Thousands of protestors hit the streets of Hong Kong on Sunday to protest against what is widely seen as yet another example of the growing lack of accountability within the Hong Kong government.
Following last week’s decision to reject a bid by Ricky Wong’s HKTV for one of three free-to-air TV licenses on offer, there is anger in Hong Kong not only at the rejection itself, but at the lack of explanation for the decision from officials.
More than 2,000 people, including now ex-HKTV employees, gathered at the new government headquarters at Tamar to voice their displeasure. They were later joined by tens of thousands of others who had marched through the heart of Hong Kong from Causeway Bay, many wearing black as a sign of mourning, not only for the death of the bid, but for what some are viewing as the last painful breaths for freedom of speech in the territory.
While two of the three licenses on offer were granted – to i-Cable’s Fantastic Television and PCCW’s Hong Kong Television Entertainment – the bid by Hong Kong entrepreneur Ricky Wong’s company was rejected without any further detail being given. It is a decision many view as nothing more than the protection of mutual interests by a government too closely associated with the business community whom its decisions affect.
According to Civic Party lawmaker Ronny Tong Ka-wah, as quoted in The Standard, the licensing decision “projected a feeling that the government is protecting an operator who monopolizes the market.” The decision, he said, “completely violated the competition ordinance.” While Ricky Wong himself, though choosing to stay away from the demonstrations, issued a statement arguing that the number of people moved to march not only showed a dissatisfaction over the lack of choice regarding TV stations in Hong Kong, but also over “whether Hong Kong’s leader[ship] is respecting the demands of Hong Kongers.”
Sunday’s protest saw banners carried expressing the demonstrators’ disgust at the government and at the Hong Kong Chief Executive CY Leung in particular, who is said to have made the final decision over the rejection. But while officials insisted there was no political consideration in the licensing decision, critics have demanded a clear and public explanation of why the license was refused.
Final approval still needs to be given for the two licenses already granted. And in a tepid response to the uproar, the government says it still hasn’t precluded granting more licenses in the future. But it seems the anger and distrust generated by this latest episode in Hong Kong’s Government vs The People drama will not subside any time soon.
The HKTV issue isn’t about what Hong Kongers can or cannot watch for free on TV anymore, if it ever really was, but about the growing lack of trust in a government many feel no longer cares for the interests of those it is supposed to represent. If those interests are no longer the prime motivator of the government’s decisions, more than ever in Hong Kong, the question being asked is whose interests does the government represent, and where are those decisions really being made.