16 September 2019
Newly leaked audio clip, involving Rosanna Wong, from a controversial HKU Council meeting has received little coverage in major TV networks and newspapers. Photo: HKEJ
Newly leaked audio clip, involving Rosanna Wong, from a controversial HKU Council meeting has received little coverage in major TV networks and newspapers. Photo: HKEJ

Why is the media holding back on the latest HKU Council tape?

The controversy related to the Hong Kong University (HKU) Council meeting that rejected Professor Johannes Chan’s appointment as the university’s pro-vice chancellor shows no signs of abating.

After Commercial Radio aired leaked audio recordings from the September 29 meeting late last month, revealing the remarks made by council members Arthur Li and Leonie Ki as they opposed Chan’s appointment, another clip has surfaced over the weekend, this time involving Rosanna Wong.

In the clip that was uploaded on a popular Taiwan online forum at around 8 pm on Sunday, Wong could be heard speaking about her own reservations about Chan’s candidacy.

Intriguingly, however, the leaked recording of Wong’s remarks has received little media coverage in Hong Kong so far. As of Monday, only the Apple Daily ran a front page story on that. It really boggles the mind as to why this audio clip, which is already circulating in the public domain and completely free for everyone to use, would be “boycotted” collectively by the local media.

In my opinion, it is hardly coincidence that the major TV networks and newspapers in our city have all turned a blind eye to the latest clip. It appears that some force or “intelligence” is pulling the strings from behind the scene in order to prevent the clip from drawing public attention.

Now, I have to say that I really don’t appreciate this kind of “intelligence”. In fact, I’d rather call it “stupidity”. Based on my observation, there are just too many stupid people around in our media industry, who are only good at sensationalism and swimming with the tide, and are often just too eager to be used as a mouthpiece by government spin doctors.

Even an average individual like me can tell that the leak of the recordings, which has taken place step-by-step in a well-organized manner, must have been masterminded by someone.

However, no matter who is behind the leak of the tapes, whether it is the CIA or the National Security Council on the Mainland, and no matter what their motives are, as long as the recordings are authentic, the media is duty-bound to make them public, because the public’s right to know outweighs everything.

Also, the job of journalists and media chiefs is to verify and release information, rather than censor it.

I believe our media workers shouldn’t be concerned about anything else other than the authenticity of the tapes, nor should they be worried about who will benefit or who will be harmed as a result of making the tapes public.

The only thing that matters when it comes to journalism is to provide the public with every piece of true information, and let them exercise their own judgment. Any attempt to screen or even hold back material that reveals the truth, no matter what the reasons may be, is a violation of the basic code of conduct of the media.

Let’s not forget the reason why the Hong Kong Journalists Association is contesting the court injunction that prohibits the circulation of the information leaked from HKU Council meetings. The reason is to defend the public’s right to know.

Now that the High Court has ruled that the interim injunction doesn’t apply to the clips already in the public domain and any circulation of those audio clips outside Hong Kong, what the public is looking forward to is definitely more secret recordings coming to light so that they can piece together the facts about the discussion during that HKU Council meeting and identify the people who denied Professor Chan his appointment on ridiculous grounds.

Aren’t our media supposed to tap into the existing material and make public whatever secret tapes there are in order to serve the public’s right to know regardless of court orders and the political interference of Leung Chun-ying?

Aren’t they supposed to fulfill their role as the fourth estate and raise the red flag against any social injustice? If our reporters fail to follow all the clues and facts wherever they lead on this critical issue, it will not only constitute a breach of duty on their part, but also a breach of public trust.

So why did the media deliberately turn a blind eye to Rosanna Wong’s leaked tape? As I have pointed out before, our media has been dominated by an “evil democratic force”, a phrase which I coined eight years ago.

This “evil force” refers to a bunch of powerful and influential figures in the media industry who believe they have the right to define the public’s right to know, and who believe they hold the moral high ground and always have the final word on what is right and what is wrong.

These hypocrites are on one hand pointing their fingers at those who are kissing up to Beijing, but on the other are throwing their weight around in the media industry trying to control the flow of information in society in order to serve their own political agenda.

The fact that Commercial Radio came under fire for “kowtowing” and giving up press freedom after it had failed to toe the line of that evil force simply illustrates how powerful this bunch of media oligarchs are.

Thanks to the manipulation of these hypocrites, the leakage of the secret recordings, which was supposed to be a courageous act of whistle-blowing, has now degenerated into something more like a tawdry soap opera.

The media coyness won’t do any good to the public, which deserves to be alerted about Leung Chun-ying’s plot to get his claws into our universities one by one.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Nov. 10.

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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HKEJ columnist