The Hong Kong Radio Hosts - Part I

(AP via Toronto Star)  Outspoken Hong Kong radio hosts taken off air

Two outspoken talk radio hosts critical of the Beijing and Hong Kong governments have gone off the air within 10 days of each other, raising new fears of censorship in the territory.

On Raymond Wong's radio program Thursday, a guest host read out a statement attributed to Wong that said he needed to take a rest because he was "physically and mentally tired." It did not say when he would return to air.  His departure followed that of another high-profile political commentator, Albert Cheng, who took leave from his phone-in radio show last week. He cited Hong Kong's "suffocating" political climate amid a heated row over quicker democratic reforms in this former British colony.

Hong Kong, a peninsula and group of islands on the southeastern edge of mainland China, was a British territory for 150 years before reverting to the Chinese in 1997. Beijing promised it would allow the region to operate under the principle of "one country, two systems" and a "high degree of autonomy.''

Many Hong Kong people have demanded the right to pick their leader by 2007 and all lawmakers by 2008, but China sparked outrage last month by ruling out any direct elections in the near term.

Human Rights Monitor Director Law Yuk-kai said the two commentators are "the index of freedom of speech in Hong Kong,'' with Wong's frequent criticisms of the mainland's Communist Party and Cheng calling on his audience to rally for greater democracy in Hong Kong.  "They are always trying to test the limits," Law said. "Their departures will leave the media and the public worried about their freedoms.''

Opposition lawmaker Emily Lau said the rights of expression and speech here are "diminishing quite fast" with what she called Beijing's "heavy-handed" interference in Hong Kong affairs.

Wong and Cheng were known for their abrasive on-air style in voicing grass-roots gripes and biting criticisms of government officials. Both are staunch supporters of full democracy in Hong Kong.  They have been harassed or assaulted in separate incidents over the past two months. Cheng had previously survived a 1998 stabbing.

But Secretary for Security Ambrose Lee said Friday that police have so far found no evidence that linked the intimidation against Wong and Cheng to their work.  "Hong Kong follows the rule of law. We don't tolerate anyone using violence to force others to do anything," Lee told reporters.  The government maintains that press and speech freedoms are protected and guaranteed under Hong Kong's mini-constitution.

Death threats for being politically outspoken in a democracy?  About all I can say is this, "Get used to it!"  I'll just list some examples from the United States.  This is a sample just by googling the words "death threats."

Here is the bottom line: if you expect to have a vibrant and competitive democracy with full freedom of speech and press, you must be prepared to accept the full package, which will include: muckraking, rumors, slurs, negative advertising, bribery, personal attacks, advertiser pressure, sponsor pressure, business pressure, political pressure, physical intimidation, character assassination and worse.

(Associated Press)  

Seymour Myron Hersh - "Sy" to nearly everyone - is 67. He is a living journalism legend. Thirty-four years after winning the Pulitzer Prize for uncovering the My Lai atrocity of the Vietnam War, he is still working, still making people angry and still being called names.

Most recently, it was liar. His latest New Yorker report said Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and others in the Pentagon encouraged the "physical coercion and sexual humiliation of Iraqi prisoners."

Pentagon spokesman Lawrence DiRita called the story "crap." He also called it "outlandish" and "conspiratorial."

Hersh has heard worse.  "Oh, God," he sputters. "I mean, come on. There was a period in my life after My Lai when military people used to call me up and tell me what they were going to do to my private parts. So I'm supposed to be worried about this guy?"

His Washington, D.C., office number and address are listed in the white pages. Likewise, his home address and telephone number.

(MSNBC)  Michael Moore’s controversial documentary hasn’t even been seen in the U.S. — but that isn’t stopping Moore-bashers.  The gadfly filmmaker has been getting death threats over “Fahrenheit 9/11,” says a source. “People have been flaming his Web site,” says a source. “Really ugly stuff.”  Moore’s reps didn’t return calls for comment, but another Moore source, who knows nothing of the current threats, sighed, “I wouldn’t be surprised. He got threats after ‘Bowling for Columbine.’ ”

(  The sponsors of at least two different websites chronicling the anti-war statements and activities of Hollywood celebrities, say they're being inundated with death threats from "anti-war pacifist" supporters of the celebrities.  The sponsor of one of the sites, who would only identify himself as Tim C., said he has received nearly 100 death threats since starting less than two months ago. Tim's mother and wife want him to stop exposing Hollywood's liberal activists out of fear for his personal safety.

(BBC)  The Dixie Chicks have said they fear for their lives following the backlash against singer Natalie Maines' comments about US President George Bush.  The band say they have received death threats after Maines told a London audience she was ashamed that Mr Bush came from her home state, Texas.

(Guardian)  For the past five years, Paul Krugman - a lifelong academic with the exception of a brief stint as an economics staffer under Reagan - has been moonlighting as a columnist on the New York Times op ed page, a position so influential in the US that it has no real British parallel.  The letters that Paul Krugman receives these days have to be picked up with tongs, and his employer pays someone to delete the death threats from his email inbox.  

(Springfield Republican)  University of Massachusetts student is in hiding after reportedly receiving death threats stemming from a column he wrote in Wednesday's Daily Collegian.  Rene L. Gonzalez's column in the campus newspaper portrayed former National Football League player Pat Tillman, killed in battle last week, as "an idiot" for leaving football to join the Army Rangers.

(  Cartoonist Ted Rall says he has received numerous death threats over a cartoon he did this week that satirized the media's response to the death of Pat Tillman, the former pro-football player killed in Afghanistan.  Rall said in an interview Wednesday that he has received about 6,000 e-mails in response to the cartoon, which was distributed Monday.  Some 300 of the messages threatened Rall with "death or bodily harm," he said, and he also said he had received several death threats by phone.

(Prison Planet)  Oily beatnik Neo-Con radio host Michael Savage, who has previously and repeatedly called for anyone who criticizes the government to be put in concentration camps, has now advocated the arrest of US newspaper editors.  In a poll on his website, Savage (real name 'Wiener') displays a photo of an Iraqi holding up a US soldiers' boots which was published in the New York Times. Savage asks the question, 'Do you think the publisher of the NY Times should be arrested for sedition for showing enemy propaganda?'  It is the job of a publisher/journalist/photographer to print and disseminate the truth, however horrible it may be. Savage implies that the publisher should only print what is favorable to the government. This is propaganda.

(TechWebThere's a security guard sitting at the front door of Salon Magazine, the Web publication that Wednesday broke a story detailing the adultery of one of President Clinton's most powerful Congressional critics.  The guard isn't standard Salon policy. After posting the story Wednesday midday, Salon has been besieged by electronic critics using everything from hack attacks to conventional death threats, editors said.  "We expected a strong reaction, but I'm surprised at the ferocity of the response," said David Talbot, the Salon editor who wrote the controversial story.

Salon wrote Wednesday that Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.), who chairs the committee that will decide whether the full House should vote on Clinton's impeachment, had his own affair in the late 1960s. The publication documented the story carefully, putting together photos and interviews with several people close to Hyde and the woman's family. Editors received a statement from Hyde admitting the affair just minutes before the story went live.  Already Talbot has received death threats as a result of his article. Threats have been issued against other top editors. Their fax machine was shut down by a series of "black faxes" -- a tactic in which the sender repeatedly faxes an all-black piece of paper in a deliberate attempt to break the recipient's machine. The magazine stopped accepting incoming e-mail Thursday morning after an avalanche of hate mail and spam clogged their servers.  "We haven't even read most of the hate mail," said Andrew Leonard, the magazine's senior technology writer. "It's not even getting through."

(White House Press Briefing, September 26, 2001)

Q As Commander-In-Chief, what was the President's reaction to television's Bill Maher, in his announcement that members of our Armed Forces who deal with missiles are cowards, while the armed terrorists who killed 6,000 unarmed are not cowards, for which Maher was briefly moved off a Washington television station?

MR. FLEISCHER: I'm aware of the press reports about what he said. I have not seen the actual transcript of the show itself. But assuming the press reports are right, it's a terrible thing to say, and it unfortunate. And that's why -- there was an earlier question about has the President said anything to people in his own party -- they're reminders to all Americans that they need to watch what they say, watch what they do. This is not a time for remarks like that; there never is.

(Take Back The Media!)  Rush Limbaugh calls War Protesters "Anti-American, Anti-Capitalist Marxists and Communists.  Haven't we had enough of this bellicose burden on the American airwaves?  There is something we can do about it. We can complain directly to the companies that sell advertising on his show. We can also boycott the same products or institutions he promotes with his hateful, abhorrent speech and behavior. We've made a list for your convenience below.

Please write to each and every one of these companies. Tell them why you are no longer purchasing their wares, foods, or products. Tell them that you won't support people like Limbaugh who insult honest working Americans of all races, creeds and sexual orientation - or his advertisers. Tell them you'll change the station. Turn the channel off.  Tell them when he's OFF the air you will return to buying their products.And please DO what you say, don't buy what they are selling, make them feel the pressure of those who can vote with their dollars.

(American Politics Journal)  A TJWalker.Com investigation of the popular political web site FreeRepublic.Com reveals that its political influence is rising even as death threats occur more frequently on its message boards. While web sites of all ideological persuasions occasionally have death threats posted, most remove the calls for violence within hours or even minutes. The Free Republic stands out for its willingness to leave death threats posted prominently for months at a time, thus lending credibility to the notion that the organizers and participants endorse such extremist measures.

A recent message with deadly overtones was posted for journalist Dan Rather.