A dig too far for radio shock jock

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The Independent Online
COMPARED to Albert Cheng, Hong Kong's most famous radio talk-show host, Jeremy Paxman is a pussycat. But Mr Cheng's fangs have been drawn following a libel case involving a fellow radio loudmouth, a lawyer called Paul Tse.

Democratic government is limited in Hong Kong, but there is still plenty of free speech, and shows such as Mr Cheng's "Storm in a Teacup", which attracts more listeners than any other radio programme in the territory, are among the main outlets. Mr Tse, however, used to run him close. The lawyer, alone in the profession for putting his face on advertisements in the underground railway offering cheap divorces, hosted a show called "Justice and Compassion" until it was taken off the air. Its crime was to discuss a sub-judice legal case involving the will of Tang Wing-cheung, Hong Kong's most famous Cantonese opera star.

Mr Tse lives with Pamela Pak, host of a forthright radio sex chat show which has also been axed. The flamboyant Mr Cheng, popularly known as Taipan ("big boss") who often appears in a white suit and bow-tie, is married to a former Miss Hong Kong runner-up.

The case which brought them to court is very complicated, but a jury found Mr Cheng guilty of libelling Mr Tse by suggesting the lawyer gave biased and self-interested advice to a client. The legal issues took second place, however, to the conflict between the judge and Hong Kong's leading "shock jock". Not only was he repeatedly reprimanded for playing to the public gallery and calling his opponent "beady-eyed", he was fined for contempt and forced to apologise to the court on the air. His offence was to discuss the case on his show, where he sought to explain his comments about Mr Tse.

Emerging from court at the end of last week, Mr Cheng was asked whether he rejected the judge's comments in convicting him of contempt. Usually defendants are firmly warned by their counsel to keep silent, but no one can gag Mr Cheng. "I do not agree [with the comment]," he replied, before wondering aloud: "Can I reject them?"

The talk-show host and his radio station now face a hefty bill, but the suspicion lingers that they are not too perturbed about the publicity. As for Mr Tse, he is delighted to be back in the limelight. "Everyone has gained something out of this experience," he said.