Rally seeks reform of radio-licensing laws

PUBLISHED : Monday, 23 February, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 23 February, 2009, 12:00am

The Central Government Offices reverberated to rock music yesterday as a band performed freedom songs at the end of a march in which participants called for greater freedom of expression in Hong Kong.

More than 100 demonstrators marched from Victoria Park to Central, calling for reform of radio-licensing laws to allow for the airing of a greater diversity of political, social and artistic voices.

Participants included supporters of unlicensed radio station Citizens' Radio, the Save RTHK Campaign, gay rights groups, members of the pan-democratic camp and groups seeking greater respect for civil rights on the mainland.

The convenor of Citizens' Radio, Tsang Kin-shing, said the station was planning to broadcast music more regularly, but had to negotiate copyright issues first.

'If you listen to music on the current stations, it's always the same commercialised songs. Without opening up the airwaves to smaller community stations, the public will not hear more diverse music or political opinions,' Mr Tsang said.

A magistrate ruled a year ago that the current licensing regime was unconstitutional, but that ruling was overturned in December, meaning the prosecution of those involved in unlicensed Citizens' Radio broadcasts, including lawmaker Emily Lau Wai-hing and veteran democracy activist Szeto Wah, could resume.

Before yesterday's rally, Mr Szeto, who turns 78 at the end of the month, stressed he would rather go to jail than pay a fine relating to his actions. 'Come and get me,' he said.

Civic Party lawmaker Ronny Tong Ka-wah said: 'If you are a friend of [Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen], you get a licence. If you are a friend of Citizens' Radio, you go to jail.'

A panel was set up in 2006 to study public-service broadcasting, with a public consultation scheduled for early last year, but that has since been indefinitely delayed.

Ching Cheong, a journalist for The Straits Times jailed for 21/2 years on the mainland on charges of spying for Taiwan, also marched yesterday.

'The public airwaves should not be politically controlled,' he said. 'The truth is, the scope for freedom of expression has been narrowing ... If this carries on, we will lose our most fundamental values.'