Just two days before lunar New Year, there came the good news that Ching Cheong has been released on parole. For the past two years, Ching Cheong’s family members and many concerned groups have campaigned for his early release. We are most delighted to see Ching Cheong reunion with his family.
I worked for Wen Wei Po for a short period of time 20 years ago, where I met Ching Cheong the first time. The senior journalist was sitting near me.
A few months ago, I was asked to record a message for a Commercial Radio programme, using a poem, a lyric or other excerpt to convey my blessing for Ching Cheong. I had nothing in my mind until I came across a message from the Bible, “Remember those who are in bonds, as bound with them; and those who are ill-treated, since you are also in the body.”
We believe that Ching Cheong is innocent but he has been incarcerated for over 1,000 days before release. It is very regretful that he had gone through those agonizing days.
Many reporters made a request if Ching Cheong would meet them. I hope the press would let Ching Cheong settle down for a while before he would talk to us in person.
Besides, I believe many of you would share your sympathy with ATV’s cameraman Ricky Li Tung Kit, who fell from a moving jeep on January 11th while covering Taiwan’s parliamentary election. He is back in Hong Kong for medical treatment, remaining in a coma.
Mr Peter Kwan, ATV’s Senior Vice President of News & Public Affairs described Ricky Li as an experienced and assiduous crew member who had been dispatched to Taiwan for other assignments in the past. Mr Kwan said he was very touched by Ricky Li’s incident. When a person was going to fall, he would instinctively press down his hands to protect his body, Mr Kwan said. But when Ricky Li fell, because he did not chuck away his camera, he hit the rear of his head. We express our solicitude for Ricky Li and his family and hope he will get well soon.
A reporter working for Sing Tao Daily was attacked and pushed to the ground by a woman when he was covering news in Yau Ma Tei on January 15th. Although the injury was not very serious, HKJA reiterates that we condemn any violence that hinders press freedom.
I would also like to draw your attention to a new set of regulations enacted by the Chinese government regarding the operation of the internet service in the mainland. We worry that the new measures would tighten up control and jeopardize the freedom of expression which would have a profound impact.
The new promulgated regulations, which came into effect on January 31st, were jointly issued by the State Administration of Radio Film and Television and the Ministry of Information Industry. Under the new rules, only state enterprises are eligible to apply for the operation of internet services which include audio and video content. Those who provide broadcasting and current affairs video and audio programmes have to get a licence which lasts for three years.
As most of the internet operators in the mainland that offer such content are not state-owned, the enactment would make most of them close down or go underground, thus limiting the freedom of speech. HKJA has sent a letter to Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and other related departments to express our concern and worry.
There was new development in the long-delayed payment of Sing Pao Daily News. A batch of dismissed staff petitioned for the intervention of the Department of Justice to grant an injunction against the operation of the daily until the unpaid wages were fully settled. The plight of the staff is comprehensible, but if the Secretary for Justice executes his power to intervene in the case, it would set a very bad precedent and not be conducive to liberty of press.
Some of the present employees of Sing Pao have not received the payment for November and December. The management have now agreed to pay all outstanding salaries in full by February 4th. As Lunar New Year is drawing near, I urge the management to honour their words so that the employees can have a happy new year.
The election of Hong Kong deputies to the 11th National People’s Congress (NPC) was held on January 15th. In view of complaints that many meetings of the Conference for Electing Deputies of Hong Kong were not sufficiently open and reporters were always kept waiting behind close-door meeting venues or even sent away, HKJA issued a questionnaire to all the candidates, seeking their views on the opening up of the NPC meetings. Twenty two percent responded, most of whom agreed to further open up the conference.
Most of the respondents agreed to the opening up of the group discussions, and in the next place is the opening up of the conferences where leaders or high ranking officials from the General Office of the State Council explain national policy. HKJA urges the deputies to take the lead in pushing forward the opening up of the congress to let us keep abreast of their work.
As for members’ activities, we are planning a study trip to Taiwan for reporters as the island is to hold a presidential election in March. During the four-day tour which sets off on February 20th, the delegation will meet with the candidates from two parties, as well as exchange views with officials and academics.
The 23rd Hong Kong Journalists Association Football Cup wound up on January 20th after three month’s tournament. I would like to send my congratulations to the champion, the Oriental Press Group B and at the same time extend my gratitude to the Government Information Service Department Team and the Clube de Journalistas de Macau team for participating in the friendly matches with HKJA Team. For details of the matches, please go visit our website.
Our New Year tour to the Hong Kong Wetland Park was held successfully on January 13th, with nearly 50 participants. Thank you for joining and I wish you a fruitful year.
Fan Ho Tsai