Tang planned to quit for free speech sake

Top News | Phila Siu 22 Mar 2012

Henry Tang Ying-yen claims he would have quit the government to uphold freedom of speech if Leung Chun-ying had succeeded in cutting short the license of Commercial Radio in 2003.

Talking to the broadcaster yesterday, Tang said he revealed Leung's views on the matter last week because he knew his rival candidate for chief executive "stands a real chance of getting elected" and the public deserve to know what kind of leader they are getting.

During Friday's TV debate, Tang also accused Leung of urging that riot police and tear gas be deployed against demonstrators after 500,000 people took to the streets to protest a proposed anti-subversion law on July 1, 2003.

Tang was secretary for commerce, industry and technology at the time, while Leung was Executive Council convener.

Tang also said the two revelations were not premeditated, explaining that Leung provoked him by mentioning his extramarital affairs and referring to a sofa in his office that an alleged mistress reportedly referred to in an e-mail.

"He made use of unconfirmed information, and that was mean and shameful," Tang said.

He said Leung called for a shortening of Commercial Radio's license from 12 to three years in an Exco meeting after the 2003 protest, in a bid to muzzle hosts Raymond "Mad Dog" Wong Yuk-man and Albert Cheng King-hon.

Leung said the pair "were being tough with the government in that they kept criticizing it," Tang alleged. "He [Leung] suggested making use of the licence renewal to tackle them."

But Tang had insisted the license period not be shortened because freedom of speech is one of the SAR's core values.

"If it had been shortened, it would have been over my bottom line. I would have quit," he said. Radio host and media veteran Lee Wai-ling also spoke of hearing claims in 2003 that Tang would have quit if Leung insisted on shortening the license of Commercial Radio.

Tang said he remembers Leung's remarks clearly because his own office at the time was responsible for the license renewal.

The renewal proposal was drafted by his bureau after discussions with other officials and only then presented for Exco approval.

Tang also remembers the convener's stance on using riot police and tear gas to quell protesters very clearly because Leung - one of the few non-government Exco members at the time - hardly ever spoke at meetings.

"Leung's attitude was very unyielding and hawkish on this," Tang said. "He suggested pushing forward [the Article 23 legislation]."

Meanwhile, Leung's campaign director Fanny Law Fan Chiu-fun said that Tang may have breached election rules in telling lies about his opponent, and Leung is seeking legal advice over how the case can be pursued further.

Tang also alleged earlier that Leung received four warning letters from the chief executive for breaking Exco rules.

About this, campaign chairman Barry Cheung Chun-yuen said Leung only received one notification letter from Donald Tsang Yam- kuen. That was in 2008 after he voiced his views on Exco confidentiality in a radio program.

Leung's team, however, has canceled tomorrow's rally in the outdoor square of the Hong Kong Cultural Centre in Tsim Sha Tsui.

Denying that it is a bid to avoid any protests, Law said the move was made as the election team fears the square will be too small and that the weather may not be good enough.

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