Last Friday, the Hong Kong Government published a review report on the public broadcaster Radio Television Hong Kong, criticizing the editorial management system of RTHK for its deficiencies, and the Director of Broadcasting, Mr. Leung Ka-wing, announced the early termination of his contract, with an Administrative Officer with no journalistic experience taking over the helm of RTHK, coupled with the Budget announced on Wednesday to cut the budget of RTHK by more than 4%, the pro-democracy camp criticized the Hong Kong Government for “drying up RTHK”. “.
The former chairman of the Hong Kong Journalists Association, Mr. Mak Yin-ting, criticized the Hong Kong government’s review report for being unfair, saying that the Hong Kong government had withdrawn editorial independence and turned RTHK into an ordinary government department, or even an “official mouthpiece”.
In addition, after the “Hong Kong version of the National Security Law” came into effect, a number of news stations in Hong Kong had senior personnel changes, and freedom of the press was greatly affected.
Hong Kong Business and Economic Development Bureau last Friday (February 19), published a report on the review of the governance and management of the public broadcaster Radio Television Hong Kong, criticizing the governance and management of RTHK in six areas of problems; including the lack of editorial management system, weak sense of accountability; did not take the initiative to seek advice from the Board of Advisors on program standards and quality, recommended strengthening the role of the Director of Broadcasting as the editor-in-chief of RTHK, strengthen the editorial Governance, “must report system”.
The Hong Kong government report criticized the lack of RTHK management budget was also cut
The Hong Kong government announced at the same Time, originally scheduled to expire in August this year, the Director of Broadcasting Leung Ka-wing, five months early termination of contract, replaced by the Deputy Secretary for Home Affairs Lee Pak-chuen, all without journalistic experience, he is the second political officer parachuted into the helm of Radio Television Hong Kong after Deng Neng Guang. During his tenure as deputy secretary of the Home Affairs Bureau, Li Baiquan was in charge of national Education, youth and religious affairs.
Hong Kong Financial Secretary Paul Chan released a new budget on Wednesday (Feb. 24), cutting RTHK’s spending by 4.57 percent, from HK$1.043 billion (about $135 million) for the previous year to HK$995 million (about $128 million), an expenditure reduction of nearly HK$48 million (more than $6.2 million).
Democratic Party concerned about RTHK spending cuts
Democratic Party Chairman Luo Jianxi said at a press conference on Wednesday that the Hong Kong government’s report criticized the lack of governance of RTHK and then cut RTHK’s expenditure, he believes that the Hong Kong government’s approach is problematic and deserves the attention of all sectors.
Luo Jianxi said: “whether to cut people (RTHK) after the expenditure, next year and again can be criticized, you cut spending after you have no way to do a good quality of the program, your outsourcing (work) and continue to serious, in fact, will be week after week, and then is not enough resources to RTHK to do some of the work they want to do, this part we see the government to deal with Hong Kong and Taiwan that way, are very problematic.”
Tam Man Ho criticized the Hong Kong government for “drying up” RTHK
For the Hong Kong Government to cut the expenditure of RTHK but maintain the same number of program hours, the Civic Party Vice Chairman, former Legislative Council Member Tam Man Ho criticized the Hong Kong Government to find ways to “dry” RTHK. He believes that the Hong Kong government continues to narrow the red line “tighten” the freedom of Hong Kong people.
Tam Man Ho said: “See RTHK face unprecedented suppression, that is, in fact, every year is trying to find ways how to ‘dry’ RTHK, and now change (broadcasting) Director, and see some journalists do not renew the contract with him, these step by step are to see it (Hong Kong Government) do so, and now to cut spending again. In fact, not surprised, because this so-called narrowing or these red lines, will only continue to go ‘tighten’ Hong Kong people.”
Mak Yin-ting criticized the elimination of RTHK editorial independence to become the official mouthpiece
The former chairman of the Hong Kong Journalists Association and former interview director of Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK), Mr. Mak Yin-ting, said in an interview with the Voice of America that the government’s review report on RTHK was unfair, and that the problems mentioned in the report, including a weak sense of accountability, would be found in other government departments, which she believed was an excuse to blame RTHK.
Then talk about what other complaint mechanisms, simply speak to all ‘laughing dead But these will become some excuses for them (Hong Kong Government) to blame RTHK.”
The government’s report mentioned that it would not abolish the RTHK Charter, and that the Board of Advisors appointed by the Chief Executive should only listen to RTHK’s reports and provide advice on certain guidelines.
In the eyes of the Hong Kong government, this is a move to “set things right” by turning RTHK into an ordinary government department, or even an “official mouthpiece”, and therefore appointing an Administrative Officer with no journalistic experience at all to take over RTHK. Therefore, the appointment of an Administrative Officer with no experience in journalism to take over RTHK, fully implement the official instructions.
Mak Yin-ting said: “See the whole report and personnel (appointment), simply put, is to eliminate the editorial independence of RTHK, to it back to a (government) department. But of course some people say, in fact, RTHK now only two ways, one way is that you might as well ‘fold buried’ (end) it, that is, the so-called ‘honorable closure’, than now ‘lingering’ It is better to become an ‘official mouthpiece’. But if you stand in the government’s shoes, I believe the government will not want to end RTHK, because when there is such a good ‘mouthpiece’ to use, why it has to go to set up another agency, may make people question, even you have to do it again from scratch? So I think RTHK is likely to be more and more into a really ‘official mouthpiece’.”
Mak Yin-ting said she heard her old colleagues who are still working in RTHK reflect to her that although the new Director of Broadcasting Lee Pak-chuen has not yet assumed office, but the staff of RTHK already have self-censorship in handling news.
Mak Yin-ting said: “(RTHK) old colleagues have said, in fact, they themselves are much tighter prudence. You think about it, are not yet working, that is, the new Director of Broadcasting Li Bai all not yet working, we will already self-censorship, including is that these things can not broadcast, those can not say, that is, that kind of self-censorship has not need to wait for Li Baiquan to work already exist, so you can imagine the future of that situation will be what.”
Beijing implements national security law before and after the collection of official media
Reporters asked to 2019 after the anti-sending in the movement, Beijing has continued to declare its full right of governance over Hong Kong, last year began a number of news stations in Hong Kong there are senior personnel changes, including Now News Channel, Cable News Channel, including recently with the People’s Liberation Army background of Phoenix Satellite Television also rumored a major personnel changes in management, will be replaced by the party secretary and CCTV background, whether this situation reflects the overall narrowing of Beijing Hong Kong’s freedom of the press.
Mak Yin-ting said that before and after the National Security Law came into effect at the end of June last year, two mainstream electronic media in Hong Kong, including Now News Channel and Cable News Channel, have already seen senior personnel changes. She believes this is a step towards Beijing taking full control of Hong Kong’s media in line with the introduction of the National Security Law, which has now begun to integrate the official electronic media, a situation that has greatly affected press freedom.
The government has started to collect (edit) after the commercial media, and then started to collect (edit) some official institutions, including Radio Television Hong Kong, including the Phoenix Satellite Television you just mentioned,” said Mai Yan Ting. Because we all know that Phoenix TV actually has half of the funds, the original is from the Chinese sector, so in fact it (Beijing) are simple, that is, it (Beijing) will collect (edit) after the commercial collection of official those, that is, the official inside if they (Beijing) feel (is) unstable factors, it will be replaced to strengthen that control, this is comprehensive control, gradually to implement. So you can see that freedom of the press in Hong Kong, in terms of traditional media will certainly appear you just said the situation, is very difficult to operate effectively.”
Hong Kong media is not easy to be completely controlled by Beijing
Mak Yin-ting said that in recent years, Hong Kong journalists in order to break through Beijing’s control of the mainstream media, a large number of new online media development, but she believes that it will cause the development of social polarization, and the pro-Beijing online media and KOL (net red) also continue to develop, the real and fake news on the Internet to make the audience difficult to distinguish.
According to Mak, Hong Kong has always been an international city and the media cannot be easily controlled by Beijing.
Hong Kong will not be so soon like mainland China, it (the government) will be completely shut down,” said McYantyn. Because Hong Kong is always an international city, Hong Kong people’s education level is high, he is exposed to a lot of international news, he will not be so easy as (China) mainland people, so easy to accept the government that set of statements. Of course, this process will have an impact, that is, there will be some so-called mutual resistance, so in the coming period of time, we see these protests will continue. Because Hong Kong people already have the concept, or they find the way to information is not going to change all of a sudden, it is foreseeable that these disputes will continue for a period of time, I also believe that some people are willing to maintain the core values of Hong Kong people will continue to work hard in this area.”
Poll says 61% of respondents believe press freedom has become worse
The Hong Kong Institute of Public Opinion Research (HKIPOR) released on Friday (February 26) the results of a new online poll conducted from February 18 to 22, which showed that 61% of the 6,258 respondents believed that press freedom in Hong Kong has become worse after the national security law comes into effect in July 2020.
The Hong Kong Journalists Association issued a statement last Friday (Feb. 19) in response to the Hong Kong government’s review report on the governance and management of RTHK, saying the report recommended strengthening editorial governance of RTHK. The statement said that RTHK is both a government department and a public broadcaster, but also a radio station serving Hong Kong people, editorial independence is extremely important, otherwise it will be reduced to an official mouthpiece, unable to fulfill the role of the fourth power to monitor the government.
The HKJA is extremely concerned about the contents of the report, especially now that the freedom of the press in Hong Kong is becoming increasingly narrow, the Association is worried that the recommendations of the report will make the only remaining editorial independence of RTHK become extinct.