Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK), a government department that enjoyed editorial independence before a draconian national security law banned criticism from authorities in July 2020, has been ordered to cease appointing Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen as chairman.
The broadcaster, which restructured in February to allow a government-appointed committee to oversee its editorial content, was ordered to comply with a memo sent to all editors on July 20, with immediate effect.
“As RTHK is Hong Kong’s public service broadcaster as well as a government department, it must (…) exercise great caution in the use of Taiwan-related terminology in all of its television services, radio and media, ”the document said. mentionned.
He said that journalists are now prohibited from using terms such as “country”, “Republic of China”, “National” or “Legislative Yuan” when reporting on Taiwan, a democratic country of 24. million people that has never been ruled by the Chinese. Communist Party (CCP) nor was part of the People’s Republic of China.
“Under no circumstances should Taiwan be considered or perceived as a sovereign state,” the directive says.
Tsai, who was re-elected in a landslide victory in 2020 on a platform to defend China’s territorial and political claims on Taiwan, should be called a “regional leader,” he said.
The words “government of Taiwan” should be avoided and replaced with “authorities of Taiwan”, he added, while the island’s democratic parliament, the Legislative Yuan, should be called the legislative body of Taiwan, according to the rating.
The changes were necessary to promote “a sense of citizenship and national identity,” the memo reads.
The directive comes after the Hong Kong government announced changes in the editorial chain of command in February, replacing the director of broadcasting and reforming RTHK’s editorial structure to “ensure it complies” with government guidelines .
Career bureaucrat Patrick Li took over from Leung Ka-wing as editor as of March 1.
Managing Director Carrie Lam recently launched her own show on RTHK, in which she interviews pro-Chinese figures on topics that may be approved by Beijing.
Following the restructuring in March, RTHK management announced that the station would broadcast Lam’s daily program four times a day, “to foster a sense of citizenship and national identity.”
Former RTHK host Johnny Lau said the insistence on following the CCP party line on Taiwan was likely to extend beyond the government broadcaster.
“The concept of one country, two systems is becoming more and more blurred,” Lau said, referring to China’s pledge to allow Hong Kong to implement its existing political and judicial arrangements for at least 50 years afterwards. the 1997 transfer of British rule.
“One country, two systems as an ideology will eventually mean applying the mainland Chinese system to Hong Kong,” he said.
Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) chairman Ronson Chan said the directive may just be the start of government micromanaging editorial decisions.
“If they can issue such requirements for information about Taiwan, then they will have requirements for other information in the future,” Chan told RFA. “This can only lead to further restrictions [on journalists]. “
A spokesperson for RTHK said the station is a public service broadcaster and a government department, so its programming must “strictly adhere to the one-China principle”, short for Beijing for its insistence on “l ‘unification’ with Taiwan and its refusal to exclude annexation of the country by force.
The note came after pro-Beijing lawmaker Luk Chung-hung criticized the RTHK on July 16 for referring to Tsai as president.
The station should comply with the CCP’s insistence that Taiwan be designated as a province of China, and its government as a regional government, Luk told reporters.
Freedom of the press “in tatters”
Press freedom in Hong Kong is “in tatters” following the forced closure of the Apple Daily newspaper and the arrests of columnists under the National Security Act, the HKJA said in an annual report last week.
Press freedom in the city has been increasingly affected by political “red lines” established after Beijing imposed its national security law on the city from July 1, 2020, according to the report.
It listed the arrest of pro-democracy media mogul Jimmy Lai for “collusion with foreign powers,” an upcoming law banning “fake news,” government control over RTHK-broadcast content and the arrest of a journalist for searching a public database. for car license plates for a documentary.
He also referred to the forced closure of the Apple Daily after its bank accounts were frozen and its columnists and senior officials were arrested on the same charges as Lai.
The group called on the administration of Hong Kong Managing Director Carrie Lam to suspend the bill banning “fake news” and disinformation, and on the police to stop defining who is a journalist in an attempt to report major public events.
Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.