RTHK’s HK$5.3b plan to expand gains support from pro-Beijing lawmaker

Pro-Beijing lawmaker joins union in calling for new HQ proposals to be put back on the table

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 February, 2014, 5:11am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 February, 2014, 5:11am

Opposition to the government's move to shelve RTHK's expansion plan has escalated, with a pro-establishment lawmaker joining forces with the broadcaster's staff union in pressing for the project to go ahead.

Michael Tien Puk-sun, of the New People's Party, said the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau should - "if it is faithful" - bring the plan back to the Legislative Council.

Bureau chief Greg So Kam-leung, who oversees RTHK, stressed yesterday it was lawmakers' lukewarm support - mainly from Beijing loyalists - that prompted his decision last month to withdraw the proposals for the station's HK$5.3 billion new headquarters in Tseung Kwan O before a vote by Legco's public works subcommittee.

But Tien challenged his decision, saying So ought to put the project to the finance committee, as the two subgroups did not always hold the same views.

The objection of his pro-establishment counterparts was unconvincing, Tien said. "If lawmakers say the price is too high, why not come up with a counterproposal?" asked Tien.

The staff union echoed his view, adding that the prospect of lawmakers passing the project did not look as slim as So had suggested according to their counts.

Bao Choy Yuk-ling, chairwoman of the RTHK Programme Staff Union, said some lawmakers had described the bureau's lobbying style as "weak". "This reflects that the bureau has done nothing to respond to the demands of RTHK staff."

Apart from the 27 pan-democrats, five other pro-government lawmakers would also have cast a yes vote, she said. Those included three who served on the Executive Council - which was bound to support any proposal by the government - and Tien and Dr Leung Ka-lau. A simple majority of the 70 Legco members would be enough to pass the proposal.

In a separate dispute on Broadcast Drive, hosts of Commercial Radio appeared split over the sacking of presenter Li Wei-ling, who continued her tirade against the private station on online radio D100 yesterday.

The move was either an unwise decision or based on "undisclosed considerations", her former co-host Elizabeth Wong Kit-wai said. "In view of the current popular views, isn't Commercial Radio doing more damage to its reputation and credibility?"

Chan Chung, a co-host of Stephen Chan Chi-wan, who switched roles from being the station's chief executive to chief adviser 24 hours prior to removing Li, denied the station was bowing to government pressure ahead of licence renewal talks.

In another media row, staff of the Ming Pao daily newspaper said they would form a union.