About 300 protesters in black staged a sit-in outside the Ming Pao offices in support of press freedom.
The demonstrators said they wore black to reflect their dismay at the paper's recent decision to replace Kevin Lau Chun-to as chief editor.
Those taking part in the sit-in at the Chai Wan offices were current and past staff, and pro- democracy lawmakers including the Civic Party's Claudia Mo Man-ching, former Ming Pao publisher and ex-legal sector lawmaker Margaret Ng Oi-yee, commentator Ching Cheong and Hong Kong Journalists' Association chairwoman Sham Yee-lan.
They put up banners stating "Press and speech freedom are crucial to Hong Kong."
Speaking from a makeshift stage, Ng recalled that when Ming Pao was owned by co-founder Louis Cha Leung-yung, staff could speak to him directly.
"We support Ming Pao staff in safeguarding press freedom and it is the tradition in Ming Pao that we can voice different opinions to the boss," Ng said. Ching said: "The situation over press freedom has got us worried now." A staff representative called on senior management at the daily, owned by Malaysian tycoon Tiong Hiew-king, to sign a charter pledging to respect editorial independence.
Malaysian journalist Chong Tien-siong, former chief editor of the Nanyang Siang Pau, is expected to take up Lau's post in a few weeks.
Until he arrives, editorial director Cheung Kin- por has taken over as chief editor in place of Lau.
Ming Pao announced that Cheung will be chief editor until further notice, while Lau will now be responsible for the group's online business affairs.
Lau's earlier-than-expected removal is believed to be due to his decision to run blank spaces meant for columnists early this month.
Among the four who submitted blank columns in protest at Lau's expected removal were Commercial Radio host Li Wei-ling and Ng Chi-sum. EDDIE LUK