Activist is set to test officials' patience with another broadcast, write Justin Mitchell and Mimi Lau
Monday, November 07, 2005, The Standard
Eastern district councillor Tsang Kin- shing, who goes by the nickname "The Bull," seems to relish his self-appointed role as a Hong Kong radio rebel.
He's faced government inquiries since he organized a 90-minute October 3 "Citizen's Radio" broadcast on 102.8 FM, within the bandwidth used by the Metro Finance station owned by Hong Kong's richest man, Li Ka-shing.
The allegedly illegal transmission, which used content from People's Radio, a Hong Kong Internet station, reached Wan Chai, Causeway Bay and parts of Happy Valley.
A second broadcast is reportedly planned today, from 10pm-11.30pm, using a feed from People's Radio of a talkshow to be hosted by Raymond Wong, who was sacked by Commercial Radio, and legislator Emily Lau.
"I don't know our topic, yet," said Lau. "We just turn up and say whatever we want to say. I think we will talk about political reform."
Tsang, a burly, normally outspoken man, chose to keep mum October 24 when invited by the Office of the Telecommunications Authority to answer questions about the October 3 broadcast.
Just before he was questioned, he and legislator Leung Kwok-hung scuffled briefly with security guards outside the OFTA office when they called for an expansion of Hong Kong's airwaves.
"I chose the right to remain silent regarding the illegal radio broadcast accusation because the questioning was ambiguous," Tsang said.
On the same day, an OFTA official went to Tsang's house and asked his wife for information about Citizen's Radio. She refused to answer, and the visit lasted less than a minute. Tsang was furious and later blasted OFTA.
"[My wife] doesn't know anything about it and is not a public figure. They should come to me and leave my family alone," he said, adding that the government was acting like communists and creating a "red terror."
Wong was also summoned but refused to go to the OFTA office.
An OFTA spokeswoman said the government does not disclose details of an ongoing investigation. "Everything is being conducted using normal investigation procedures," she said.
It's not known how many listeners Tsang's broadcast reached.
"Maybe six or seven people, one taxi driver and others, called us during the broadcast," Tsang said. "It was also a test to see the government's ability to monitor us. We want all citizens to hear what we have to say. We have limited technology and equipment and if the government catches us they will take it. But I'm prepared to face criminal charges."
Tsang declined to give specifics about his transmitter but admitted it cost about HK$10,000. It was ordered via the Internet and can fit in a truck or van and be driven to different areas for future broadcasts.
Pointing to a chart of the FM frequencies assigned to all 13 city stations owned by three organizations, RTHK, Commercial Radio and Metro Radio, Tsang insisted 102.8 is not being used.
"When I listened to 102.8 before, I heard Guangzhou radio," he said.
But he couldn't explain that because FM channels are assigned a bandwidth of 200 kHz, and the midpoint of a channel's range - 102.5 in this case - is used for identification purposes, it means that he was likely squatting on Metro's signal.
"We don't intend to attack any particular station," he said when asked why a frequency on Metro's bandwidth was targeted. "There are 12 stations taking up a lot of space, more than they need."
Tsang said that in an earlier application for a license, he was told two AM spots were available. Why not go AM?
"No one listens to AM and not many Hong Kong radios or radios around the world have AM reception," he said, apparently not attuned to the fact that AM is the frequency of choice for talk radio - such as he is proposing - in the United States.
Eddie Leung, who organized the People's Radio Internet radio site last year, said, "I cannot speak for Tsang, but my opinion is that most people in Hong Kong listen to FM frequencies. Hong Kong people should have a wider choice of media, including more FM stations. The audience currently doesn't have too much choices."
Though Tsang denied singling out Metro Radio's frequency, Lam provided a clue. Lam and other backers had competed with Li for the FM slot. "I spent HK$3 million writing a proposal but, of course, we lost," Lam said. "However I really don't know why [Tsang used] that certain spectrum."
Tsang was a construction worker with a secondary school education who said he became politically galvanized in 1989 by the Tiananmen Square massacre, and went from pounding nails to politics as a full-time district councillor.
He was further inspired to organize Citizen's Radio - which he said has "less than 15 core members and more than 1,000 supporters" and depends on street donations - after the abrupt departure of Lam and Albert Cheng from Teacup.
In September Tsang applied for a license with the Television and Entertainment Licensing Authority for a 24-hour FM station featuring public affairs talkshows and live broadcasts of open meetings of district councils and government advisory bodies.
A TELA spokesman said his application is still being reviewed. Tsang said his chances for receiving permission was "harder than winning the Mark Six."
"I know his chances are quite slim," said Lam. "But he's an action man who really tries to get what what he wants, regardless of the end result. That's why people call him The Bull."