Lawmakers jeered by hostile crowd after TV licence probe debate

Protesters bang on windows of Legco building and demand government 'come clean' on TV row

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 07 November, 2013, 5:07am
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 November, 2013, 5:07am

Tens of thousands of protesters demanding the government to "come clean" over the free-TV licence row branded pro-government lawmakers shameless as they left the Legco building last night after a debate.

Large groups of demonstrators banged on windows of the building as the lawmakers filed out. Some swore at commerce minister Greg So Kam-leung, accusing him of recycling stale official lines in yesterday's debate on whether Legco should invoke its special powers to investigate the rejection of Hong Kong Television Network's free-to-air TV licence application.

Civic Square outside the central government offices was packed with black-clad protesters. The crowd spilled over into Tim Mei Avenue. Police estimated that more than 9,000 attended last night's rally, but organisers said there were 50,000.

Protester John Leung shouted "shut up" when he saw Legco and Exco member Regina Ip Lau Shuk-yee telling lawmakers of her New People's Party's to oppose the debate motion on a giant simulcast screen outside.

"Lawmakers like her betray Hong Kong. Can they sleep well tonight? How will she tell her daughter what happened?" said the jobless 40-year-old.

Many showbiz veterans - including semi-retired non-HKTV actors - joined the rally.

Middle-aged and elderly pro-establishment protesters waved national flags and vowed to support Exco to uphold the confidentiality principle as they marched to their rally on the opposite side of the Legco building. Some attempted to provoke HKTV supporters, yelling at them. Police officers intervened and separated the crowds.

But if the serial rallies last month that followed the shocking decision from Exco were clouded by anger, yesterday's gathering was characterised by a sense of hopelessness.

"I have no confidence the motion will be passed, I have no hope the pro-government lawmakers will change their mind," said outspoken HKTV actor Ai Wai. "But we must all come out, to show to the government-loyalist lawmakers how unpopular their decision is."

Ai was speaking hours before the Legco voted on a motion to invoke its powers and privileges to press on the government the need to explain its decision of granting free-to-air TV licences to only iCable and PCCW, but rejecting the station run by Ricky Wong Wai-kay.

Among the huge crowd, other protesters were equally indignant over the TV licence issue.

"I didn't attend last week's rally after Exco's decision, but in the past week the officials' comments angered me so much I took a day off from work today to come," said 25-year-old Okan Tang Chun-yin.

Even diehard government supporters - dozens of whom attended the rally nearby to condemn pan-democrats for initiating the motion - were not at all convinced by the government.

"The explanation for the Exco's decision was a little bad - it could have been done better," said retiree Chung Wing-chee, who said he had no political affiliation despite standing, amid banners from the pro-Beijing Kowloon Federation of Associations and Confederation of Hong Kong Shanwei Clansmen.

"Exco owes the public no further explanation. Their decision must be correct," yelled another elderly man.

Meanwhile, the Communications Authority received more than 20,000 complaints against TVB's magazine programme Scoop.

Viewers complained about bias towards TVB in Tuesday's edition.The station defended it coverage as "professional".