Government and HKTN battle for lawmakers' votes in TV inquiry
Government and HKTV lobbying lawmakers about an investigation into the decision that left network the loser in free-to-air licence decision
The government is in a tug of war with staff of the Hong Kong Television Network.
Both are trying to pull lawmakers to their side ahead of a Legislative Council vote scheduled for Wednesday that could force an investigation into the free-to-air licence decision in which HKTV lost out to two other applicants.
Citing the Executive Council's confidentiality rule and judicial proceedings, the government has refused to offer comprehensive reasons behind the decision, despite mass rallies and a sit-in by HKTV staff at the government headquarters.
Pan-democrat lawmaker Charles Mok's bid to invoke the Legco (Powers & Privileges) Ordinance is still four votes short of the number required from functional constituency lawmakers. Some undecided lawmakers have sent an ultimatum to the government: explain the decision to deny HKTV a licence or lose our vote.
On the government's part, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying met yesterday with one of the undecided lawmakers.
A majority of both directly elected and functional constituency lawmakers is needed to invoke Legco's powers to launch an inquiry into the government's deliberations. If the vote is successful, it will be only the ninth time that such powers have been used. While the ordinance empowers Legco to summon witnesses to give evidence or hand over documents, Mok's motion would exempt the Executive Council from presenting classified documents under the confidentiality rule.
The motion is backed by the pan-democratic camp, the pro-government Liberal Party and Dr Leung Ka-lau, who is not affiliated with any political party.
The vote among directly elected lawmakers seems sewn up in favour of the motion. But votes of four more functional constituency lawmakers are still required for the measure to pass.
The spotlight is on industrial lawmaker Lam Tai-fai and the Business and Professionals Alliance (BPA), whose six members are traditionally government-friendly but have yet to decide their votes this time. One BPA member, Jeffrey Lam Kin-fung, is expected to oppose the bid.
After an hour-long meeting yesterday with Leung Chun-ying, commerce minister Greg So Kam-leung and the director of the chief executive's office, Edward Yau Tang-wah, Lam insisted the government had to reveal more details behind the licence decision. "Further government revelations are needed before November 6 to answer the public's queries or else it has to pay the price," he said. "People still do not understand why HKTV … lost out."
BPA chairman Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen said the alliance would not make a decision on which way to vote until Tuesday at the earliest and would take into consideration public opinion and the impact an investigation could have on the government.
"Any arbitrary Legco challenge over the administration's decision could jeopardise future legislative-administrative relations," said Leung. "But we also value the views of the public and the HKTV staff, whom we met with yesterday."
Executive Councillor Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee called the process that led to HKTV being denied a license "reasonable".
Legco's power and privileges ordinance invoked only eight times
Nov 1993: The sacking of former ICAC deputy director Alex Tsui Ka-kit
Sept 1996: Immigration head Laurence Leung Ming-yin's abrupt exit
Jul 1998: The disastrous first few months of Chek Lap Kok airport
Feb 2001: The HK$250 million Housing Authority short-piling scandal
Oct 2003: The government and Hospital Authority's handling of Sars
Nov 2008: The Lehman Brothers minibonds debacle
Mar 2012: Leung Chun-ying's conflict-of-interest allegations over a 2001 design contest for the West Kowloon arts hub