• Sun
  • Dec 21, 2014
  • Updated: 3:56am
PUBLISHED : Friday, 29 November, 2013, 5:50pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 30 November, 2013, 4:22am

Free speech has to involve more than just blindly following pan-democrats

Michael Chugani says freedom of speech needs to involve more than just blindly siding with the democrats to slate the government


Michael Chugani is a Hong Kong-born American citizen who has worked for many years as a journalist in Hong Kong, the USA and London. Aside from being a South China Morning Post columnist he also hosts ATV’s Newsline show, a radio show and writes for two Chinese-language publications. He has published a number of books on politics which contain English and Chinese versions.

Friends say I have changed. They say I have become a Leung fun - a derisive Cantonese term that means a fan of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying. Yes, I have changed. Instead of blindly supporting the so-called democracy camp, I now use my free speech rights more evenly. In Hong Kong, anyone who does that is open to smears. Free speech has come to mean always siding with the democracy camp to demonise our own government and the central government. Those who use free speech more rationally are mocked as self-censoring lackeys. Well, to hell with that.

I support Leung's property cooling measures, fight against poverty, housing strategy, efforts to clean up the air and two-tin milk powder limit. I have no strong views on his rejection of a TV licence for Ricky Wong Wai-kay but I think he handled the issue abysmally. His demand that the Philippines must kowtow for the hostage tragedy offends me. He has failed to unite the community and to show he is not a Beijing puppet. He has even acquired the plastic smile his beleaguered predecessor, Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, wore in his twilight years as leader. But I still think people should give him a chance to lead - as they should every new leader - instead of tripping his every step. If that makes me a Leung fun, so be it.

Those who mock ATV as being Beijing-friendly say I changed in order to keep my job as a freelancer with the station. That's how puny-minded some so-called democrats have become. For the record, ATV never tells me who I should or should not invite to my TV shows. But even if I shoeshine Beijing to make a living, isn't that my democratic right? Isn't it the free speech right of a media organisation to be Beijing-friendly if it chooses, as it is the right of a media organisation to be democracy-camp-friendly?

But so-called Beijing-friendly media organisations are vilified as being owned by shoe-shining businessmen who sacrifice media freedom for commercial advantages on the mainland. Surely, media groups are also run like businesses and owners make decisions they think are best for business. Take the case of the Next Media group, which the democracy camp worships as Hong Kong's fearless defender of media freedom. The group recently shut down its Sharp Daily free newspaper because it wasn't making money. Why not forget about profits and keep it going for the sake of media freedom? But Next Media silenced part of its own voice for business reasons. How is that different from media groups which are Beijing-friendly for business reasons?

I am not so big-headed as to claim that silencing me means silencing free speech, as some in the media have done after losing their jobs or being switched to less prominent time slots. Free speech is not represented by any one single person, those who shout the loudest or those who taunt others for disagreeing with them.

Saying nothing out of choice, or holding different views, are also a part of free speech. I no longer expect those who claim to champion democracy to understand that. That is why I have changed. The democracy camp no longer gives me a reason to buy their message.

Michael Chugani is a columnist and TV show host. mickchug@gmail.com


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This article is now closed to comments

The pan-democrats' condescending attitude towards China and anyone who wants to cooperate with China has been rather despicable. Their continuous China bashing in the name of democracy and free speech is an extremely worrying influence on Hong Kong's youth as it seems that they are the only ones naive enough to buy into their agenda. I've noticed many intelligent adults have shifted their view towards the pan-democrats as the pan-democrats have exposed themselves as a bunch of wannabe western politicians, whose sole agenda is to attack anything that is mainland China through their one and only political tool--protest. They are a hypocritical group who lack the political suave to actually make a difference and improve Hong Kong.
brilliant, well said. the pro-democracy plan become so politicized that any different view/voice is being labelled, this trend is very worrying, I think they are destroying the very thing they think they are fighting for.
I am with u Michael. I believe from a citizen's perspective, whether it is pan-democratic or pro-establishment is not the highest priority in the choice of our leader. We put more emphasis on the problem-solving ability of our leader, as said by our Great Leader Deng Xiao Peng - Black cats or white cats, those which can catch mice are good ones.
"Free speech is not represented by any one single person, those who shout the loudest or those who taunt others for disagreeing with them."
Well said, Mike. Like you, I believe the fundamental rule of democracy is the right to speak your opinion, whatever that might be. Of course, in HK, some people here prefer to live out the Orwellian nightmare.
It is time the pan dems' shameful hypocrisy and twisted version of democracy be examined.
Keep the flame going, Mike!
As 18-year-old Hong Kong youngster, I notice some of my friends are being irrational when it comes to freedom of speech and the conflict between HK and mainland. Sometime, although I think Mr. Leung is actually doing something good for the HK society, I won’t tell my friends. Because I know they will think I am crazy or something. Freedom of speech does not equal to supporting pan-democrats.
It is at least an honest act to admit one has changed. Over the year, whoever in the position of the HK CE can do something good and something bad. The crux of the matter is honesty. If one constantly impresses on HKers that he is undoubtedly an insincere person skilled only in “wording interpretation”, how can HKers trust him? How can the Leung Funs not be mocked? Most HKers also keep a close watch on the democracy camp to see if they are hypocrites as well. We are now living in era of mistrust – who can we blame for this atmosphere?
What do you expect when the "other side" is similarly blinkered and actually started behaving this way long before the pan-democrats? How about an article about pro-establishment/CCP forces next for balance? Or is it your opinion that they are a model of reason and fairness?
As a columnist, Mr. Chugani absolutely has the right to be as biased as he pleases. After all, one should expect bias from a columnist since they're there to express their point of view. Presumably, they're employed because others enjoy those opinions. And for those who don't enjoy one columnist's opinions, there are other columnists in the sea, such that choice and a diversity of opinion are not mitigated.
It gets a little more complicated when it comes to entire media organizations. The biases may be more covert though just as present. The reach is far greater than that of an individual columnist. And the availability of alternatives may be less. That said, Mr. Chugani rightly notes that media is business, and businesses have to make business decisions. There should be no begrudging them of that right. And when media businesses make business decisions in response to the needs of media consumers, that is the system at work as it should. The qualms arise, however, when media businesses introduce bias in the name of quid pro quo. Take the recent Bloomberg incident. If a story on CCP corruption was cut due to a lack of perceived reader interest, that's par for the course; but if the story was cut because Bloomberg didn't want to jeopardize sales of business terminals, that's an entirely different and far more problematic kettle of fish.
So no, free speech is not represented by any one person; but with a collective of persons, the concept is no longer trivial.
The nihilists are disloyal opposition that doesn't want to make a difference in the constructive way. They want both HK and China to fail so that they could say, "We told you so. China is evil incarnate!"
Initially, Democracy was a benign religion. But the human condition that wants to be absolutely right at the exclusion of other opinions took over. Then it morphed into the destructive malice to subvert China, hate mainlanders and trash HK SAR government - not necessarily in that order.
Religion with its self-righteousness cannot exist without Evil or Satan. Marxism and Democracy are just religions in another guise. Obviously, HK Democracy Cult with precepts of populist elections can't exist on its own merits without constantly disparaging dictatorships or meritocratic governments.
Authoritarian China our sovereign is the convenient bugaboo. The US and UK are just too happy to oblige and turn this great opportunity of conflicts between two systems into their advantage. Leveraging off an army of Democracy Cult converts at China's doorstep, closet subversives with foreign and local media assists have more or less succeeded in brainwashing HKers and make this into an ungovernable city.
Another headache for China and a distraction of its administration and its economic ascent. Mission accomplished!
I have to say that I believe this article was inspired (or is a response) by comments from the recent opinion piece that Mr. Chugani wrote. Which is a wonderful thing - we are able to more clearly see his views articulated, and they do reflect many people's views, mine included. Free speech is a good thing!
That said, I also agree with his views on the hypocrisy of the democratic camp - is Long Hair still living in his gov't flat? What do these people actually stand for other than being obstructionist to the CE?




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