Hong Kong Press Freedom Hit by Radio Show Resignations


2004-05-20
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Three prominent radio show hosts — ; including two well-known for criticizing Beijing — ; have quit their jobs in as many weeks, casting serious doubts on the sustainability of press freedom in the former British colony, RFA's Cantonese service reports.

Allen Lee, formerly regarded as a pro-Beijing politician and a veteran public affairs commentator, resigned Wednesday from hosting the popular radio talk show "Teacup in a Storm" after just two weeks on the job.

Lee had replaced Albert Cheng, a fierce critic of China who resigned two weeks ago after receiving death threats. Last week, influential Commercial Radio host Wong Yuk-man also resigned after he was beaten up.

Lee said he had received no death threats, but that he no longer enjoyed hosting the program. "It's a personal decision," he was quoted as saying by Agence France-Presse. I have a lot of my long-time good friends, I don't feel that I can criticize whatever they say or do ... If I can't enjoy my job, why do I do it? It's meaningless," Lee said.

The presenter was criticised in the official English-language China Daily newspaper Wednesday for speaking out against China's recent rejection of Hong Kong's calls for democracy.

Meanwhile, the stand-in host of Wong's program "The Politically Concerned" made an appeal to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government to announce that it would not tolerate violence against commentators.

"If you believe that investors' confidence is so important, then don't you think the confidence of the Hong Kong people on what direction Hong Kong will be headed is more important?" Choy Chi-keung said on air after reading a short goodbye note from Wong.

"At this time when people generally feel insecure, shouldn't our senior SAR officials come out to reiterate the government's intolerance for any politically motivated violence, that the government will not tolerate any violence that threatens to silence any voice?" Choy, who is also a lecturer in government at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said.

The resignations coincide with a rise in politically motivated attacks against democrats believed by some Hong Kong legislators to be orchestrated by Beijing to influence September's legislative elections.

Outspoken pro-democracy legislator Emily Lau said she was "furious" at how threats of violence and political pressures have pushed the radio hosts to resign. She also attacked the what she called the "useless" Hong Kong government, which she said is not capable of safeguarding the freedom of speech. "This is a warning that shows room for media freedom has been significantly narrowed," Lau said.

Before Wong Yuk-man decided to leave his show, someone had served him a warning by vandalizing his beef noodle restaurant in Kowloon City with red paint. In March this year, he was assaulted in Tsim Sha Tsui by gang members.

Before leaving Hong Kong, Wong told Next magazine that someone had pressured him into leaving his show. He also said that although Commercial Radio gave hosts of political discussion shows much freedom and despite its recent renewal of his contract for two more years, someone had threatened him and told him to leave Hong Kong soon. He was worried that he could not fulfill his contract.

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