Local television station ViuTV has stood by its decision to pull portions of a travel reality show over speeches related to independence by the programme’s guests, saying that it strongly opposes independence for Hong Kong.

On Wednesday, the channel accused exiled mainland dissident Wang Dan and former University of Hong Kong student union president Billy Fung Jing-en of making “improper speeches” at an “unauthorised” luncheon press event, when invited to film the show Travel with rivals. But both Wang and Fung have said on Thursday that the event, at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club Japan in Tokyo on Monday, was in fact arranged by the station.

Later, ViuTV admitted that the programme’s crew originally arranged for the pair to attend a talk at a Japanese university with students, but the plan did not go ahead and was changed to the luncheon press event.

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 independence was not practical, but Hongkongers should do it step-by-step, starting with a referendum.

“However, the station could not foresee the changes brought by changing the format of the event, and did not expect speeches advocating Hong Kong independence in this kind of reality entertainment programme,” the new statement on Thursday read.

“The station strongly opposes Hong Kong independence and anyone using the station to advocate Hong Kong independence,” it added. “Therefore [the station] maintains the decision to not air the footage of the duo that has already been shot.”

File photo: Wikicommons.

Fung had said earlier on Thursday that he believed Hong Kong to be a place with freedom of speech, that he did not agree that there was any problem with discussing Hong Kong independence at the event.

The duo demanded that ViuTV apologise for its false accusation over the event being unauthorised, but the station’s second statement expressed no regret.

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

The second 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

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.