Hong Kong localism and independence

Pair hit back at Hong Kong TV station in ‘improper speeches’ row

ViuTV arranged our itinerary, claim activists who discussed independence at Tokyo function while making travelogue

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 October, 2016, 10:32am
UPDATED : Thursday, 20 October, 2016, 11:37pm

A former University of Hong Kong student leader and an exiled mainland dissident have hit back at a TV station that accused them of making “improper speeches” without its knowledge while ­filming a travelogue.

Billy Fung Jing-en and Wang Dan, who discussed Hong Kong independence at a Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan lunch, said ViuTV was aware of their ­itinerary because the station, owned by PCCW, had arranged it.

The pair on Thursday slammed the broadcaster for what they called false and groundless ­accusations. “The itinerary, ­including the FCCJ lunch seminar, was not organised by me or by Wang Dan but by the production crew for us,” Fung, the former ­student leader, said. “All they did was inform and notify us in ­advance ... I express my anger and extreme condemnation.”

Wang, who described the ­ViuTV moves as “shameless”, ­posted a photo of a printed itinerary featuring Monday’s 11am function in Tokyo.

“If you are [under] pressure from Beijing, it is understandable, and if you quietly remove the segment, that’s fine too,” he said.

“But blatant lies and false accusations that we held an ‘unauthorised’ press conference – this has gone beyond [a person’s limit].”

Wang said it was “saddening” to see Hong Kong’s freedom of speech eroded to such a level.

The free-to-air station said later on Thursday it had originally arranged for the pair to attend a university ­seminar but this had fallen through. It did not expect pro-independence comments to be made at the rearranged venue.

Footage from the show, Travel With Rivals, would not be broadcast. The station would also reserve its legal right to pursue anyone who made use of the station to advocate independence.

At the lunch Fung and Wang discussed the identity of Hong Kong. Fung called for support for ­independence, while Wang ­argued it was not practical. If the city wanted to take such action, it must do so step by step, starting with a referendum, he said.

Travel With Rivals has been broadcast since the station was launched in April. The reality show sends those with different points of view on overseas trips. Its first episodes, featuring lawmaker “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung and his ­political rival, former Legislative Council president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing, proved popular.

This is not the first time for PCCW to be embroiled in ­controversy over the sensitive ­topic of independence. Earlier this year, its music streaming service Moov said it was employing pro-democracy ­Canto-pop star ­Denise Ho Wan-sze “permanently”, sparking anger from netizens.

This prompted the group and chairman Richard Li Tzar-kai to say they opposed ­independence.

Meanwhile, asked whether content involving topics concerning independence would be banned if he won a free-to-air television licence at his ­second attempt, HKTV chairman Ricky Wong Wai-kay said it depended on their legality.

“We won’t air anything that is illegal. If it’s not illegal then we will play it. But no matter what content is broadcasted, it will not be decided from personal taste,” he said.

Additional reporting by Kinling Lo