Commercial Radio refutes sacked host Li Wei-ling's political pressure claim

Commercial Radio general manager says Li Wei-ling had 'wounded' Hong Kong as concerns about freedom of speech mount

PUBLISHED : Friday, 14 February, 2014, 12:41pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 15 February, 2014, 2:32am

Commercial Radio has hit back at sacked host Li Wei-ling's allegation that the broadcaster had given in to government pressure in dismissing her.

Without disclosing the grounds for the dismissal, the radio station's general manager, Rita Chan Ching-han, yesterday criticised Li, fired on Wednesday, for "gravely wounding" Hong Kong.

Li's firing has raised the question of whether the radio station is protecting freedom of speech amid recent controversial media arrangements in the city.

Chan's remarks came a day after Li said that the station's chief adviser, Stephen Chan Chi-wan, who stepped down as chief executive 24 hours before her dismissal, had complained about the Department of Justice "targeting" him in a bribery case due to Li's criticism of the government.

Li said Stephen Chan had encountered difficulties when approaching the Communications Authority about the renewal of the station's licence, which expires in 2016.

[Li’s claim] is unfair to me. This is a blow, if not an insult, to my integrity

Li also said an ally of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying had told her to "take care of her job" before her removal. Li has provided no evidence to support her accusations.

On the morning programme that he took over from Li late last year, Stephen Chan yesterday rejected Li's claims, saying they were "ridiculous and without factual justification".

"This is unfair to me. This is a blow, if not an insult, to my integrity," Chan said. He added that Li was no obstacle to the licence renewal.

He rejected having "knocked on the door" of the Communications Authority but did not answer in the negative when grilled by his co-hosts over whether he had talked about the bribery case with her.

"I don't want to be dragged into [discussing] the details of the Wei-ling [issue]," he said.

That was also the excuse offered by Rita Chan hours later at a press conference, announced with 17 minutes notice. The meeting lasted about three minutes and Rita Chan did not take questions from reporters.

She said Li's claim that the company had attempted to shut her up with November's programme reshuffle - in which Li was removed to a less prominent time slot - had led to a collapse in their relationship.

"Under such circumstances, how could we work with her ... to serve the Hong Kong public?" asked Rita Chan.

Li later said the duo had still not told her why she was sacked, adding that her hosting style had never changed throughout her 9-1/2 years of service.

Former chief secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang called on the radio station and Leung to clarify the issue. People Power said it would attempt to invoke a Legislative Council ordinance to look into the matter.