Friday, 18 October 2013

Populist Underdog

We will have to wait and see what HKTV chairman Ricky Wong does next
Move over, Li Ka-shing, there's a new hero in town.

Hong Kongers have found a new underdog to support and it's Ricky Wong Wai-kay, 50, Hong Kong Television Network chairman whose application for a new free-to-air TV license was rejected by the government earlier this week.

Instead it was given to i-Cable's Fantastic Television and PCCW's HK Television Entertainment, both run by established tycoons, Peter Woo Kwong-ching and Richard Li Tzar-kai, son of Li Ka-shing respectively.

In 2009 Wong was encouraged to apply by a senior government official who he refuses to name, and was never told only two licenses would be handed out; nor was Wong's application considered the weakest of the three.

On Tuesday, about 15 minutes before the formal announcement, Wong received a call that his application was rejected without any proper explanation. He then held a press conference in which he voiced his anger, saying the whole decision-making process was opaque and is now seeking a possible judicial review.

After that he gave lay-off notices to 320 of 500 staff effective at the end of this month.

Many of the public were outraged by HKTV's rejected application, and they immediately setup a Facebook page supporting Wong and calling the government to issue HKTV a license. It was also a way for them to show their concern about the government's fairness in its decision. Some 400,000 people liked the page.

And then last night Wong showed up at an open-air forum at Chinese University -- his alma mater -- and was overwhelmed to see some 2,000 students and teachers eager to listen to him.

Reports described Wong as having tears in his eyes to see such strong support that it inspired him to continue to commit himself to creative industries.

Even though there is a protest march organized for this Sunday, Wong said he would not participate. "I can bring more benefits to people as a businessman," he said. "I am not a fighter for democracy."

He then displayed his dry sense of humour. When asked if he would buy ATV, one of the existing free-to-air stations, he replied his preference for buying flats. He said one had to worry about things not working and rats when buying a second-hand flat, which is why he preferred a clean, new one.

Wong also mocked the government, saying, "I don't understand how they do their public relations... they should provide a simple explanation for the rejection and start damage control."

Then a student asked him how he would deal with calls from "grandpa", a nickname for the central government, Wong replied that his grandfather had died many years ago.

When asked whether TVB, the other existing free-to-air station should worry about not having its license renewed, Wong sarcastically said, "TVB's news programs are so good. They shouldn't worry."

Some critics hypothesize Wong didn't get the license because the government feared he would not support it or the central government, while others worried about the erosion of the city's free market.

Nevertheless, Hong Kong people have propped up Wong as its new underdog to root for. To them he stands for justice, creativity and brashness. As long as he keeps fighting, the public will support him.

They are the ones who wanted better TV programs, but it seems the government would rather have more mindless entertainment on the airwaves.


  1. actually part of a conspiracy to wipe out Hong Kong culture. Everyone needs to start defending HK culture before being wiped off by the mainland Chinese (and the CCP).

    1. Hi nulle -- Yes we do have to defend HK culture and if we haven't started yet we're too late!