Sat, Jan 12, 2008 - Page 4 News List

Hong Kong station defies ban

AIRING THEIR VIEWS Citizens' Radio broadcast a talk about a planned democracy march, despite an injunction, while it awaits trial on charges of operating illegally


A Hong Kong pirate radio station organized by pro-democracy activists critical of Beijing defied a court injunction and broadcast from a busy shopping area, while a legal battle over the territory's broadcasting laws escalated.

Citizens' Radio broadcast live for about an hour from the Mongkok shopping district late on Thursday, airing a panel discussion about a planned march tomorrow to campaign for democratic reform in Hong Kong, Tsang Kin-shing (曾健成), one of the founders of the station, said yesterday.

Tsang said police officers gave a copy of a court injunction banning the broadcast to guests of the show but did not arrest anyone.

Before the broadcast, Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Frederick Ma (馬時亨) urged Citizens' Radio to abide by the law.

Citizens' Radio is at the center of a drawn-out legal battle over Hong Kong's radio licensing laws, which critics say are too arbitrary and may be used to suppress criticism of the Hong Kong and Chinese governments.

The station, which airs phone-ins and discussions about current events and politics, including the highly sensitive issue of the former British colony's transition to full democracy, had been operating without a license for two years.

Tsang said Citizens' Radio had applied for a radio license but was rejected, and the government did not give reasons why.

"Everything is subject to government discretion. The government can grant or deny you a license as long as it wishes. It is not in accordance with the rule of law," Mak Yin-ting (麥燕婷), general secretary of the Hong Kong Journalists Association, said.

The government prosecuted Citizens' Radio for broadcasting illegally, but this week a Hong Kong judge dismissed the charges, saying the territory's licensing regulations violated local laws on freedom of expression.

The judge later suspended his ruling after the government said it planned to appeal. The government also separately obtained a court injunction that banned Citizens' Radio from operating in the meantime.

Although Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997, it remains largely autonomous and enjoys freedoms of expression and assembly prohibited on the mainland. However, the media is frequently accused of self-censorship so as not to upset Beijing.

Hong Kong has 13 radio channels, seven of which are run by government-owned Radio Television Hong Kong, with the rest run by two commercial operators.

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