Allen Lee acts as radio stand-in for Albert Cheng

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 19 June, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 19 June, 2003, 12:00am

NPC deputy is invited to host talk show for a week but says he may stay longer

A Hong Kong deputy to the National People's Congress, Allen Lee Peng-fei, will temporarily replace Albert Cheng King-hon as host of Commercial Radio's Teacup in a Storm programme.

The move came after the Broadcasting Authority said it had received 340 complaints against its warnings to Mr Cheng and the station over the programme.

Mr Lee, also a former chairman of the Liberal Party, said yesterday he had been invited to host the talk-show from today to next Friday. He said he would stay longer if the station requested this.

Mr Lee, also a known government critic, said his hosting style would be modest when compared with Mr Cheng's approach.

Pro-democracy politicians yesterday attacked the authority for its warnings to the radio station, saying they amounted to censorship.

Officials will be asked to explain the issue at a meeting of the Legislative Council's panel on information technology and broadcasting on July 14.

Mr Cheng said on Monday he was considering quitting the programme, which was launched in 1995, in protest at the authority's warnings. He went on voluntary leave of one month on Monday.

The authority issued the warnings on Saturday, saying two officials had not been treated fairly during separate shows on April 24 and 25. The authority said it had received 157 public complaints relating to the two shows.

Some of the complaints were related to Mr Cheng's comments on April 24 when he called Deputy Director of Housing Lau Kai-hung a 'dog-like' official for turning a blind eye to the 'exploitation'' of manual workers.

A day later, Mr Cheng criticised Ko Wing-man, the then-acting chief executive of the Hospital Authority, for failing to address medical workers' needs.

The authority ruled that in both cases, the host deprived the officials of their right to reply.

Mr Cheng has accused the government of trying to curb freedom of expression.

The station's external affairs director, Chiu Suet-mui, said it had yet to decide on a guest host after next Friday.

Mr Lee said he hoped Mr Cheng would be back on the air as soon as possible. He said there was no possibility of him replacing Mr Cheng permanently. Mr Lee added: 'The authority should not have upgraded the sanction from the 'strong advice' issued by its complaints committee to 'warnings'.

A spokesman for the Broadcasting Authority said that, up to yesterday, it had received 353 submissions regarding its warnings to Commercial Radio. Of these, 340 opposed the warnings.

'Those opposing the authority's decision said they were worried that freedom of expression was at risk and called on the authority to withdraw the warnings,'' he said.

Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee, the legislator representing the legal sector, demanded an apology from the authority.

Democratic Party chairman Yeung Sum said his party was concerned over the 'coincidence' of the warnings and the ongoing review of the station's licence.