Former Commercial Radio host Li Wei-ling blames CY Leung for her dismissal

Li blames government “suppression” of press for her dismissal – and insists Leung hated her

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 13 February, 2014, 11:18am
UPDATED : Friday, 14 February, 2014, 7:43am

Sacked Commercial Radio host Li Wei-ling yesterday lambasted the broadcaster for betraying her and bowing to "suppression" by the government of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying ahead of licence-renewal negotiations.

And hours after former station chief executive Stephen Chan Chi-wan denied any political interference, Li revealed her former boss had told her he had come under pressure from the Department of Justice and the Communications Authority.

I'm unreservedly, 100 per cent sure that this incident is the [Leung] administration's suppression of the freedom of the press and of speech
Former Commercial Radio host Li Wei-ling

Chan switched roles from chief executive to "chief adviser" on Tuesday, 24 hours before Li was sacked. He cited the difficulty of balancing management and presenting prime-time show On A Clear Day, which he took over from Li in November.

Li said Chan told her he believed justice chiefs were motivated by politics when they appealed against his acquittal on bribery charges within hours of him being cleared in March.

"Chan told me personally that he believed the government was obviously targeting him," Li said. "As to why he was targeted, Chan thought it was because he was then working at Commercial Radio, on which I always criticised the government."

The case related to Chan's time at TVB. The department yesterday refuted any suggestion of a political motivation, saying the law required it to act quickly.

Li said Chan had also encountered difficulties when approaching the authorities over the renewal of the station's licence, which expires in 2016.

"He told me he knocked on the door of the Communications Authority - but the person ignored him," Li said. The station would not comment, while the authority said there had been no contact yet over the licence.

But Li reserved her harshest words for Leung, of whom she said: "I believe Leung's life as chief executive must be shorter than mine as a journalist."

She claimed a senior government official had told her: "Leung said he hated you most in all of Hong Kong."

Leung issued a statement an hour later in which he said "he personally has never mentioned to anyone any matters related to [Li's] position or work in Commercial Radio" and vowed to uphold press freedom.

But Li was convinced Leung's administration, rather than declining advertising revenue or her conflict with management over her move to a less prominent time slot, cost her the job.

"I'm unreservedly, 100 per cent sure that this incident is the [Leung] administration's suppression of the freedom of the press and of speech," Li said.

"This is a concern for the whole media industry. It is not an isolated incident," she added. "I hope the public will stop thinking that nothing's happening out there. People should wake up."

Li said bosses only recently started to treat her badly.

Holding back tears, she said the dismissal left her "heartbroken and betrayed", adding she was clueless what warranted the "ruthless" treatment.

"I couldn't even go back to office to pack, or say goodbye to my colleagues.

"The dismissal is unjustifiable and unreasonable - I didn't even get any warning," she said.

Earlier yesterday, Chan told listeners to his programme that the station would never succumb to political or commercial pressure. Li said she believed her dismissal was ordered at a "higher level" than Chan.

Station chairman George Joseph Ho has come under pressure to explain Li's departure, announced on a day when Hong Kong's standing declined once again in a media-freedom index from Reporters Without Borders.

Democratic Party lawmaker James To Kun-sun said he considered Ho a man who stood up for freedom of expression.