FIRED FOR VIEWS ON BEI­JING: RA­DIO HOST

National Post (National Edition) - - Front Page - TOM BLACK­WELL

A talk-show host on a ma­jor Chi­nese-lan­guage ra­dio sta­tion in On­tario says he was fired be­cause of his on-air treat­ment of a pro-Bei­jing com­mu­nity leader, adding to con­cerns about bias in Chi­nese-Cana­dian me­dia out­lets.

Ken­neth Yau said Fairchild Ra­dio’s AM1430 sta­tion let him go as an un­paid guest host last Fri­day, telling him his on-air style was “too loud.”

Yau al­leged the dis­missal re­ally stems from the crit­i­cal stance he some­times took to­ward China, which he said made him unique among the sta­tion’s com­men­ta­tors.

The dis­missal came af­ter a heated in­ter­view a week ago with Si­mon Zhong, head of the Toronto Com­mu­nity and Cul­ture Cen­tre and con­sid­ered a China ally. Yau said he was press­ing Zhong to ex­plain how he could both be “100 per cent Cana­dian” and also re­spect the Chi­nese Com­mu­nist Party.

The Sept. 30 ex­change led to a flood of com­plaints to the Toronto ra­dio sta­tion from pro-China lis­ten­ers, he said, and a few days later, he was told he wasn’t wel­come back.

Yau, 53, said he has also chal­lenged Bei­jing’s stance on the Hong Kong protests — prompt­ing threats from lis­ten­ers to kill his fam­ily and rape his daugh­ter — and de­fended Canada’s ar­rest of a Huawei Tech­nolo­gies ex­ec­u­tive.

“There’s only one host who talks about China and Hong Kong, what’s hap­pen­ing in Hong Kong, and talks about China and the U.S. trade war, and also talks about the Huawei CFO case,” Yau said. “Only I talk about that.”

He ar­gued the sta­tion feels pres­sure both from ad­ver­tis­ers with con­nec­tions to China and rel­a­tively re­cent im­mi­grants who grew up on the main­land un­der Com­mu­nist rule and are more loyal to the regime than those who came ear­lier from places such as Hong Kong.

But Fairchild said pol­i­tics had noth­ing to do with the de­ci­sion to bar Yau, who’s also a graphic de­signer, from its air­waves. It called him a guest, not a guest host.

“Pro­tect­ing free­dom of speech has been one of our com­pany’s ob­jec­tives,” said Louisa Lam, AM1430’s news and cur­rent af­fairs man­ager. “The Sept. 30 in­ci­dent is all about his rude at­ti­tude to­wards other guest speaker and lost his tem­per when be­ing on air, ab­so­lutely has noth­ing to do with his po­lit­i­cal stand­point. … His be­hav­iour went against our cor­po­rate style and im­age. In fact, we’ve re­ceived lots of com­plaints about his at­ti­tude and tone in the said pro­gram on Sept 30.”

Lam said Yau is not a guest “for the time be­ing” while his case is re­viewed.

The in­ci­dent un­der­scores what many Chi­nese Cana­di­ans see as a trou­bling real­ity: most of the me­dia cater­ing to their com­mu­nity are loath to say any­thing crit­i­cal of Bei­jing.

That in­cludes self-cen­sor­ing top­ics con­sid­ered taboo by the Chi­nese govern­ment, such as dis­crim­i­na­tion against the Falun Gong and hu­man rights in Ti­bet.

“If I men­tioned the Dalai Lama in a story, I’d be fired,” says one Toronto-area jour­nal­ist at a ma­jor Chi­nese-lan­guage me­dia out­let.

Con­tro­versy erupted in Van­cou­ver last month when a host on Fairchild’s AM1740 sta­tion there, Anita Lee, ap­peared to have been let go af­ter ex­press­ing sup­port for pro­test­ers in Hong Kong. That in­cluded play­ing Glory to Hong Kong, the rous­ing an­them of free­dom, democ­racy and hu­man rights adopted by the demon­stra­tors.

Lee later re­turned to the air af­ter a bar­rage of com­plaints, with Fairchild re­port­edly say­ing she had sim­ply left to spend more time with her chil­dren. Sta­tion spokes­peo­ple could not be reached for com­ment.

Di­vi­sions in the com­mu­nity and their im­pact on the me­dia, though, have also played out the other way. An­other Fairchild com­men­ta­tor re­signed from AM1740 re­cently in the wake of com­plaints from lis­ten­ers about his on-air crit­i­cism of the Hong Kong pro­test­ers.

Yau’s sup­port­ers, in­clud­ing Hong Kong democ­racy ad­vo­cate Teddy Ng, all ar­gue that the con­ver­sa­tion with Zhong on AM1430 was noth­ing un­usual, just an in­ter­viewer be­ing per­sis­tent and tough.

“Peo­ple have free­dom to talk, peo­ple have free­dom to ask,” said lis­tener Es­ther Chan, who also protested Yau’s fir­ing. “If we don’t agree with each other, that should not be a rea­son to fire some­one.”

Zhong had a slightly dif­fer­ent ver­sion of the Sept. 30 in­ter­view, say­ing he told Yau he be­lieved both in Cana­dian and Chi­nese peo­ple’s values, but that Yau kept press­ing him to spell out his views about the Chi­nese Com­mu­nist Party.

“Mr. Yau is not po­lite to me,” Zhong said, but sug­gested the in­ci­dent alone didn’t jus­tify dis­miss­ing him. “Fairchild fired him, it’s not my busi­ness. It’s a de­ci­sion they make, not that I make.”

Ken­neth Yau

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