Skip to main content

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 Wong’s 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 was published on SCMP.com under Jason Y. Ng's column "As I See It."

As published on SCMP.com

Popular Posts

Seeing Joshua 探之鋒

“We are here to visit a friend,” I said to the guard at the entrance. 
Tiffany, Joshua Wong Chi-fung’s long-time girlfriend, trailed behind me. It was our first time visiting Joshua at Pik Uk Correctional Institution and neither of us quite knew what to expect.

“Has your friend been convicted?” asked the guard. We nodded in unison. There are different visiting hours and rules for suspects and convicts. Each month, convicts may receive up to two half-hour visits from friends and family, plus two additional visits from immediate family upon request.
The guard pointed to the left and told us to register at the reception office. “I saw your taxi pass by earlier,” he said while eyeing a pair of camera-wielding paparazzi on the prowl. “Next time you can tell the driver to pull up here to spare you the walk.”
At the reception counter, Officer Wong took our identity cards and checked them against the “List.” Each inmate is allowed to grant visitation rights to no more than 10 friends and fam…

About the Author 關於作者

Born in Hong Kong, Jason Y. Ng is a globetrotter who spent his entire adult life in Italy, the United States and Canada before returning to his birthplace to rediscover his roots. He is a lawyer, published author, and contributor to The Guardian, The South China Morning Post, Hong Kong Free Press and EJInsight. His social commentary blog As I See It and restaurant/movie review site The Real Deal have attracted a cult following in Asia and beyond. Between 2014 and 2016, he was a music critic for Time Out (HK)
Jason is the bestselling author of Umbrellas in Bloom (2016), No City for Slow Men (2013) and HONG KONG State of Mind (2010). Together, the three books form a Hong Kong trilogy that tracks the city's post-colonial development. His short stories have appeared in various anthologies. In 2017, Jason co-edited and contributed to Hong Kong 20/20, an anthology that marks the 20th anniversary of the handover. In July 2017, he was appointed Advising Editor for the Los Angeles Review…

Join the Club 入會須知

You have reached a midlife plateau. You have everything you thought you wanted: a happy family, a well-located apartment and a cushy management job. The only thing missing from that bourgeois utopia is a bit of oomph, a bit of recognition that you have played by the rules and done all right. A Porsche 911? Too clichéd. A rose gold Rolex? Got that last Christmas. An extramarital affair that ends in a costly divorce or a boiled bunny? No thanks. How about a membership at one of the city’s country clubs where accomplished individuals like yourself hang out in plaid pants and flat caps? Sounds great, but you’d better get in line.

Clubs are an age-old concept that traces back to the Ancient Greeks and Romans. The introduction of coffee beans to England in the mid-17th Century spurred the proliferation of coffeehouses for like-minded gentlemen to trade gossip about the monarchy over a hot beverage. In the centuries since, these semi-secret hideouts evolved into main street establishments t…

Media Attention + Upcoming Events 媒體關注 + 最新動向

2017 and upcoming events and speaking engagements


Keynote speaker at Leadership & Social Entrepreneurship Program graduation ceremony co-organized by Wimler Foundation and Ateneo University Venue: TBD Date: 22 October Time: 9:00am to 1:00pm

Guest lecture at Faculty of Law, University of Hong Kong Course: International and regional protection of human rights
Topic: Universal suffrage and free expression Venue: Centennial Campus, Pokfulam Date:16 November
Time: 6:30pm

Legal workshop for foreign domestic workers at University of Hong Kong's Domestic Workers Empowerment Project (DWEP) Topic: "Understanding Hong Kong Culture" Moderator: Dr. Michael Manio Venue: Ming Wah Complex, University of Hong Kong Date: 19 November Time: 1:30 to 4:00pm

Talk at Independent Schools Foundation Academy
Topic: No City for Slow Men
Venue: Telegraph Bay, Pokfulam
Date: 30 November
Contributor to HK24 (2017 Anthology by Hong Kong Writers Circle) Release date: December

Guest speaker and prize prese…

The Moonscape of Sexual Equality - Part 1 走在崎嶇的路上-上卷

There are things about America that boggle the mind: gun violence, healthcare costs and Donald Trump. But once in a while – not often, just once in a while – the country gets something so right and displays such courage that it reminds the rest of the world what an amazing place it truly is. What happened three days ago at the nation’s capital is shaping up to be one of those instances.

Last Friday, the Supreme Court of the United States handed down a 5-to-4 decision on same-sex marriage, the most important gay rights ruling in the country’s history. In Obergefell v. Hodges, Justice Kennedy wrote, “It would misunderstand [gay and lesbian couples] to say that they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find fulfillment for themselves… They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.” 
With those simple words, Justice Kennedy made marriage equality a constitutionally prote…

What’s Killing Hong Kong Bookstores? 誰令香港的書店滅亡?

Earlier this month, Page One unceremoniously announced the closure of its megastores at Harbour City and Festival Walk, ending the Singapore bookseller’s nearly two-decade stint in Hong Kong. The news came less than two years after Australian outfit Dymocks shut down its IFC Mall flagship and exited the city.
Reaction on social media to the loss of yet another bookstore chain was both immediate and damning. While some attributed Page One’s demise to competition from e-books and online retailers, many put the blame on the lack of a robust reading culture in Hong Kong. Still others pointed their finger at greedy landlords and the sky-high rent they extort from retailers.
But what really killed Page One? An autopsy is in order to examine the cause of death of the book industry’s latest casualty.

E-books
The technorati have long prophesized the end of paper. Portable and affordable, Amazon’s Kindle and other e-readers are the physical book’s worst nightmare. But are they really?
After yea…

Maid in Hong Kong - Part 1 女傭在港-上卷

Few symbols of colonialism are more universally recognized than the live-in maid. From the British trading post in Bombay to the cotton plantation in Mississippi, images abound of the olive-skinned domestic worker buzzing around the house, cooking, cleaning, ironing and bringing ice cold lemonade to her masters who keep grumbling about the summer heat. It is ironic that, for a city that cowered under colonial rule for a century and a half, Hong Kong should have the highest number of maids per capita in Asia. In our city of contradictions, neither a modest income nor a shoebox apartment is an obstacle for local families to hire a domestic helper and to free themselves from chores and errands.

On any given Sunday or public holiday, migrant domestic workers carpet every inch of open space in Central and Causeway Bay. They turn parks and footbridges into camping sites with cardboard boxes as their walls and opened umbrellas as their roofs. They play cards, cut hair, sell handicraft and p…

The Hundredth Post 第一百篇

This month marks the third birthday of my blog As I See It, a social commentary on the trials and tribulations of living in Hong Kong. The occasion coincides with the 100th article I have written under the banner. Having reached a personal milestone, I decided to take the opportunity to reflect on my still-young writing career and wallow in, dare we say, self-congratulatory indulgence.

It all started in November 2008 on the heels of the last U.S. presidential election. I was getting ready to create a personal website as a platform to consolidate my interests and pursuits. To do that I needed content. That’s how my blog – or my “online op-ed column” as I prefer to call it – came into being. 
Before I knew it, I was banging it out in front of my iMac every night, going on and off the tangent and in and out of my stream of consciousness about the odd things I experienced in the city, the endless parade of pink elephants I saw everyday that no one seemed to bat an eyelid at. Though singi…

When Free Speech Isn't Free 當言論不再自由

The school year had barely begun when two incidents—both testing the limits of free speech on campus—unfolded at Chinese University and Education University and sent management scrambling for a response.
On Monday, at least three large banners bearing the words “Hong Kong independence” were spotted in various locations at Chinese University, including one that draped across the famous “Beacon” sculpture outside the school’s main library. Within hours, the banners were removed by the school authorities.
A few days later, a sign “congratulating” Education Undersecretary Choi Yuk-lin (蔡若蓮) on her son’s recent suicide appeared on Education University’s Democracy Wall, a public bulletin board for students to express opinions and exchange views. Likewise, the sign was taken down shortly thereafter.


That could have been the end of the controversies had university management not succumbed to the temptation to say a few choice words of their own. In the end, it was the reaction from the schoo…