Thousands protest to 'defend Hong Kong's core values' after failed HKTV licence bid

HKTV chairman Ricky Wong says rule of law at stake as thousands protest at licence decision

PUBLISHED : Monday, 21 October, 2013, 4:53am
UPDATED : Monday, 21 October, 2013, 11:42am

Tens of thousands of protesters in black T-shirts marched to the government headquarters in Admiralty yesterday claiming that the decision to deny Hong Kong Television Networks (HKTV) a free-to-air TV licence was a threat to the city's core values.

HKTV chairman Ricky Wong Wai-kay, who did not take part in the rally, said the issue was no longer about giving viewers more choice but whether the authorities respected people's needs and whether Hong Kong was still governed by the rule of law.

About 100 HKTV staff formed a "justice alliance" and said they would camp at the Tamar site until an explanation was given to the company, which lost out last week when the government granted only two licences, to i-Cable's Fantastic TV and PCCW's Hong Kong Television Entertainment. The staff protesters will show HKTV shows on large projectors every night at 8pm.

Video: Thousands take to the street against Hong Kong government’s TV licence decision

Police said 36,000 people joined the rally. HKTV suggested 80,000 may have taken part, but this was only an estimate as there had not been an official count.

The march was organised via a Facebook page that has attracted nearly 500,000 "likes".

Some protesters called on the government and Executive Council to explain the rationale behind the issuing of licences as documents leaked to the media revealed there were no reasons not to issue three. When the government decided to open the TV market in 1998 it said there would be no cap on licence numbers.

Civic Party lawmaker Claudia Mo Man-ching compared the rally with last year's movement against plans for a national education curriculum, which the government eventually shelved.

HKTV staff and artistes made tearful speeches asking why their efforts to raise the TV industry to a new level were denied without reasons. Members of the public accused the government of crushing the city's core values.

Gallery: Hongkongers take to the streets to protest over free-to-air TV licences

"Under the Lion Rock, we believe if we endeavour, we succeed. But the government has made it a myth now," said Jean Tsang, a housewife in her 50s.

Exco convenor Lam Woon-kwong and the president of the Legislative Council, Jasper Tsang Yok-sing, called on the government to explain its criteria in granting free-to-air licences. Tsang said the government could reveal "the assessment of the applicants' competitiveness".

Lam and justice secretary Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung said procedural justice was upheld during the vetting process.

Labour Party lawmaker Cyd Ho Sau-lan wrote to Legco's information technology and broadcasting panel requesting Exco to disclose secret papers about the recommendation.

The Commerce and Economic Development Bureau repeated that no political considerations or desire to protect existing market players were involved.