RTHK employee threatens to lift lid on political interference

Employee says he will lift the lid on political interference at the government broadcaster as long as he is immune from legal liability

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 16 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 16 March, 2013, 6:44am

The RTHK staffer at the heart of the row with the government's broadcasting director yesterday threatened to blow the political interference scandal wide open with more allegations - but only if legislators set up a special select committee to hear evidence.

Forever Sze Wing-yuen, the acting assistant director of TV and corporate business, said "unprecedented political missions" existed.

He refused to elaborate and said he would only go into details in a Legislative Council select committee that gives him immunity from legal liability.

Moments earlier, Roy Tang Yun-kwong, the government broadcasting director whose open criticism of editorial processes has sparked fury at RTHK, made a public apology after what he described as an "excellent" meeting with staff.

Tang - who took the job 18 months ago - refused to step down and said he was carrying out his duty "as appointed to do so by the Civil Service Bureau".

"I am sure I have been serving dutifully," Tang said in a seemingly confident mood after the two-hour, closed-door meeting.

He apologised for "discomforting staff, who regarded me as querying their attitude to work or professional judgment". But he skirted at least three media questions on whether he would issue a wider apology to RTHK.

Tang admitted he had "gone into too much detail" on Monday when he spoke to the media about an editorial proposal to use Nazi characters in its hit satirical show Headliner and about "contradictory" reasons given by City Forum producers for representing absent government officials with empty seats during a TV debate about the now-shelved national curriculum plans.

But Tang denied staff claims he was driving a political agenda.

Addressing reporters after Tang, with whom he was said to have clashed, Sze said he felt political pressure.

Asked when he felt it, Sze replied: "Both my colleagues and I feel it on different occasions, in different forms, under different circumstances."

Amid speculation he would be downgraded from the acting position he holds, Sze said: "My personal promotion is a triviality worthless of discussion when compared with Hongkongers' core values."

No one ever required me as director of broadcasting to ... get involved in any political missions

Sze also rejected a suggestion from Tang that staff who feel under political pressure should complain to the Civil Service Bureau. "I don't think the Civil Service Bureau is in a position to handle such big issues as freedom of the press," Sze said.

Tang, however, insisted: "No one ever required me as director of broadcasting to ... get involved in any political missions."

The RTHK Programme Staff Union said Tang "kept playing with words" during the staff meeting. The union said in a statement: "This editor-in-chief [Tang] has always exercised his duty with the mentality of an administrative officer.

"He has neither the professional judgment nor the ethics and commitment of a journalist."

Pan-democratic lawmakers Claudia Mo Man-ching, Lee Cheuk-yan and "Long Hair" Leung Kwok-hung showed up at RTHK to support staff. Mo said she had issued a letter to the broadcasting panel of Legco to demand a hearing.

The Journalists Association condemned Tang's "violent intervention" into editorial work, and requested a Legco inquiry.

Last night's Headliner did not let the matter go. "It's hard to 'yun'," said host Ng Chi-sum, referring to Tang's first name, which means "tolerate".