Former Hong Kong radio host says he quit over threats

May 27, 2004, New York, NY—Former Hong Kong radio host and delegate to the Chinese legislature Allen Lee told members of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council today that he quit both posts last week after being pressured by Beijing officials because of his support for democracy on-air.

Lee announced his resignation from both posts on May 19. He had been a host on the popular morning phone-in radio show “Teacup in the Storm,” produced by the privately owned Commercial Radio.

In a specially convened meeting of the Council’s home affairs panel, Lee described several meetings in which Beijing officials, whom he refused to identify, pressured him to cease his public support for democracy in Hong Kong.

Lee also told the panel that a person claiming to be a former Chinese official phoned him to request a meeting, then brought up Lee’s wife and daughter. Lee interpreted the comment as a threat, and quit his posts as a “preventive measure,” the Associated Press reported.

Lee said Beijing is seeking to limit public support for democracy prior to the September legislative elections, in which 30 of the 60 members of Hong Kong’s parliament, known as the Legislative Council, will be elected by popular vote. Previously, only 20 of the seats were directly elected.
Several days before Lee resigned, the official, English-language China Daily criticized him for advocating democracy on-air. “Political figures must watch their words and deeds very carefully,” the newspaper warned.

Lee is the third Hong Kong radio host to step down in the past month, and of the three, was considered the most moderate. Lee began hosting “Teacup in the Storm” after the departure of longtime regular host Albert Cheng, who resigned on May 3 in a pre-recorded on-air message. Cheng’s announcement cited death threats and the “suffocating” political climate in the territory. Cheng had been an aggressive critic of Beijing and Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing Chief Executive, Tung Chee-hwa.

On May 13, Wong Yuk-man (also known as Raymond Wong) announced he was taking a temporary break as host of Commercial Radio’s “Close Encounter of the Political Kind,” because he was “physically and mentally tired,” according to a statement read by a guest host of his program. He did not say when he would go back on-air. Wong was frequently critical of the mainland’s Communist Party.

Lee’s statements before the legislative panel are the most precise description so far of political pressure faced by pro-democracy Hong Kong commentators. Both Cheng and Wong refused to testify before the panel.

The departures of the three radio hosts have sparked fears of a crackdown on free expression in Hong Kong, following Beijing’s announcement earlier this month that there would not be a transition to full democracy in Hong Kong in the near future. Today’s edition of the Chinese-language Hong Kong-based Apple Daily carried an advertisement signed by 400 Hong Kong academics, who expressed “shock and concern” at the radio hosts’ departure. “Today there is growing alarm at the threat to freedom of speech and we need to be vigilant against the signs of its erosion,” the advertisement said.