Former Executive Council members say advisory body is not a 'jury'

Current and former executive councillors cast doubt on chief executive's comments as television free-to-air licensing row continues

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 19 November, 2013, 5:13am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 19 November, 2013, 6:34am

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's claim that the Executive Council acted like a jury when it considered free-to-air television licence applications was a "stupid analogy", a former member of the government's top advisory body said.

Allen Lee Peng-fei was one of several current and former Exco members to dismiss Leung's explanation for Exco's refusal to reveal details of its rationale for snubbing Hong Kong Television Network's licence bid while approving two other applications from pay-television players PCCW and i-Cable.

It is understood that non-official Exco members discussed Leung's comments, made in an interview on Saturday, at their weekly lunch yesterday.

Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, a non-official Exco member and New People's Party lawmaker, said yesterday that Leung's analogy was "not exactly appropriate", not least because jury members were selected at random, rather than being appointed

Unlike most courts, Ip added, Exco was not subject to any right of appeal.

"If [Leung] has to compare Exco with a court, [he] can only liken it to the Court of Final Appeal," she said.

Lee was more blunt in his criticism, saying that while Exco's discussions were private, a court heard arguments in public.

"I really don't know what Leung is thinking," he added.

Another former Exco member, Liberal lawmaker James Tien Pei-chun, also had reservations.

"A judge must follow a jury's decision, but in Exco, the chief executive could make a decision that went against the members' opinions," he said.

Meanwhile, HKTV boss Ricky Wong Wai-kay yesterday praised officials at the Communications Authority for coming out in favour of his station's licence application.

In a paper to the Legislative Council's panel on information technology and broadcasting earlier this month, the authority said it had recommended approval for all three licence applications and was never asked to consider the government's new approach of issuing licences in a "gradual and orderly" manner.

"They have backbone to come out and show support," Wong said of the bosses at the authority.

In a forum with University of Hong Kong students yesterday, Wong said Leung's recent comments on the licensing saga showed that he had no contrition on the issue and that there was no room for concessions.

Wong said last month that he planned to seek a judicial review of the decision to block his licence application.

The decision was credited to the Chief Executive in Council, indicating it was made collectively by the chief executive and his top advisers.