Shifty NBC smearing Apple Daily would entail serious consequences|Sang Pu

Published (HKT): 2020.11.02 10:52

On October 30, NBC published an article written by Ben Collins and Brandy Zadrozny. It mentioned that a 64-page document had gone viral on the internet and asserted a “conspiracy theory” involving Hunter Biden, Joe Biden’s beloved son, and his business in China. It said this 64-page document appeared to be the work of a fake “intelligence firm” called Typhoon Investigations and a fake author named Martin Aspen with a fabricated identity and a picture created with an artificial intelligence face generator. A blogger and professor named Christopher Balding, an American who taught economics at Peking University HSBC Business School in China until 2018, surprisingly took credit of writing parts of the document. The NBC article said: “Balding claimed that the document was commissioned by Apple Daily, a Hong Kong-based tabloid that is frequently critical of the Chinese government. A spokesman for Apple Daily confirmed it had worked with Balding on the document.”

Apple Daily, both Hong Kong and Taiwan, solemnly denied such allegations. Jimmy Lai said he had not been aware of the existence of such a report or any engagement to write such a report. Jimmy’s personal assistant Mark Simon denied being a spokesman for Apple Daily. Mark confirmed that he, without Jimmy’s knowledge, had asked Balding to investigate Joe Biden and Hunter Biden for the purpose of understanding the real relationship between Hunter Biden and Hunter’s friend, Michael Lin, especially regarding their activities in Taiwan, but the investigation report turned out to be not useful, and he had no intention at all to have the report published. Mark admitted that he had withdrawn USD10,000 from a private company owned by Jimmy to pay such investigation expenses. Anyway, in order to safeguard Jimmy’s and Apple Daily’s integrity, Mark subsequently resigned.

NBC, without elaboration and independent investigation, quoted Balding’s statement that the document was commissioned by Apple Daily. Before publishing such an article, NBC did not ask Apple Daily to comment at all. This is not what a professional news media outlet should perform for an independent investigation report. Such a statement in the NBC article is certainly misleading and Balding’s statement is obviously ungrounded upon any evidence. More seriously, who is such “a spokesman for Apple Daily” who had confirmed working with Balding on the document? There is none. Mark Simon is not. NBC created a “fake persona” on its own. Before condemning Typhoon Investigations, it should have spared another full report to condemn NBC itself. By publishing such misleading (first) and false (second) statements, NBC would like to question the reputation and integrity of Apple Daily and Jimmy Lai. However, I would instead call the reputation and integrity of NBC into question. A news media outlet can side with any party or any candidate, but must not side with misleading and false statements. NBC was subsequently requested by Apple Daily to comment on and rectify it, but there has been no response so far.

NBC should be better renamed as Shifty NBC. It shifted our focus away from the content of the report to the author, picture and investigation agency, etc. Even when the author, picture and investigation agency, etc. are proved to be not authentic, as in this case, the content of the report could still be honest and genuine. Concealment or fabrication of author identity could be for the purpose to better protect information sources and minimize retaliation risks. Now, our focus should be reinstated back to the content of the investigation report. The report mentioned that Hunter’s consultancy firm Seneca Global Advisors has a customer called GreatPoint, a U.S. energy company, which had been invested in by China’s Wanxiang Group with more than one billion dollars. The report also revealed that Hunter, as a shareholder and ex-director of the notorious BHR, and his old and sleepy daddy Joe met with the CEO of BHR, Li Xinzhong, at a hotel lobby in Shanghai in 2013, and then in 2015, BHR and China Aviation Industry Group, having committed spying activities in the U.S., acquired Henniges Automotive, a U.S. automotive parts company. These are only parts of the report, like the tip of an iceberg. NBC, as a resource-rich news media outlet, should have independently and professionally investigated the facts mentioned in this report. However, NBC did not do so. The NBC article would objectively mislead us to think that the whole report is a hoax because the author identity was fabricated. Certainly, this is not a logically valid deduction. Although whether or not the full content of the report is authentic needs further in-depth investigation, at least some parts of it have been verified or are easy to be verified. If a news media outlet intentionally halts investigation and reporting because Joe Biden is a presidential candidate, how can we believe that it will make any meaningful investigation if (and only if) Joe is elected as the president?

The NBC article smears Apple Daily harshly without any single word of apology. If this is a low-profile orchestrated action powered by the CCP regime to smear, divide and crack down on Apple Daily, Jimmy Lai and Mark Simon, the consequences can be grave and devastating. The whole point of this scandal is not about whether Apple Daily funded a fabricated persona to write up a report, as the answer is clearly no. This whole scandal is about whether or not Jimmy Lai or his personal assistant Mark Simon intentionally intervened in the U.S. presidential election, as Mark funded Balding for an investigation of the Bidens even without any intention to have the report published. I believe in Jimmy’s and Mark’s frank and fair disclosure, so the answer is also a clear no. However, by reading NBC’s article, the CCP regime might immorally conjure up a story to crack down on Jimmy Lai and Apple Daily. By quoting the draconian national security law of Hong Kong, the CCP regime might wrongfully allege that, first, Mark, as Jimmy’s assistant, colluded with Balding, as a foreign power, to write up a report, in order to reveal scandals about the family of Biden, who is considered as CCP’s friend, and then, if the presidential election result is not in Biden’s favor, the CCP might say Mark and Jimmy have been endangering national security of China. This means up to life imprisonment and vulnerability of being sent to mainland China for detention, interrogation, trial and imprisonment, coupled with possibility of inhumane tortures and coerced public confessions. These can be unimaginably terrible consequences although the “collusion” story can be completely fabricated by the CCP. It is like a ping-pong game. NBC did the “ping”, the CCP did the “pong”, and the result can be devastating to Jimmy, Mark, and after all, Apple Daily. Unless and until NBC apologizes for and rectifies such misleading and false statements, i.e. fake news, about Apple Daily, this danger would not dissipate.

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