The John Humphrys of Hong Kong has fled, complaining of intimidation. Those left behind are pushing against Beijing's block on democracyby Jonathan Fenby / August 22, 2004 / Leave a comment
As Hong Kong navigates the choppiest political waters it has seen since returning to Chinese sovereignty seven years ago, one familiar voice is missing.
For the past ten years, Albert Cheng King-hon has been a weathervane for the territory as host of a popular three-hour morning radio show, Teacup in a Storm. An acerbic critic of the unpopular post-handover government headed by chief executive Tung Chee-hwa, Cheng is a strong supporter of democratisation, and opposed recent moves by Beijing to slow down the process of giving the people of Hong Kong a greater say in their own affairs.
He also ruffled some other feathers along the way – six years ago, he was attacked by men wielding machetes outside the Commercial Radio studio, and was seriously injured in the shoulder and arm; he was thought to have offended one of the triad gangs who operate in the territory.
But now, as Hong Kong’s pro-democracy forces celebrate a highly successful demonstration on 1st July – the anniversary of the 1997 handover – Cheng is on the other side of the world. In British or American terms it is as if John Humphrys and Jim Naughtie had left the Today programme or one of the top US radio talk show hosts had quit his post in the middle of an election year.
The manner of Cheng’s going was suitably dramatic for a commentator who has always known how to arouse public interest. He left a tape to be broadcast on the show as he was flying to Europe before going on to the US.
“The increasing pressure I’ve been feeling physically and psychologically has put me on the brink of a breakdown,” Cheng said on the tape. The political climate in Hong Kong had become “suffocating.” He had received threats. The office of a trading company in which he had shares had been daubed with red paint. His family was worried. So, at the age of 58 and after much soul-searching, he had decided to accept medical advice to take a break.
Friends say that Cheng does not point a finger directly at Beijing or the post-handover administration in Hong Kong, but instead believes that “bad elements” might have tried to win brownie points with the authorities by trying to intimidate him.
Cheng says he thinks Hong Kong people are quite capable of organising their pro-democracy movement without help from his…