Hong Kong media associations challenge Chief Executive on interview stance

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has called on the Chief Executive of Hong Kong, Leung Chun-ying, to be more open and transparent in his dealings with the media in light of the current Occupy Movement protests and a scandal involving his personal financial dealings. With the protests now entering their third week, the IFJ reminds Leung, that as Chief Executive, he has a responsibility to uphold Article 27 of Chapter 3 of Hong Kong’s Basic Law, which guarantees freedom of speech, press and publication.

On October 10, Leung Chun-ying approached free-to-air television service, the Hong Kong Television Broadcaster (TVB), to appear in an interview on the night of October 11. The interview was broadcast the following morning on October 12.

Four Hong Kong media associations, including IFJ affiliate the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA), the RTHK Union, Next Media Union and Ming Pao Union this week issued a joint statement of regret to the CEO deploring his decision to speak to just one media outlet about current issues facing Hong Kong and the recent scandal over Leung’s personal finances.

Last week, Australian’s Fairfax Media revealed that Leung signed a so-called “no-compete” agreement with Australian company UGL Limited on December 2, 2011, in exchange for receiving GBP 4million after UGL purchased subsidiaries of property services group DTZ Holdings, Leung’s former company. In the sale agreement, Leung promised to be a referee and adviser to UGL from time to time. The second instalment was paid in 2012 after Leung became the Chief Executive of Hong Kong, but he did not publicly report the payment. Leung said the agreement was signed before he took up his position, so he was not required to report it.

Although UGL issued a statement saying Leung did not advise it after becoming CEO, a number of reports revealed the Royal Bank of Scotland, one of DTZ Holdings’ largest creditors, did not know of the secret deal. It has also been reported that Leung did not pay tax on the money, though he has said he is seeking professional advice from an accountant. In the interview with TVB, Leung refused to provide evidence of this claim. Further reports suggested Leung has an indirect interest in one of the free-to-air TV companies of Hong Kong. That same television company was strongly against Hong Kong Television’s (HKTV) bid to acquire a free-to-air television license, which HKTV ultimately failed to acquire.

The IFJ Asia Pacific Office said: “The scandal around Leung has become a matter of great public concern in Hong Kong. Furthermore, the turmoil surrounding the Occupy Movement has already drawn a great deal of international attention. Dozens of international media personnel have been reporting on the ground and several countries have issued warning notices to their citizens about visiting Hong Kong. There is a legitimate expectation among citizens of Hong Kong and foreign countries that they will receive information about Leung through the media.”

“This is further evidence that Leung Chun-ying does not respect or endorse the principles of a free press and public accountability.”

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0946 

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 131 countries

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