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Hong Kong Radio Host-Politician Accuses China of Intimidation - 2004-05-27


A Hong Kong radio host and politician has accused China of pressuring him to quit for making anti-Beijing comments on the air in the latest case of alleged media intimidation. Some are concerned that China is cracking down on freedom of speech in the territory.

Allen Lee, a radio host and veteran politician, told Hong Kong lawmakers Thursday he was forced to quit his radio job after Chinese officials warned him that Beijing's top leadership had "strong opinions" about his pro-democracy views.

Mr. Lee was hosting an early morning show called Teacup in a Storm, whose previous host also resigned, citing threats.

Mr. Lee says that in addition to being approached by mainland officials, he received a phone call meant to intimidate him and his family. He says he quit as a "preventive measure."

Mr. Lee also resigned as a member of China's National People's Congress. The NPC is the Chinese legislature, but it wields little power in setting policy independent of the Communist Party.

Mr. Lee is the third Hong Kong radio commentator to leave his job in recent weeks. All cited pressure from Beijing, and the two other commentators are alleging threats to their personal safety.

One pro-Beijing politician is dismissing Mr. Lee's claims, saying there is no proof China is behind the alleged threats.

The three commentators support universal suffrage for Hong Kong people. Beijing recently ruled out the possibility of direct elections for Hong Kong's next leader in 2007 and for all lawmakers in 2008.

A senior mainland Communist Party official visited Hong Kong this week on a goodwill tour. Liu Yandong's visit is seen as Beijing's attempt to soothe Hong Kong's dissatisfaction over the universal suffrage issue. She says all problems will be solved with mutual cooperation and she urges all Hong Kong people to work together.

The radio resignations have left some Hong Kong people worried about civil liberties. On Thursday, hundreds of academics took out a full-page newspaper advertisement expressing alarm over threats to freedom of speech in the territory.

Also on Thursday, China pledged a nationwide probe of human rights violations by government officials. Official news media reported that the China will investigate crimes such as police torture, extorted confession, illegal detention and interference with citizen's voting rights.

The investigation comes after rights group Amnesty International reported that China has done little to improve human rights in the past year and that treatment of ethnic minorities has worsened.

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