Asia Television Limited (ATV) and its former executive director James Shing Pan-yu have been ordered to pay Ricky Wong Wai-kay HK$1.3 million in damages by the High Court, following a defamation lawsuit.
The High Court judge, Justice Andrew Chung On-tak, did not specify how this amount would be allocated amongst the two defendants. Representatives from ATV and Wong collected the judgment on their behalf, while Shing did not show up or send a representative.
In 2012, as Ricky Wong was applying for a free-to-air licence for Hong Kong Television Network Limited (HKTV), Shing accused Wong of stealing confidential documents from ATV during Wong’s 12-day term as CEO in 2008. Shing questioned Wong’s professional conduct and said that Wong was engaging in malicious competition with ATV. The statements were made to an ATV reporter and an i-Cable TV reporter. They were later published by the media. Wong then sued for defamation and asked for HK$3m in damages.
In his testimony, Wong said that Shing had distorted the facts to smear him, and that, when he left ATV, he only took his personal belongings with him.
The judge said that ATV and Shing could not provide any evidence that Wong took any confidential documents and that their statements had amounted to defamation of an “undoubtedly serious” degree, as it was not only insulting but also criminal. The defamatory statements were also broadcast on television to a wide audience.
At the trial, Wong said that, following the statements, the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau had written to him asking for an explanation, but despite his doing so HKTV was not awarded the licence in the end. The judge ruled that although the statements were defamatory, the court could not establish that this was the reason the application for the licence was denied. Hence, the court only awarded Wong HK$1.3m and did not order the defendants to pay any punitive damages.