Live coverage: protesters take to streets over TV licence controversy

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 20 October, 2013, 2:22pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 20 October, 2013, 9:30pm


Updated at 9.20pm

Video: Thousands take to the streets against the Hong Kong government’s TV licence decision

Updated 9pm

Around 60 members of HKTV staff have vowed to camp out at the podium outside the central government offices in Tamar, Admiralty until the government releases a free-to-air licence to their company.

Henry Yeung, associate director of HKTV, announced the formation of “justice alliance” and said the staff members had joined the event of their own accord.

He said a list of television programmes would be collated later tonight to decide what drama would be screened at 8pm every night at the podium.

Updated 8.15pm

As discussions on the protesters’ next steps began, HKTV staff camping outside the central government offices in Tamar, Admiralty said they would screen live TV show Borderline from a massive screen set up on the podium later in the night.

They said they would be broadcasting the production every night and said all were welcome to come and watch the show.

Barrister Martin Lee, who spoke on stage to support the rally, said HKTV had reasonable grounds to raise a judicial review against the decision, as the government had failed to give a reasonable explanation to the public.

“Do not think that it is irrelevant to you when someone else’s freedom is being deprived,” he warned. “It is wrong, as the same thing could happen to you one day.”

Updated 7.40pm

At around 7pm, the rally organised by HKTV outside the central government offices in Tamar, Admiralty came to an end. Lawmaker Claudia Mo said there had been an estimated 120,000 protesters attending the event, while the police said there had been around 20,000 people marching from Causeway Bay.

Event hosts Free TV Action held another meeting following the rally in which protesters discussed what steps to take next.

Although many demonstrators had left by the end of the rally, thousands stayed to take part in the discussion.

The group said it had compiled a list of four options for the next stage of protests. The first was to remain at Tamar until Tuesday morning - when the Exco will hold its own meetings - to demand answers, while another plan was to camp out in Tamar until chief executive Leung Chun-ying agreed to meet the group.

The rest of the plans included staging protests outside the offices of TVB and ATV, or demanding that lawmakers launch an investigation.

The group also urged supporters to boycott the TVB and ATV channels.

Updated 6.10pm

Hong Kong actor Frankie Lam Man-lung said on stage that he had cried when he had heard the decision of the government to reject HKTV’s bid for a free-to-air licence. He said commerce secretary Greg So Kam-leung should offer a proper explanation over the government’s decision.

“Tell me why are we disqualified, and let us work harder to improve. I just want to do my job properly. I do not want to fail without a reason,” he said.

“What if I promised my daughter I would take her to Ocean Park if she behaves, and then broke my promise? When she asks me why, how could I simply say there is a secret agreement between me and her mother?” he added.

“I do not know whether there will still be hope in Hong Kong, and whether there is any point in working hard anymore. “

At 5.30pm the rally organiser demanded the police open up Tamar Park for those protesters who could not enter Tai Mei Avenue.

Updated 4.45pm

Protesters, including student group Scholarism, who had started marching from Causeway Bay arrived in Tamar, Admiralty at 4pm to join the rally.

They were welcomed by crowds of thousands of people gathering outside the central government offices, who made way for them to enter the podium.

The crowds at Tamar, led by HKTV staff on the stage, chanted slogans including “Demand justice!” and “Return my dream!”

Henry Yeung, associate director of HKTV, said staff demanded an answer from the government for not issuing the free-to-air licence within one week.

“If the government thinks we failed and not qualified, we want to know why and how. We want a report card after trying so hard,” he said on stage.

“We will give them seven days.”

Updated 4.10pm

Counter-protests were staged on the pedestrian bridge across government headquarters by a group claiming to support the Executive Council’s decision to withhold a free-to-air license to Ricky Wong Wai-kay’s Hong Kong Television.

The group of about 10 people waved national flags and shouted slogans at the pro-HKTV demonstrators below.

“Support Leung Chun-ying! Wong Wai-kay is wasting the people’s time!” they shouted only to receive a chorus of boos by the pro-HKTV demonstrators.

The group started exchanging insults with the pro-HKTV protesters after they started singing the Chinese national anthem through a loudspeaker.

The group’s spokeswoman, Mei Li, denied that the group was a radical pro-government splinter faction and said they were protesting for “fairness”.

“We want to give Exco back some decision-making power,” said Li. “Citizens should not interfere with closed-door government proceedings.”

She said the 320 sacked workers at HKTV could seek jobs at i-Cable and PCCW’s new free-to-air channels.

Updated 3.55pm

Thousands of protesters wearing black t-shirts quickly filled up the podium at central government offices by 3pm. At 3.30pm police blocked off the Tim Mei Avenue and a footbridge above it for more protestors joining the rally at Tamar.

HKTV staff members took turns giving speeches on stage, receiving cheers and loud applause from the crowd. Lawmaker and former journalist Claudia Mo, whose Civic Party party is co-hosting the event, was also on stage supporting HKTV staff.

Updated 3.45pm

Ai Wai, an outspoken actor at HKTV, said he wasn’t certain what the protest could achieve but he hoped to show the authorities the force of public opinion. "The government said it treasures public opinion. Now let’s see how much it treasures our voices," said Ai, who has been in the television industry for 35 years.

Ai’s contract with HKTV will come to an end in March next year. He said HKTV’s failure to secure the licence was “heartbreaking” as it reflected a terrible atmosphere in Hong Kong.

"If the government can get away with this by not giving us any explanation, they can do anything to us in the future," said Ai, who was participating in a protest for the third time in his lifetime after demonstrating against the Tiananmen Square crackdown in 1989 and then against Article 23 in 2013.

"Deng Xiaoping said Hong Kong would maintain the status quo for 50 years. Now [this government] doesn’t even respect Deng," Ai said.

Ai said he had filmed two drama series and one non-fiction programme. He will film an RTHK show after all productions at HKTV had shut down, but he was uncertain about what he would do after that.

Updated 3.25pm

Film star Chin Siu-ho brought his 11-year-old son Tinsley to the protest. Chin said he was not a member of staff at HKTV but had decided to come to the march because he felt justice was at stake.

He warned that if the government didn’t have to explain about the issuing of TV licences, it would not have to explain about any of its decisions in the future. “The government can do anything to any industries in the future without any explanation,” Chin said.

He said he had brought his son because he wanted to show him what was going on in society. “We must let our children know how this incident is crushing our core values,” Chin said.

People on Sunday are taking to the streets to protest against the government’s recent decision not to issue a free-to-air television licence to entrepreneur Ricky Wong Wai-kay’s Hong Kong Television Network (HKTV).

Organised by the group Free TV Action, the demonstrations starting at 3pm will consist of two marches, one by HKTV staff starting from Central Pier 9, and one by the general public from East Point Road in Causeway Bay. They will converge at a rally at the central government offices in Tamar, Admiralty.

The rally was prompted by a public outcry after the government’s television regulator announced earlier this week that the government would only award the free-to-air licences to PCCW’s Hong Kong Television Entertainment Company and i-Cable’s Fantastic Television, joining the existing TVB and ATV.

Numerous politicians, talk show hosts, creative industry professionals, and hundreds of thousands of members of the public have signed a Facebook petition urging the government to give a full account of the decision-making process that led to it rejecting HKTV’s bid.

Many have raised suspicions that political considerations are behind the decision to award licences to bidders backed by big corporations while dismissing maverick Wong. However commerce officials have questioned HKTV’s competitiveness and argued that the city can not support five television stations.

Reporting by Vivienne Chow, Johnny Tam, Emily Tsang and Ernest Kao