World

Host on Chinese-language station in Toronto says he was fired for criticizing Beijing

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.

We’ve received lots of complaints about his attitude and tone in the said program on Sept 30

Louisa Lam, AM1430 news and current affairs manager

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.


Red security tape covers the protest-damaged screen of an advertising lightbox at a subway station in Hong Kong on Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2019.

Chan Long Hei/Bloomberg

The Sept. 30 exchange led to a flood of complaints to the Toronto 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.

If I mentioned the Dalai Lama in a story, I’d be fired

Anonymous journalist

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 September 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.


Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama (C) arrives for a prayer offering at a temple in McLeod Ganj on September 13, 2019.

LOBSANG WANGYAL/AFP/Getty Images

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.

Most famously, the editor of the pro-Beijing Chinese Canadian Post, Helen Wang, said she was fired in 2015 for running a commentary by freelance writer Jonathan Fon that was critical of then Ontario MPP Michael Chan. Chan had accused the Canadian Security Intelligence Service of casting suspicion over all Chinese Canadians after the spy agency suggested he was under the influence of the Chinese government.

“I would say most of the Chinese (Canadian) media are pro-China,” said Rode Chow, a Toronto-based communications-equipment salesman who complained to Fairchild about Yau’s dismissal. “There are some newspapers … occasionally when I browse through them, you could easily smell it’s on one side and it’s like a propaganda machine. You don’t have to put a few hours into reading it to tell.”

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.”

 

Show More

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Close