Former Hong Kong radio talk show host Albert Cheng, known for his outspoken pro-democracy views, turned down an invitation to attend a meeting of legislators on Monday, citing fears for his personal safety, RFA�s Cantonese service reports.

Cheng, who resigned earlier this month as the host of the popular Commercial Radio talk show �Teacup in a Storm,� had been invited to attend the Legislative Council Home Affairs Panel meeting Thursday, prompted by growing fears that Hong Kong�s traditional press freedoms could be weakening under a barrage of intimidation and threats.

Cheng said in a statement that the Panel had been unable to guarantee his and fellow resigned presenter Wong Yuk-man�s personal safety, and that under such circumstances he would have to decline the invitation.

Cheng, Wong, and former pro-Beijing politician Allen Lee all stepped down in the last two weeks saying they had been pressured over their on-air criticism of Beijing. Cheng and Wong received violent threats while Lee said Beijing had pressured him to tone down his rhetoric through friends and business contacts.

Legco Home Affairs panel chairman Ip Kwok-him called on Cheng to hand over any documentary evidence to police and vowed to maintain more contact with him, not less. Police are investigating attacks reported by Cheng and Wong, which they say were politically motivated and aimed at pressuring them to quit their shows.

Hong Kong�s second-in-command, Chief Secretary Donald Tsang, said Monday that no one should be subject to intimidation for his or her views. A government statement cited no deterioration in Hong Kong�s traditional freedoms, which were guaranteed under the terms of the territory�s return to Chinese sovereignty in 1997.

�We do not see any tightening in the freedom of expression and of the press,� an unnamed government spokesman said, according to an official statement.

�The government will continue to uphold the fundamental rights of Hong Kong people. The government also trusts that Hong Kong people will continue to exercise their rights, to give full effect to the freedom that they have.�

China has been blamed for orchestrating a series of recent vandalism attacks and threats in Hong Kong, with some democratic legislators saying the intimidation aimed at derailing legislative elections in September which democrats are expected to win. The incidents have cast a shadow over traditionally safe and politically open Hong Kong.

Last week, advertising promoting protests marking the 15th anniversary of the June 4, 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown were vandalized or removed, in an apparently coordinated attack on the commemoration activities, organizers said.

China has recently taken a more active role in Hong Kong�s affairs, ruling out the possibility of direct universal suffrage in legislative and Chief Executive elections scheduled in 2007 and 2008. #####


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