• Fri
  • Dec 26, 2014
  • Updated: 4:41pm
Public Eye
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 23 October, 2013, 3:50am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 23 October, 2013, 3:50am

Pan-democrats' hypocrisy over licensing rejection


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.

Public Eye does freelance work for ATV, which makes it a conflict of interest for us to say much about the government's decision to deny Ricky Wong Wai-kay a free-to-air television licence. We won't go into the rights and wrongs of the decision, but one aspect of the controversy really baffles us. Why hasn't there been an angry outcry over Wong's claim that a top government official from the previous administration had invited him to apply for a licence? Wong insisted he received more than just a simple invitation, which suggests he was promised a licence. Does anyone in the government have the authority to do that? No, not even the chief executive. Public Eye was waiting for the pan-democrats to unleash claims of collusion between the government and businessmen. Isn't that what they did when the government asked tycoon Richard Li Tzar-kai to build Cyberport? Isn't that what they did when former chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen rode on the private planes and yachts of tycoons? Didn't they rush to the Independent Commission Against Corruption to file complaints? We now have claims of a top government official inviting a businessman to apply for a licence with a tacit understanding that it would be granted. That bypasses government procedure, which requires an application to undergo a rigorous stress test before reaching the Executive Council for the final decision. Shouldn't that trigger questions like: On whose authority did the official approach Wong? Did the official promise him a licence? Doesn't that breach established procedures? Did the official issue invitations to Cable TV and Now TV, the other two applicants? If not, why only Wong? Shouldn't that raise alarm bells in a city which prides itself on the rule of law? But all we've heard from the pan-democrats is resounding silence. Not just that, some pan-democrats have actually berated the government for denying Wong a licence after inviting him to apply for one. Ah well, no one ever said hypocrisy wasn't a part of democracy.


So, is this decision a political matter or not?

The politicians accused Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying of denying Ricky Wong a licence for political reasons. When Leung insisted politics played no part, pan-democratic legislator Cyd Ho Sau-lan didn't buy it. She said the process of issuing television licences was in itself political because licence holders wielded huge political power. So, it's wrong to make politics a factor in issuing licences, but if you deny doing so, you're lying, because, by its very nature, the issuing of licences is political. There you have the muddled minds of our politicians.


You're not a nation of servants, Myanmar

Don't even think about it - that's Public Eye's advice to the people of Myanmar. Some politicians are lobbying Myanmar to send us maids to replace Filipino ones to punish the Philippines for the Manila hostage tragedy. They want Myanmar to become our next "source of supply". That's how they put it on radio recently, as if they're talking about beans rather than human beings. Public Eye urges the Myanmar government to tell them to shove off. Aung San Suu Kyi didn't fight so long and hard for freedom to make her country a nation that exports toilet cleaners. Coming here as maids means becoming second-class citizens who must jump when ordered. Sure, they can earn more as maids here than doing other jobs back home. But our advice is: short-term pain for long-term gain. Stay and fight to make your country economically stronger. Don't turn it into a nation of servants.


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


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This article is now closed to comments

You're right Michael. It a conflict of interest for you to defend the government's decision on HKTV.

Regarding the government official from the previous administration who invited Wong to apply for a licence -- what was promised may have been no more than a decision process based on the merits of HKTV's application. Which is clearly not what we got.
Not all the people of HK treat their helpers like slaves. My daughter was a preemie, 3 1/2 months early. I'd to hire a helper to help me. Both of us being in HK for the first, helped each other through some rough personal times. Over the years, as I taught my daughter to speak and write English/putonghua my helper learned alongside her, the same with piano lessons, the same with computers. After 10 years she returned home, got a U degree and is now a primary school teacher. She is still part of our family, keeping in touch via Facebook.
Perhaps "short-term pain for long-term gain" can also be use in the context of working overseas and returning to their country with a skill or/and money that may not be easily obtained at home.
It's easy to tell people to maintain their dignity when our bellies are full. I'm not advocating which countries our helpers should be recruited from but the opportunity to earn money for a better life should not be selective or look down on.
Michael, I think you are reading too much into this. If the Government talked about unlimited licenses then I see no problem in inviting Ricky Wong and others to apply. When the technology can support more than 100 channels and in a so called free economy, I find the idea of only 3 additional channels a bit of a joke. Let as many as possible apply and let the market decide who succeeds and who fails........like most business in Hong Kong. So I believe he was rejected for some very ugly reasons which the Government will be loath to disclose. Either Petty politics from Exco, ie I don't like Ricky Wong, to protect vested interests ie TVB, and lastly the least plausible reason ..mainland involvement.
I don't see any hypocrisy. The present uproar is about a totally different question of why the bid was rejected and the way it was rejected by this government. If there was anything improper about the former official's invitation to HKTV to apply for the licence, and if that was one of the reasons for the rejection, then the CY administration should say so. The public demand is not for disclosure of confidential exchanges that took place in Exco, who said what, but for the reasons behind the final decision.
ATV is a joke. By extension, you are also a joke.
Since when does HK pride itself on "rule of law" any more?


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