations on the current candidates?
L：I don’t have any expectations. After all, it’s up to the Chinese government to choose one.
T：So whoever takes the position, the result will be the same?
L：[Pause] Not necessarily. But I won’t think about it. Why would we think about it if we can’t choose?