Deary me, Michael Chugani’s efforts to defend anything currently under attack from the forces of subversion have left him seriously confused. In Wednesday’s Pravda he did not seem to know whether he was coming or going, but manfully trying to do both at the same time.

Journalist and broadcaster Michael Chugani. Photo: Screenshot ATV World Newsline.

First out of the box we had “Where’s the smoking gun from the HKU Council leaks?”. This was devoted to the view that the leaks from the Council’s debate on Johannes Chan reveal nothing improper, and therefore the “whistleblower”, which we may take it refers to Billy Fung though he is not named, is a coward and a phoney. This is a rewritten version of Mr Chugani’s piece in the Standard a few days before, where it masqueraded as advice on the correct use of English but made much of the same points, with the modest exception that in that article Mr Fung was a “traitor” and a “snitch”. Friends of Mr Fung may be tempted to retort at this point that Mr Chugani would have a more accurate view of the world if his head was not stuffed so far up the part of the government’s anatomy that rhymes with farce. But let us not get personal.

Billy Fung. Photo: Stand News.

Mr Chugani’s is a coherent position, even if you do not agree with it. If there was no foul, there should be no whistle. Personally I think Mr Chugani is applying the wrong standard. The Council is justified in over-ruling the search committee if some item of knowledge known to the Council but overlooked by the committee places the matter in a new light. But none of the speeches offered anything new. In its hours of work on the subject the search committee certainly considered such matters as the candidate’s research record and qualifications. For amateur part-time Council members to over-rule the experts on the basis of nothing more than their own prejudices or a bit of superficial Googling was arrogant and indefensible. This would still be the case if they were not in any way influenced by politics, though you have to be rather optimistic to believe that.

Johannes Chan Man-mun. Photo: Apple Daily.

Anyway having established the councillors’ innocence to his satisfaction Mr Chugani moves on to “Radio station airs one-sided view of council meeting”. Here we meet Commercial Radio and consider its broadcasting of tapes of two members’ speeches on the Johannes Chan matter. Mr Chugani wonders why there were no broadcast speeches from people on the other side of the argument. Well, we may hazard a guess that variations on “I think we should accept the proposal of the properly appointed search committee” would not have made very interesting radio. But Mr Chugani thinks this made the broadcast “selective airing of leaks that smear one side”. But, wait a minute. If there was no impropriety justifying the blowing of the whistle then why should the broadcasting of the speeches, whether selected or not, constitute a “smear”? To smear, as Mr Chugani will no doubt be telling young Standard readers next week, is “to sully, vilify, or soil a reputation, good name, etc.”

But if there is nothing wrong in the speech, then the speaker’s reputation presumably remains unsoiled. “What did the trio say that was illegal or immoral?” asks Mr Chugani, with the clear intention that we should answer “nothing”. But in that case there can be no harm in radio listeners hearing the speeches. Broadcasting them may be a breach of confidence but it cannot be a “smear” if there is no dirt, as Mr Chugani staunchly maintains. I am irresistibly reminded of the Roman god who had two faces pointing in opposite directions. His name was Anus … I beg your pardon, Janus.

Mr Chugani’s third offering was a call for housing to be built in country parks. Can’t say I agreed with that either but it was at least logical.


Tim Hamlett

Tim Hamlett came to Hong Kong in 1980 to work for the Hong Kong Standard and has contributed to, or worked for, most of Hong Kong's English-language media outlets, notably as the editor of the Standard's award-winning investigative team, as a columnist in the SCMP and as a presenter of RTHK's Mediawatch. In 1988 he became a full-time journalism teacher. Since officially retiring nine years ago, he has concentrated on music, dance, blogging and a very time-consuming dog.