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Account freezing forces HK pro-democracy radio to close

Media outlets that supported democracy and freedom in the former British colony have been forced to shut down
Veteran activist Tsang Kin-Shing (left), a member of the “League of Social Democrats,” speaks during a protest outside the headquarters of The Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited (HSBC) in Hong Kong on June 6

Veteran activist Tsang Kin-Shing (left), a member of the “League of Social Democrats,” speaks during a protest outside the headquarters of The Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited (HSBC) in Hong Kong on June 6. (Photo: AFP)

Published: June 27, 2023 11:21 AM GMT
Updated: June 27, 2023 11:40 AM GMT

A popular pro-democracy radio in Hong Kong announced ceasing its operations due to financial constraints after the authorities froze its bank account, says a report.

In a Facebook post on June 23, Citizens’ Radio founder and ex-legislator Tsang Kin-Shing, also known as “the Bull,” announced the closure of the station, Hong Kong Free Press (HKFP) reported on June 26.

Tsang thanked the volunteers who helped run the pirate radio station – which does not have an official license – and blamed the political situation in Hong Kong for its closure.

“Recently, [Citizens’ Radio’s] bank account was even ‘locked,’ and we can only afford rent until August. After that, we could not continue,” Tsang said, adding that “resignedly, Citizens’ Radio have to suspend its broadcast.”

Repression of pro-democracy outlets has been rampant in Hong Kong after Beijing imposed the National Security Law in 2020 following the 2019 anti-extradition bill protests.

Pro-democracy media outlets such as the Apple Daily were shuttered, and Jimmy Lai, a Catholic business tycoon, and its founder, along with other executives have been charged under the national security law.

In December 2022, Lai was convicted of fraud charges and sentenced to five years and nine months in jail.

The Hong Kong government’s heavy-handed approach to suppressing dissenting individuals has also deterred the participants who used to come to the radio station for interviews before the 2019 pro-democracy movement, Tsang said.

“It has been difficult for the program to invite guests in the face of the free-fall changes of the political situation, red lines, and perilous situation after the Umbrella and anti-extradition bill movements,” Tsang said, HKFP reported.

The station had hosted prominent democrats such as the late founder of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China Szeto Wah and ex-Democratic Party chairs Albert Ho and Emily Lau.

The Alliance was the prominent group that coordinated the annual candlelight vigil at Victoria Park in Hong Kong’s Causeway Bay in memory of the victims of the 1989 Tiananmen Massacre until the authorities banned the event.

Leung Kwok-hung, a member of the pro-democracy League of Social Democrats, one of the city’s last active pro-democracy groups, was one of the hosts of the station, HKFP reported.

Leung is in remand facing trial under the national security law over an unofficial primary election for a Legislative Council election.

The Hong Kong pro-democracy primaries were held from July 11-12, 2020, to select the pro-democracy candidates for the subsequently postponed Legislative Council election that year to maximize the chance for the pro-democrats to achieve a majority in the 70-seat Legislative Council.

This triggered ire of the Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing regime, leading to criminal charges against 47 of the candidates who are accused of conspiracy to commit subversion.

Tsang, the founder of the radio, is also among those facing the charge of inciting others to take part in the unauthorized assembly.

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