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Executive councillor under fire for 'conflict of interest' in TV licensing rejection

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 23 October, 2013, 4:53am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 23 October, 2013, 10:38am

Lawmakers yesterday demanded to know if executive councillor Laura Cha Shih May-lung was involved in discussions on the issuing of new free-to-air television licences, saying her family links to existing player ATV may have created a conflict of interest.

Cha's brothers-in-law are investors in ATV, which strongly opposed the opening up of the market and was identified in consultancy reports as the most likely station to fail in the face of greater competition.

Lawmakers wanted to know if Cha had declared her interest or had withdrawn from the discussions that led to the exclusion of the Hong Kong Television Network (HKTV), while iCable's Fantastic TV and PCCW's Hong Kong Television Entertainment were approved.

An Executive Council spokesman said: "We would not comment on individual cases due to the confidentiality rule."

Cha's husband, Victor Cha Mou-zing, is a brother of ATV stakeholders Payson Cha Mou-sing and Johnson Cha Mou-daid. Payson Cha is on the ATV board of directors.

Lawmakers also raised concerns over executive councillor Cheung Chi-kong's perceived links to ATV - he has been a frequent host of its daily talk show News Bar Talk.

Cheung said he "had received no pay for the role" and "hence had not withdrawn from the related Exco debate".

The pan-democrat legislator Charles Mok said it was "all about perception". "The government is supposed to be adhering to strict standards," Mok said. "Cha's case is more substantial as it is about ownership."

Civic Party lawmaker Claudia Mo Man-ching asked if Cha had declared her "possible conflict of interest" related to ATV.

Payson and Johnson Cha owned 10.75 per cent of ATV through Panfair Holdings until September 1, 2010, when property tycoon Wong Ben-koon took hold of 52.4 per cent by acquiring three companies that controlled the stake, Panfair, Dragon Viceroy and China Light Group.

The Cha brothers still retain control over ATV through Antenna Investment.

Laura Cha, a National People's Congress deputy, was vice-chairman of the China Securities Regulatory Commission, a ministerial rank, from 2001 to 2004.