Exiled mainland dissident Wang Dan and former University of Hong Kong student leader Billy Fung Jing-en have hit back at local channel ViuTV after it pulled an episode of a reality show they starred in. The channel and the two activists have given contradictory versions of the incident.

Wang and Fung were invited by the relatively new channel to be on the show “Travel with rivals” and filming started last Saturday in Japan. The station claimed they attended a press event in Tokyo without authorisation, but Wang and Fung both said the event was arranged by the channel.

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Billy Fung (left) and Wang Dan (right). Photo: YouTube screenshot.

In a statement on Wednesday night, the channel said it was “extremely disappointed and angry” over their “improper speeches” during a press luncheon held by the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan on Monday.

During the event on the topic “Tensions between China and Hong Kong and update report in the semi-autonomous territory,” Fung called for international support for Hong Kong independence, whilst Wang said that Hong Kong independence was not practical, but Hong Kong people should do it step by step, starting with a referendum.

In response, after the duo boarded planes leaving Japan, ViuTV made a statement saying: “The pro-independence speeches not only insulted [China’s] national dignity, but were also deceiving.”

The station said that all clips shot of Wang and Fung will not be used, and it “reserves its legal right to pursue anyone who used or would use the station to advocate Hong Kong independence.”

YouTube video

Pressure from Beijing

Wang returned to Taiwan on Wednesday and issued a counter statement soon after, calling the person who wrote the station’s statement “shameless.”

He said all of the programme’s content was arranged by the channel, including the press event, and that he was only there in coordination with the channel.

“To the channel’s top management: whatever the reason you did this, I think the world will know; it was understandable if [you] came under pressure from Beijing. It’s fine if you quietly pull the episode,” he said. “But lying blatantly and falsely accusing us of holding a press conference without authorisation – this has gone beyond the limit of being a human.”

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Billy Fung and Wang Dan in Japan; Fung signed the book “On the Hong Kong Nation” for Wang. Photo: Facebook/Wang Dan.

‘No ability’

In his second statement, Wang added that in the several days of shooting, the channel did not tell them what they cannot say.

“After we made the speeches, they came out to ‘denounce’ them – this is not only unreasonable, but extremely rude,” he said.

He said he had a good working relationship with the crew, and hoped the channel’s top management will not use the crew as scapegoats. He also demanded that the channel’s top management apologise.

Wang Dan
Photo: Facebook screenshot.

On Thursday, Wang uploaded a photo of the programme’s schedule to his Facebook page, which showed that the press event was planned by the channel.

Fung told Ming Pao that he was only “informed” about the trip’s arrangements.

“I have no ability to arrange [the press] event myself,” he said. He added that the producers had asked for his consent on the itinerary several times before their departure.

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New show Travel With Rivals stars Jasper Tsang and Leung Kwok-hung. Photo: ViuTV screencap, via Facebook.

Previous episodes

It was not the first time the channel invited political figures to be on the show.

Former Legislative Council president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing and lawmaker “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung appeared in the last season of the same programme to romp through Poland, where, among other things, they discussed vodka and love.

The episodes starring Tsang and Leung kickstarted the programme, sparking discussion on social media about their exchanges.

ViuTV’s parent company, PCCW, previously said the company and its owner Richard Li have never supported, and will not support independence for Hong Kong.

The statement came after calls to boycott MOOV, a PCCW service, for pledging to give singer Denise Ho Wan-see “permanent employment.” Chinese tabloid Global Times previously accused Ho of being a supporter of the Hong Kong and Tibetan independence movements, although Ho has rarely spoken about the issue.

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.