Richard Li

Deadline set over Richard Li probe

PUBLISHED : Friday, 12 January, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 12 January, 2007, 12:00am

The Broadcasting Authority has ordered PCCW Media to submit information within the month on the involvement of its parent company's controlling shareholder in the operation of the broadcaster and a Chinese-language newspaper.

Richard Li Tzar-kai, who declined to attend the meeting of the panel on information technology and broadcasting looking into whether cross media ownership rules were violated, reiterated in a confidential written statement to the legislature that he did not violate the ownership rules.

Mr Li bought a 50 per cent stake of Hong Kong Economic Journal in August last year through a trust. At the same time he was attempting to sell nearly all his 23 per cent stake in pay television licence holder and broadcaster PCCW. The deal fell through in November.

Central to the discussion is whether the trust, which is ostensibly under the control of its trustees, is enough of a barrier to prevent violation of the ban on cross-ownership.

A government source said since the deal for the daily was announced, it has been seeking information from PCCW on the involvement of Mr Li in the two firms but has received no reply.

Marion Lai Chan Chi-kuen, deputy permanent secretary for the Commerce, Industry and Technology Bureau, told the panel that to her understanding the authority sent a letter to PCCW for information relating to the Broadcasting Ordinance. A deadline for the company to provide the information was also set.

Mrs Lai said the authority had started the first stage of inquiry and would likely request more information as the investigation progressed.

But she would not comment further on the investigation, as it was still in progress. The Broadcasting Authority's members declined to attend the meeting for the same reason.

Mr Li's letter and its confidentiality request were eventually accepted by the lawmakers and all discussion related to it will not be open to the public.

But it sparked debate among lawmakers on whether it should be rejected or kept confidential.

'The letter should not be treated as confidential, as it only reiterates Mr Li's own views on the issue, which have been published in the press over the past few months,' said lawmaker Albert Chan Wai-yip.

Sources said the letter contended 'the investigation by the authority had no grounds'.