Citizens' Radio vows to return to airwaves after 3 months' silence

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 15 April, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 15 April, 2008, 12:00am

Citizens' Radio, the unlicensed broadcaster that has been locked in a legal battle with the government, has vowed to go back on air on Sunday after a three-month break.

Szeto Wah, chairman of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China, and representatives from various pan-democratic parties, including Lee Wing-tat, Emily Lau Wai-hing and Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung, have promised to appear at the broadcast, planned to be held in a pedestrian zone in Mong Kok.

Tsang Kin-shing, who runs Citizens' Radio, said yesterday that the broadcaster had waited long enough for the government to amend the Telecommunications Ordinance, which is at the centre of a complicated cluster of court battles between the government and the activists.

'We have given the government three months to do its work, but it has done nothing. So it is time for us to respond,' Mr Tsang said.

At an Eastern Court hearing in January, the Telecommunications Ordinance was ruled to be unconstitutional. But magistrate Douglas Yau Tak-hong suspended his ruling at the government's request, meaning the law stands but is open to challenge.

Activists are launching another legal battle against the magistrate's powers to suspend his ruling. The government had sought an injunction to force the station off the air while appealing against the constitutionality ruling. The appeal will be heard in September.

Some of the activists defied the injunction and were pulled into another possible court case, pending a decision by the Department of Justice on whether to pursue the matter. The injunction was eventually lifted by another judge.

Separately, six people, including Mr Szeto, who spoke on the pirate radio's programmes were prosecuted for taking part in illegal broadcasting.

Leung Kwok-hung, a legislator and core member of Citizens' Radio, said: 'We are not defying the law. The law has been ruled unconstitutional. So, as citizens, we must respond ... Our court cases have highlighted the power of the government to shut out voices it dislikes.'

But he added that they might consider cancelling Sunday's broadcast if the government could promise to review the ordinance this week.

Mr Tsang earlier wrote asking for a meeting with the secretary for justice to discuss amendments to the law, but his request was rejected.

A spokesman for the Office of the Telecommunications Authority warned that it was illegal to engage in unlicensed radio broadcasting. 'Those who continue to broadcast without a licence are doing so at [the risk of] further criminal charges.'

He said the government reviewed broadcasting policy from time to time, but it would not be appropriate to engage in public consultation before a final ruling on the constitutionality of the ordinance.