Citizens' Radio makes it to top court

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 03 September, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 03 September, 2011, 12:00am


Four pan-democratic lawmakers have been granted permission to challenge in the Court of Final Appeal their convictions for broadcasting on an unlicensed radio station.

The politicians, including the late Szeto Wah, Emily Lau Wai-hing, Lee Wing-tat and Lee Cheuk-yan, were each fined HK$1,000 by a magistrate in 2009 for speaking as guests on Citizens' Radio. The High Court later rejected their appeals.

Yesterday, in the Court of First Instance, Madam Justice Maggie Poon Man-kay allowed the challenge to go to the city's top court because the case posed questions of constitutional importance.

Martin Lee Chu-ming SC, representing the four legislators, argued that the provisions of the 75-year-old Telecommuncation Ordinance restricted freedom of speech and were unconstitutional. He also questioned whether the ordinance, which regulated broadcasting, should apply to radio guests.

Counsel for the government said Lee was only recycling earlier arguments made in the lower court, but Lee countered: 'So what? There is no principle of law saying an appeal cannot be a rerun of old arguments, particularly in case of constitutionality.'

The date for the Court of Final Appeal hearing will be fixed later.

The decision allows Szeto, who died in January, to continue to be one of the appellants. Citizens' Radio has faced many legal problems since it began broadcasting in 2005.

Section 23 of the ordinance bans anyone from delivering messages using an unlicensed method of telecommunication. In the earlier appeal heard in the Court of Appeal, Martin Lee argued that 'deliver' meant 'hand over' and did not fit the context of a radio broadcast. He said the 1936 law was meant for the telegram.