The Hong Kong Radio Hosts-Part 2

(SCMP, no link; added May 20, 2004)  Another leading HK political commentator resigns from radio show

Political commentator Allen Lee Peng-fei said on Wednesday he would resign as a National Party Congress deputy and stop working as a radio how host for Commercial Radio's Teacup in a Storm.  Mr Lee had been the replacement host for the talk show for two weeks after its outspoken host Albert Cheng King-hon quit his job and left for a long holiday.  

Mr Lee's decision not to work as a radio host is the third in Hong Kong in less than three weeks. Another outspoken veteran radio commentator Raymond Wong Yuk-man also resigned last week from his show on Commercial radio.

Mr Lee said on his show on Wednesday morning that many prominent local and mainland people had approached him after he became a radio host. But he said he refused to meet them. Consequently, Mr Lee said he felt he could not speak his mind or enjoy the radio show.

"If I feel the job is difficult or I can't enjoy the show, it is pointless for me to go on,'' Mr Lee told reporters.  He also said it was difficult to criticise his friends publicly on the radio show; he explained that he did not want to lose his friends.

Mr Lee stressed that no one has pressured or threatened him to leave. But he said he did not want to be told - via his wife - not to continue hosting the radio show. This was what his two predecessors had experienced, claimed Mr Lee.

He also said the current political climate in the territory was the worst he had ever experienced. He said society was now very polarised.  Mr Lee said he would continue his work at other media outlets.  Commercial Radio has refused to comment on Mr Lee's departure, local media reported.

Mr Lee said he was also prepared to resign as a NPC deputy before his term ended.  His decision followed six months of careful consideration. He said he felt incapable of carrying out his duties.

Commenting on Mr Lee's resignation, Executive Council member Leung Chun-ying said Hong Kong's freedom of speech was well protected under the Basic Law. But he said the community was not as harmonious as it had been previously.

Mr Leung said he did not want to see society become more polarised when people were exercising their freedom of speech.

Outspoken NPC deputy Tsang hin-chi said Mr Lee's resignation was a personal decision. Mr Tsang said people's comments should not be harmful to society.  He also said he did not agree that freedom of speech in Hong Kong was restricted.

In the previous post about the first two radio hosts, I had only reply "Get used to it!"  The bottom line was that all kinds of pressure will be applied to the political media stars in a vibrant and competitive democracy with full freedom of speech and press.  If you want to exercise your freedom of speech, you cause society to become more polarised.  It is too late to put the genie back into the bottle.  If the situation in Hong Kong is worse than ever before, then those three radio hosts bear primary responsibility.

Allen Lee explained his comment about not wanting to lose his friends.  He gave examples as five published reports in the newspapers from from different people that he knew.  He disagree with what they said, and he could easily pick up the phone and have a civil discussion about the issues.  However, if he chose to attack them for several hundred thousand people to hear, these people would probably be deeply hurt and will probably never talk to him again.  For comparison, see Kevin Drum on Jonathan Alter.

Allen Lee might have hoped that his double resignations would ameliorate matters.  That is not going to happen any time soon.  As an example, the Hong Kong NPC representative Dr. Raymond Wu has condemned unnamed radio hosts for using the public airwaves to make untruthful statements that caused social instability.  Furthermore, he said that, during the election run-up, certain people would like to play the role of victim in other to gain the sympathy vote.  Dr. Wu is free to speak his mind, as does Allen Lee.  And if you don't like this kind of nasty atmosphere, you should just stick to reading the horse-racing section in the newspaper, watch the soccer games on cable television and listen to canto-pop on radio.

P.S.  At least, nobody has gone after Allen Lee for being a shareholder in East Art International, the company deemed responsible for the Hong Kong Harbour Fest fiasco (see previous post).

By the way, Next Weekly has detailed coverage of the situation with radio host Raymond Wong Yuk-man.  The evidence all points to this being a case of personal debt.  He had lost large sums of money in ill-conceived business ventures such as the Mad Dog Daily in 1996 as his personal platform to attack others and the Internet website CyberDaily.  As a result, he owed money to three different financial loan companies as well as to personal friends.  In March this year, he was physically assaulted by six triad members in the street; ten days later, his noodle shop in Kowloon City was drenched in red paint (technical note: this is the classical tool used by professional debt collectors (see previous post)).  Wong was uncharacteristically reticent to the media about these two episodes.  He had moved from his home to live in the Miramar Hotel, because it is speculated that he wanted witnesses around him, even though he was assaulted by the six men outside the Miramar Hotel.

Next Weekly sent a reporter to San Francisco and canvassed his relatives and favorite haunts for his whereabouts.  The reporter only received a phone call from Wong: "Don't fucking start so many things!  I am not going to tell you where I am because people may die because of this.  Don't fucking mess with my family!  I have told them to call the police.  Why are you treating me as if I am a fugitive?  I am a victim.  I am under a lot of pressure.  It seems that a lot of people in Hong Kong have been saying nonsense as if they are representing me.  When I came off the air, I won't talk to the media.  Don't try to fucking milk information from me!"

This is a scurrilous hatchet job based upon innuendos ("a reliable source which I cannot reveal"???).

(SCMP, no link)  Triads linked to political intimidation.  May 22, 2004.

A former government adviser says there might be an organised campaign to crack down on outspoken critics and media organisations.

The Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor also claims it has learned from a reliable source that the Ministry of State Security and local triads are behind the recent intimidation of radio hosts and pro-democracy legislators.  The watchdog has declined to reveal the source but is seeking a meeting with the Security Bureau to discuss the matter.

Speaking on the Commercial Radio show Teacup in a Storm yesterday, Kuan Hsin-chi, the former head of a Central Policy Unit sub-group on social cohesion, said rumours about the loss of advertising income in some newspapers that adopted a pro-democracy stance and the departure of three radio hosts were apparently not isolated incidents.

"I begin to suspect that there is a body with organised planning and strategy to target the media ... It's very damaging to our press freedom," said Professor Kuan, head of the department of government and public administration at Chinese University.

Last month, talk-show host Albert Cheng King-hon said he felt suffocated by political depression and quit the airwaves for the rest of the year. Allen Lee Peng-fei, who succeeded Cheng on Teacup in a Storm, also left on Wednesday, saying he could no longer speak his mind freely. He also resigned from the National People's Congress.

Professor Kuan would not speculate on which organisation was behind the alleged campaign but criticised the government for not doing enough to defend freedom.

"Up to now officials still say there is no evidence suggesting freedom of speech is at risk. It gives the impression that the government is very evasive," Professor Kuan said.  "Of course it's correct to say that freedom is protected by the Basic Law, but these are only words in the Basic Law. Protection of such freedom requires effort."

The director of the Human Rights Monitor, Law Yuk-kai, said: "We believe that the Ministry of State Security and Hong Kong triads are collaborating in this political violence and intimidation."

Asked if this was purely speculation, he replied: "We learned about that from a reliable source, which I cannot reveal. It's not without basis. But we know that it's difficult to substantiate."