Take a taxi between 8am and 11am any weekday and chances are the driver will be tuned into Hong Kong's most controversial talk-show. Even if you cannot understand the language, there is no mistaking the loud insistent voice behind Commercial Radio One's Teacup in the Storm, or the show's signature sounds of a boiling kettle and tea dribbling into a cup. But this morning - the first day of the SAR Government in Hong Kong - that voice will be eerily absent from the airwaves. Albert Cheng King-hon has the day off because of live coverage of the handover. Today government departments and legislators will have a brief reprieve from his constant railing. Even the SAR's biggest self-proclaimed 'motormouth' has to stop to take a breath but, in the famous words of Arnold Schwarzenegger, the message from Cheng is, 'I'll be back'. 'They all want me to say I am afraid and that I will stop [doing the show] or that I will leave,' Cheng says of some foreign journalists. Cheng cannot oblige, he says, because he is not leaving. He and his family are not on standby for flights out of Hong Kong; in fact, he has every intention of having his three sons (aged four, six and nine) 'grow up as Chinese'. 'Nothing's going to happen to me. If I was scared I wouldn't do the programme; I couldn't do the programme because the fear would bind me whenever I want to say something. 'They are all happy to interview me because they expect me to shoot off at the mouth and say a lot of controversial things but the answers I give don't necessarily satisfy them. I keep telling them that if I didn't have faith, I would have left.' Nor is the 50-year-old rabble-rouser going to tone down. 'I can't change, I don't know how to change,' Cheng repeats the line like a mantra over the telephone to inquiring journalists who call incessantly during our interview. The commentator is not known for mincing his words. More often than not, he makes mincemeat out of his interviewees with his verbal sparring and unrepentant diatribes. Yet, Cheng's runaway-train style has made the programme the highest-rated talk-show on radio, and made him one of the 25 most influential people in Hong Kong, according to a Time magazine poll. Cheng is modest about his new influential status. 'If you say that I have been able to influence the Government to do things for my benefit, don't even think about it,' he scoffs. 'But if you say that I have been able to influence some government policy or, in some cases, forced some departments to become more fair and transparent, then I would agree. But [the colonial government] has been very responsive to public pressure. That is good.' He knows his outspokenness has not endeared him to some high-ranking officials and legislators. The mere mention of his name has been known to make civil servants' faces change colour: some to an angry red and some to a fearful white. 'He never lets you get a word in edgeways. He never listens. He just attacks you continuously and he is so biased,' muttered one disgruntled government official. 'Of course I'm biased,' retorts Cheng. 'I have never professed to be otherwise. I am pro-democracy and I am pro the people's rights . . . I am anti-colonialism and anti-establishment.' It does not bother Cheng that some high-ranking officials refuse to come on his show or concede to an on-air telephone conversation. 'We're lucky that this show is not aimed at ratings nor at making me more significant by how important the guests are. 'When there is a problem to be addressed, I just want someone to answer and try to provide a solution. It can be the top man or it can be a junior officer as far as I am concerned, as long as he comes up with a way to solve the problem.' Even his co-host, Peter Lam Yuk-wah, gets a friendly sarcastic jab now and again. But these days the brunt of Cheng's barbs are directed at Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa and the Provisional Legislative Council which Cheng has referred to as a 'house of losers'. Therein lies the commentator's biggest fears for the future. 'The colonial government had always protected business interests but they were still very fair in the way they elected people,' Cheng said. 'When they chose, they picked elitists who had a clean background and not because of their connections. Naturally if the choice came down to one elitist with connections and one without, the former would get the job. 'But now the Government doesn't see things that way. It will pick whoever is saying the right things or the things it wants to hear, and those who are their friends. That's why the recent elections have been so disappointing to me. They choose those who have lost which is rubbish. They only elect their own people. That's not right.' He is also unhappy with the way he feels Mr Tung and the new Secretary of Justice Elsie Leung Oi-sie have interpreted the laws for their own convenience despite provisions in the Basic Law to the contrary. 'They have shown no respect for the spirit of the law. They have taken the law into their own hands and used it as a tool to make things more convenient for their administration,' he snaps, citing Mr Tung's controversial remark about sending mainland-born children of Hong Kong residents back to the mainland, and the decision to make laws retrospective to cover the three-hour gap between the handover and the swearing-in of the new legislature earlier this morning. 'This goes against the spirit of the law. Article 39 in the Basic Law specifically says that criminal law has no retroactive effect. Today they ask us to bear with three hours, tomorrow it could be a day, and then three days, and maybe three months. How are the people going to know when something they do will be criminalised?' Despite his criticisms of the Chief Executive, Cheng says he still harbours hopes Mr Tung will rise to the occasion. 'To be fair, he hasn't really started the work. He is under a lot of pressure and there are a lot of things which he doesn't know. He is still in training. 'At the moment he could be over-confident and think that everything is simple. It seems very easy to solve housing problems now because he has not done it before. Maybe after he tries he will change. 'I believe he will be sincere in doing something for Hong Kong. He is a good man but sometimes a good man does bad things. I hope he can change his style and do a lot better. We have to put some faith in him. 'But at the same time, when everyone else is praising him, I don't mind being the villain to egg him on. Even if he doesn't like it, at least he knows there are dissenting voices. I just hope he listens to these voices.' His judgment of Mr Tung does not make him a Chris Patten supporter, however. Cheng is equally critical of Hong Kong's last governor. 'He hasn't done much good for Hong Kong. He had his own agenda and I always said he was making use of the Democratic Party. He was here to play a part [as a champion of democracy] but unfortunately he forgot to show the script to the Chinese, so they thought he was for real and fought back.' Cheng holds Canadian citizenship, having emigrated there in 1968 when he became disillusioned with the Cultural Revolution and disgusted with the privileges accorded to expatriates in Hong Kong. He returned in 1984 to make his fortune in the publishing world, launching the first Chinese-language version of Playboy magazine as well as the business-oriented Capital magazine. When he quit the publishing world in 1994, he had plans to retire and spend more time with his family. Instead, he has become a champion for the grassroots and, perhaps, the conscience of the establishment. Some may accuse him of irresponsible trouble-making, because he can always scoot back to Canada if the consequences become too unbearable. 'People cannot accuse me of not fulfilling my responsibility to Hong Kong,' he says. 'I did not leave because of the Joint Declaration and wanted to 'buy insurance' elsewhere. I left because I was anti-colonialist and because I didn't feel there was a chance for people like me. I stayed in Canada for more than 10 years and established myself, and I came back to Hong Kong during its worst period.' Before being given the chance to host Teacup in the Storm, Cheng had been toying with the idea of standing for the 1995 elections. But after the programme shot up the ratings, Cheng reluctantly gave up his wish to try for the last legislative council before the handover. 'I didn't want people to accuse me of using the programme and my social work to lay the foundation for standing for elections. Besides, some legislators told me I would have more influential power outside Legco, because in there I would only be one of 60 voices.' Even so, Cheng admits that he has lost some of his fire, citing frustration as the cause: 'It's an occupational hazard. Every day you see so many things that are wrong that you begin to feel that there's no use scolding anymore.' That is why he is convinced that when his contract with Commercial Radio ends in 1999, he will probably call it quits. He wants to spend more time with his family. 'Whatever I need to do, I would have done already. Besides, it will be two years after the handover, what else would I have to talk about? 'I don't really wish to continue like this. It is very tiring and it is a high-stress job. After four years it would be about time [to stop].' It is also a lonely job for him and his family. His previous business associates tend to avoid him because they don't think it is a good idea to be seen in public with him. His wife's friends also refrain from inviting him to social functions and opt instead to 'just lunch' with her alone. 'The biggest punishment establishment can mete out is to isolate a man by peer pressure. But I'm lucky I never had many friends to start with. Naturally I sometimes feel unhappy when friends don't look me up but it doesn't really affect my lifestyle. I am quite a boring person with no specific interests or hobbies.' Looking on the bright side, he said he was grateful he did not have more friends. 'People tend to take things personally. If one day they have dinner with you, they'll think you're a friend, and if you scold them on the programme the next day, they'll get so offended. Chinese people are so sensitive. 'So it's better if I don't know them. That way they don't need to take it personally and I don't need to feel guilty about criticising them.' And, if Cheng has his way, he will continue to be a thorn in the side of the new administration and those he deems to be all purveyors of injustice for the next two years.