Hong Kong Radio Host-Turned-Lawmaker Vows to Reflect Voice of People


2004.09.15
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HONG KONG—An outspoken Hong Kong radio host who lost his job in a storm over press freedom in the former British colony has vowed to bring the voice of the territory's citizens into the Legislative Council instead.

Albert Cheng, former host of Commercial Radio's hugely popular Teacup in a Storm political call-in show, was elected to Hong Kong's Legislative Council in Sunday's elections as an independent candidate.

He told RFA's Cantonese service that anyone who thought press freedom was doing well since the 1997 handover to Chinese rule was talking rubbish.

"Anyone who says this is not familiar with the basic principles of press freedom," said Cheng, who was among five candidates elected to represent the Kowloon East constituency. "Freedom of the press means protecting the freedom of every single person to freedom of expression and press freedom."

One of the players

Cheng said his new role as legislator was "like stepping onto the pitch and joining in the game" compared with the observing and commentating role of radio presenter.

Cheng stopped presenting Teacup , and the show was pulled until after the elections, following a labyrinthine contractual dispute between him and Commercial Radio director Winnie Yu.

The raucous late-morning chat show, with its tea-pouring sound effect and jaunty signature tune, has long been a feature in the lives of ordinary Hong Kong listeners.

For the last 10 years, many have enjoyed the sound of Cheng taking on pro-Beijing politicians and government officials or lambasting social injustice in his persistent and abrasive style.

Now, two replacement hosts who were also critical of Beijing, Wong Yuk-man and Allen Lee, have also quit. Cheng and Wong received threats while Lee said Beijing—using friends and business contacts as intermediaries—had pressured him to tone down his style.

A question of freedom

"I was targeted because I have influence," Cheng, who requested that his interview not be faded under a Mandarin translation for broadcast to mainland China, told RFA. "So some people say there are still radio stations which are still criticizing the government. So why can't I criticize them? Only that would be true press freedom."

"My rights to freedom of expression were taken away from me. With no freedom of expression, there was only one thing I could do—to move into the Legislative Council," he said.

Cheng, who identifies himself politically with the pro-democracy camp in the Legislative Council, was heckled by pro-Beijing supporters, often groups of elderly men, during the election campaign.

In one district of Kowloon, someone shouted the name of Lam Bun, a Commercial Radio broadcaster burned to death in his car for criticizing the Communist-inspired violence of 1967.

Veiled threats from the crowd

"The meaning of bringing up the Lam Bun incident with me is that I could be killed," Cheng told RFA.

Cheng said his political agenda as a legislator would be to support freedom of expression, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. He said he refused to bow to violence. "That way the mobsters and thugs get the upper hand, don't they?"

"Most important of all, I will be bringing the voice of the citizens of Hong Kong to the Legislative Council," he said.

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