HONG KONG — The head of Radio Television Hong Kong said Monday that he will seek early retirement “as soon as possible” to avoid further damage to the pubcaster from an incident that has the hallmarks of a sex scandal.
On Thursday night photographers spotted Chu Pui-hing, who is married, emerging from a karaoke bar with his arm around a woman and holding a wig in his other hand.
Chu reacted by hiding behind his companion, then locked himself in a toilet. Meanwhile, the woman posed for cameras and identified herself as Coco, a former dancer from mainland China.
Chu apologized Friday for his “inappropriate behavior.” Since then he has said that he has the full support of his wife and family and lyrically added, “Like flowing water under bridges, it all shall pass. When you look back, you wouldn’t even know where the water is.”
But he also acknowledged the potential for damage to RTHK, which he has headed for the 10 years since the handover of the former British colony back to China.
On Monday, he decided that the scandal would not blow over.
“For the benefit of the organization, I think the strife must end now without further entanglement,” Chu said. “Originally, I planned to retire in 10 months. However, the time to say goodbye has come much earlier.”
His resignation leaves the pubcaster weakened at a time when it is already fighting for survival.
An independent review panel in March found that the territory needed an independent pubcaster but not the 72-year-old RTHK. The panel also said the new entity should not be linked to the org, which it called bureaucratic. describing its work practices as difficult.
In that case RTHK would be reduced to the status of a government mouthpiece.
The panel said the future pubcaster should have radio channels and be granted its own TV channel instead of airing programs on commercial stations, as RTHK does now.
If the panel’s recommendations are taken up by Hong Kong’s recently reappointed chief executive, Donald Tsang, and his new cabinet, the measures are expected to take 18-24 months to put into effect.
With $52 million in government funding annually, RTHK has been in the crosshairs of both pro- and anti-Beijing groups.
It has regularly been accused by the pro-Beijing camp of not doing enough to champion government policies and for sometimes taking political stances despite its status as a civil service department.
Last week the Hong Kong Journalists Assn. issued a report saying that it believed press freedom had deteriorated in Hong Kong in the 10 years since handover. The journalists blamed self-censorship and tighter government controls on the flow of information.