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Donald Tsang

Radio deal was marred by controversy, Donald Tsang trial hears

Former secretary for commerce and economic development, Rita Lau Ng Wai-lan, appeared at the High Court on Thursday

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 12 October, 2017, 9:27pm
UPDATED : Friday, 13 October, 2017, 3:51am

The granting of a digital broadcasting licence to a local radio ­station, which former Hong Kong leader Donald Tsang Yam-kuen had been accused of being ­favourably disposed to, was ­surrounded by controversy, his bribery trial heard on Thursday.

Rita Lau Ng Wai-lan, Tsang’s then secretary for commerce and economic development, told the High Court that in 2009 the government was dealing with well-known radio host Albert Cheng King-hon’s “aggressive stance”.

“He was using all the publicity tools and platform to promulgate and try to gain public support,” she said.

The court earlier heard that Cheng led Wave Media, of which he was also a shareholder. It

also heard he was the one who ­recommended a world- ­renowned designer to work on a penthouse renovation project in Shenzhen, where Tsang hoped to live after his retirement.

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Testifying on Thursday, Lau said Cheng was hosting a phone-in programme at the time, which was very critical of the government. In a document she prepared for the Executive Council, the city’s top advisory body, at the time, she had declared that Cheng would probably cause controversy on his programme.

But since Wave Media had already been granted an AM licence the year before, she said on Thursday, the public might demand that new digital broadcasting licences be granted to new players instead of older ones. “It could be seen by some quarters in the community that he was trying to influence the government and get the government to grant him what he wished,” Lau said of Cheng.

Tsang, 73, has denied one count of accepting an advantage as the chief executive between 2010 and 2012.

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Prosecutors alleged that Tsang accepted renovation work costing at least HK$3.8 million for the penthouse in return for being “favourably disposed” to Wave Media, whose majority shareholder is businessman Wong Cho-bau.

Prosecutors said Wong indirectly owned the three-storey penthouse, situated at the East Pacific Garden in Shenzhen, and had picked up Tsang’s bill. It was designed by architectural designer Barrie Ho Chow-lai, who was brought on board by Cheng.

In November 2010, a digital ­licence was granted in principle to Wave Media – later renamed the Digital Broadcasting Corporation – Metro Radio and Phoenix U ­Radio. The licences were formally granted in March the next year.

Lau said although Tsang had taken part in the decision-making, he was not the sole ­decision-maker.