30 October 2013

Getting Away with Murder 逃之夭夭

Old Cheung was sitting on his front porch when he noticed his house was on fire. He ran inside to retrieve his children who were asleep on the second floor. Moments later, Cheung re-emerged with two of his three sons.

“What happened to little Mickey?” asked the neighbors.

“There wasn’t enough time for the third,” said Cheung.

But there clearly was – the fire started in the basement and hadn’t yet spread to the rest of the house.

“Go back in to get Mickey, old Cheung,” the neighbors urged.

“I’ve already made up my mind,” the father stood his ground. “Besides, Mickey hasn’t been a very good son compared to my other two.”

An intense discussion among the neighbors ensued, as the crowd debated Cheung’s assessment of his youngest child. While many found Mickey energetic and intelligent, others concurred with Cheung that the boy didn’t quite measure up to his brothers.

“This is insane!” shouted one of the neighbors. “How could you guys be arguing which son is better than which, when clearly all of them should have been rescued?”

*                      *                      *

If you find my story far-fetched, then you mustn’t have been paying attention to C.Y. Leung’s latest political crisis. Two weeks ago, his cabinet approved two of the three applications for a free-to-air (FTA) television license. The sole rejection went to Ricky Wong’s (王維基) HKTV, the bid most favored by the public. The announcement has touched off a firestorm of protest, as the public demanded to know how HKTV, which has spent years producing an impressive line-up of pilot programs, could lose out to the other two applicants. So far Leung and his posse have been tight-lipped, citing a self-imposed gag rule that applies to all cabinet discussions.

Wong doesn't like to lose

Like the confused neighbors in my story, the public has been asking all the wrong questions. Neither the government’s screening criteria nor HKTV’s qualifications is of any importance to us. The only relevant question is why can’t all three applicants be granted a TV license, for there is absolutely no evidence to support the claim that, for the betterment of local broadcasting, two new entrants to the market are just right, but three is suddenly too many. The burden of proof lies with the government and not HKTV – and certainly not the public. To engage in an endless debate about HKTV’s viability compared to iCable and PCCW – the two successful applicants – is to play into C.Y. Leung’s sleight of hand. It is the same diversion tactic used by old Cheung to shift the focus away from his filicide.

Until the government gives us a satisfactory answer to that key question, the only thing we can do is speculate the political motivation behind the rejection of Wongs bid. Some say Beijing doesn’t want HKTV to drive the languishing ATV out of business. ATV and TVB are the only two current FTA license-holders and the former has been unpopular among local viewers for its Chinese ownership and pro-Beijing stance. It is said that HKTV’s entry will be the final nail in ATV’s coffin and that China doesn’t want one of its mouthpieces to go out of business. This theory seems implausible, considering that Beijing is not known to micromanage every minute executive decision in Hong Kong. In fact, Leung reportedly got a scolding from Wang Guangya (王光亞), the CCP big wig in charge of Hong Kong’s affairs, for causing another big SNAFU.  

ATV is a joke, as is its Chinese owner Wang Zheng

If it’s not Beijing, then it must be the chief executive himself. Perhaps C.Y. Leung doesn’t care for Wong’s ego or finds his ambition a threat. Or perhaps the two have unsettled scores from past dealings. Whatever it is, it would appear that Leung’s personal vendetta has burned up what little political capital he has after the national education debacle and the abandonment of the ill-fated northeast urban development plan. The TV license saga is the latest example of Leung’s knack for overestimating how much he can get away with and underestimating how far citizens are willing to go to hold him accountable.

As C.Y. Leung’s approval ratings dip, Ricky Wong’s personal stock continues to rise. Wong has become the anti-establishment hero of the month. Nicknamed “Boy Wonder” for introducing low-cost long distance phone services in Canada, the 51-year-old is a self-made billionaire and the embodiment of the city’s can-do spirit. He is the closest thing we have to Richard Branson and Elon Musk. Having poured his heart and personal fortune into the TV license bid, Wong is now seen as the David who takes on Goliaths iCable and PCCW, which happen to be owned by tycoons Peter Woo (吳光正) and Richard Li (李澤楷). Wong’s loss is viewed by many as an affront to the city’s entrepreneurship. For if a superstar like Ricky can’t beat the property cartel, what chance does the rest of us have?

How Wong earned his first pot of gold

In the meantime, the political saga is throwing an unwanted spotlight on TVB, the current licensee that commands a near monopoly in broadcasting. HKTV’s failed application was a wake-up call to millions of viewers who finally realized that they have been watching the same low-budget pastiche for over three decades: soap opera with stock characters and canned plots, travel and cooking programs that are glorified infomercials, and asinine game shows that insult our intelligence. And TVB doesn’t just offend viewers, it also gouges their own employees. Actors and writers are grossly underpaid and contractually prohibited from taking any outside job. That’s what happens when your employer is the only game in town – it is nothing personal.

You call this television?

Free television means something to everyone in Hong Kong. For the elderly and the working class, it is the only form of entertainment. For the middle class who grew up in the 70s and 80s, it is a cultural glue that binds people together. For the socially conscious, it is a painful reminder of the way big business stifles our creativity. That’s why nearly 100,000 citizens regardless of age, background and political leaning took to the streets two Sundays ago in support of HKTV. But frustration and anger can only get us so far – we must ask the right questions and keep at it until the government produces meaningful answers or a third new license. Old Cheung might have gotten away with murdering his son, but we can’t let Leung do the same with the Hong Kong Dream.

It's more than just TV, it's our future


This article also appears on SCMP.com under Jason Y. Ng's column "As I See It."

As posted on SCMP.com


  1. TVB is increasing its charges for advertisement placement, amidst this free TV licence fanfare. goes to show that the arrogance of a monopoly, and overturns the government's excuse that one more free TV licence would kill the business.


  2. The root of the problem is that CY Leung administration is a government of the "small circle", by the "small circle" and for the "small circle".


  3. Jason,

    A good detailed account of what happened recently in our city - Hong Kong. Frustrating it may be, the matter is still brewing......bursting at the seams.

    I personally believe that CY would not care less even if the right question was put forward to him by Hong Kong citizens. As always, he would like to think himself as God Almighty who can solely obscure the skies with his single palm.

    Sadly to say, he is becoming more of a joker day by day with his failed policies and utterly wrong decisions made recently - all in shambles.

    He is actually asking for an early demise, downfall and judgement day; and is digging deeper into his own grave - counting his failures by the day.

    I would be very much interested to see what will be the outcome soon in the coming weeks.

    Keep writing and posting, Jason. Always a pleasure to read your blog.

    Cheers, Martie

  4. Get a license for HKTV, not some fake answers that 689 made up.


  5. If I were the presiding judge and you the lawyer arguing for HKTV with the metaphor about one of 3 sons not being saved in a fire, I would throw you out of my court in a heartbeat. Yes, the logic of your presentation is really that bad.



  6. To Whymak:

    I must give credit when credit is due.

    You are one sharp dude, Whymak. By the way you write and the slick ways you frame your arguments, thus far, I suspect you are a lawyer yourself.

    I have to agree with you on your assessment of Jason's logic or lack of logic there of.

    His analogy on the father's decision and Leung's is one bad example, to say the least.

    By the way, who says a lawyer has to be logical.

    Money, personal and political connections, or even where you were born trump logic any day in any HK courtroom and many places elsewhere.

    Don't be too hard on Jason, at least he is writing things you would have never heard from those token or British SCMP writers in the past or present. And I think you expect too much from Jason; he is not exactly writing for the New York Times.

    Writing and thinking the ways they do, the regulars here are out of place posting their comments in a HK native Chinese blog, nor they'd want to do so. And these "Chinese" with all their fancy Western names are usually treated as foreigners in those hot-shot HK British expat political blogs. These expat bloggers would never totally accept a "Chinese" in their circle as their own, no matter how fancy these "Chinese's" Western names are. Where else can these "Chinese" do their ranting but here in Jason's pad?

    Chill out, step back and put things in perspective. The people hang out here just want to vent their frustrations and lick their wounds. You need to have some sympathy for them. Rightly or wrongly, their "valued and much loved British world in HK" is disappearing fast right before their very eyes.


  7. To HKBC

    I think you deserve a higher standing than Whymak and earn more brownie points than Whymak. If Whymak is a sharp dude, you are definitely nothing less than a smart dude.

    I believe, with no doubt, that Whymak and you are both lawyers. And if I am not wrong, HKBC a prefessor of law by profession in law faculty of the prestigeous City University with Priscilla Leung, the Legco legislative councillor, who many Hong Kong young law aspirants are fascinated with her remarkable points of view in law interpretations and understanding. HKBC, you must be one of these intelligent law professors with unique logic, if I am not wrong. With your vivid description on bloggers' columns contribution to New York Times, I believe both of you must be regular contributors to the local infamous newspapers Tai Kung Pao.

    I agree that the Chinese people who thought themselves to be expatriates or think Caucasian hanging out here are ranting, panting and dancing to an old tune and basking in old glory of the past British administration. They are all still fast asleep and oblivious that Hong Kong is already China and China is also Hong Kong, and that the concept made by our paramount leader Teng of One Country Two Systems was nothing but a propaganda to Britain and more so to the world at large. For any sane person, one country forever overrides two systems and no where else in the world would have such a deal opposing each other exist that would work in real life. So be it.

    Lawyers may or may not have logic and it is upto the presiding judge, whoever may be, to decide who made more sense - depending on logic ? The simple key logic in real life that a layman would understand plainly.

    No offece to anybody. The writing on the wall would want all to not only chill out but take it with a pinch of salt without vengeance. Whether it's a wounded dog that needs to lick its wounds or wag its tail, it is individual's freedom, under nobody dictum. Let there be peace to all.

    Lastly, whether anyone British, Chinese or whatever with wishful thinking of the British or Chinese appearing of disappearing is nobody's business. Let them have their choice and have their own views in perpective.


    1. To an anonymous person here who gave me a few brownie points:

      What a rambling and unintelligible piece you wrote.

      I won't say anything negative in response to your comment. Sensing the tone of your writing, I don't like to kick a person when he is down.

      Peace, my friend.

  8. To: HKBC

    You are so right. I am amazed with the large number of native Hong Kong Chinese having such fancy Western names - thinking themselves to be Westernised, like Jasper Tsang Yuk Sing, Regina Yip Lau Suk Yee, Anna Wu Hung Yuk, Christine Loh Kung Wai, Gregory So Kum Leung, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet Ngor etc....Wonder if these folks have anything in common. And for some like Regina and Jasper, whose English speaking accent is so Chinglish, are in a position to teach English to HK native Chinese. They do their rounds of teaching at schools and universities and even produced their own course materials tailored made. Isn't that amazing.

    I was also wondering when these folks contribute to columns in SCMP, if their writing and thinking would be similar or out of place like the regulars here who as you pointed out are out of place in a HK native Chinese blog, nor they'd want to do so.

    And I doubt if these "Chinese" with all their fancy Western names, especially Regina, Anna and Christine - who seemed to be so arrogrant of themselves being Anglocized are usually treated as foreigners in those hot-shot HK British expat political blogs.

    Whether these HK bred native Chinese with these fancy Western names would be totally accepted as a "Chinese" in their circle as their own, is also my biggest worry when they would tend to be superior to their own kind - like Regina Yip who recently spitted out fires to degrade the local masses as beauty contest admirers akin to the issuance of licence on the said subject.


    1. Speaking of Chinglish, one of the many problems with these people's English---"the people with fancy Western names"---is that they do not pronounce their words, instead, they only imitate the sounds of the words.

      For example, they don't put the tip of their tongues to the roof of their mouths when they say the "L" sound and they don't bite their lower lips when they make the "V" sound and they leave the "D" or "T" silent at the end of a word, and the short "E" and short "I" sound the same when they say it, and they don't stick their tongues out for the "TH" sound, etc. The list goes on and on.

      In terms of learning English in HK, it is a case of "the blind leading the blind". But, realistically speaking, how often do we get to speak English with a Westerner in a casual social setting anyway? On a rare occasion when we speak English, it is likely we speak Chinglish to each other and thinking we are on the top of HK's social hierarchy. And people won't understand a word I say because of my thicker-than-the-Great-Wall-of-China accent.



  9. Jason,

    Another beautiful article and well-argued out. Can't say I have been paying lots of attention to the fiasco coz sometimes I think all these political follies are hardly worth my time anymore. I have to admit I did grin inwardly on thinking how this event could help nail Leung's coffin, couldn't stop myself.

    When you have 3 kids, no one has the right to deprive each's right to survive, they should learn to fight for themselves and adapt. Competition and character building, that's the background I grew up in, at least.



    1. To: C H R I S T I N E

      I can't claim that I know exactly what background you grew up in. But from reading your posts here, one thing is for certain, your background is definitely different than the everyday Cantonese-speaking HK natives'.

      Why pretend to be otherwise?

      Some frank or unkind readers---people like Whymak---here would call you a "carpetbagger".

      For lack of a better word, I would do the same, but I do not mean to be unkind.