Press Freedom – or not – in Asia


2004.11.17
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Part 4: Hong Kong Radio Host Says He Was Offered Money for Silence

HONG KONG—As fears mount over whether Hong Kong will be able to maintain the level of press freedom the territory enjoyed before its 1997 handover to China, former radio host Wong Yuk-man has said he was offered money for silence during his stint as host of a popular political talk show.

Wong quit his job as presenter of Hong Kong Commercial Radio’s program, “The Politically Concerned,” in May, citing worries about his personal safety after he was beaten by unidentified thugs, and his beef noodle restaurant in Kowloon City was vandalized with red paint.

“I didn’t say the names of those who had threatened me not because I was afraid of retaliation,” Wong said in a recent interview with government-run Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK). “Why should I announce their names? I was threatened.”

Keen to see him go

“Even before that, someone had contacted me and asked me to go off the air. Then someone offered to pay me,” said Wong, who had previously expressed doubts that he would return to Commercial Radio and fulfill his contract.

“…Someone had contacted me and asked me to go off the air. Then someone offered to pay me.”

But he added that he had since held talks with the bosses at Commercial Radio to host a new show, and had agreed a way of handling any further threats.

Fears for Hong Kong’s traditionally free media heightened in the run-up to the elections with the resignation of three radio hosts—Wong, and two presenters of Commercial Radio’s popular and raucous call-in show, “Teacup in a Storm.”

Cheng finds new platform

Allen Lee, formerly regarded as a pro-Beijing politician and a veteran public affairs commentator, resigned from “Teacup” after just two weeks on the job. Lee had replaced Albert Cheng, a fierce critic of China who quit after receiving death threats.

Lee said he had received no death threats but no longer enjoyed hosting the program because many of his friends and business contacts were unhappy with his new role.

The resignations coincided with a rise in politically motivated attacks against pro-democracy figures believed by some Hong Kong legislators to be orchestrated by Beijing to influence the election result, in which the democracy camp made modest gains.

Cheng has since been elected to the Legislative Council, saying he no longer had a platform in the media.

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