Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam says new RTHK boss is meeting her expectations

Nadia Lam
·4-min read

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has said the newly appointed chief of RTHK is meeting her expectations, in an endorsement of the career bureaucrat who has faced accusations of lacking journalistic experience and interfering with the editorial independence of production teams.

RTHK has axed at least three shows it considered biased or inaccurate since veteran journalist Leung Ka-wing was replaced on March 1 by Patrick Li Pak-chuen as director of broadcasting.

RTHK takes current affairs documentary off air, while popular talk show has also been suspended

Speaking ahead of a meeting with her cabinet on Tuesday, Lam said that Li – as editor-in-chief of the station and responsible for its output conforming to rules and regulations – had taken a “very cautious” approach.

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“I have to recognise what he has done. Since taking office, he has been very conscientious and doing exactly what I expect from a chief editor of RTHK,” Lam said.

“RTHK is a public broadcaster which has over the years produced programmes which we all love. But RTHK is also a public department, whether it is a government department or a public broadcaster, it has to follow rules and regulations,” she said.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam. Photo: K. Y. Cheng
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam. Photo: K. Y. Cheng

The latest programme that was axed was this week’s episode of Hong Kong Connection featuring Syzygia, a Chinese University student union which disbanded after management accused it of breaching the national security law.

The other two shows RTHK said were pulled in a statement on Monday were an episode of Hong Kong Stories in which hip-hop group LMF was expected to take part and LegCo Review, a talk show centred on Hong Kong’s controversial electoral reform.

Rise and fall of RTHK boss who tried and failed to serve two masters

“The topics featured in the programmes concerned were contentious, while the programmes were not impartial, unbiased and accurate, and therefore did not comply with the requirements stipulated in the charter or the guidelines,” RTHK said.

It also added that some shows had failed to accurately depict the national security law and electoral reform.

Li, who was a deputy secretary for home affairs before joining RTHK, had earlier said he would ask employees to submit ideas and plans for shows ahead of production to make sure the station’s governing charter was being strictly observed.

The RTHK Programme Staff Union said it was never given a reason for the pulling of certain shows, such as whether there was a problem with the use of language, the interviewee’s opinions, or the footage itself.

Director of broadcasting at RTHK, Patrick Li. Photo: Felix Wong
Director of broadcasting at RTHK, Patrick Li. Photo: Felix Wong

It said the Hong Kong Connection episode was pulled on Monday after the production team had submitted its proposal.

The union also accused the broadcaster of axing the programme even before some of the members of its editorial committee had watched it, and questioned who had the authority to make the decision.

A board of advisers previously appointed by the government to review RTHK’s operations said they understood the broadcaster’s moves but urged it to explain the decisions to the public.

Government report slams RTHK, accuses it of lack of editorial accountability

The board said in a statement that its chairman, Lam Tai-fai, was confident Li would set a good example and lead the management in strengthening the monitoring work.

It added the broadcaster had undertaken to produce new programmes “engendering national identity and knowledge about Chinese culture among the public”.

The board also suggested RTHK produce programmes on matters of national development, such as the 14th five-year plan, and Hong Kong issues such as the electoral reform.

RTHK under siege: should it be a public broadcaster or government mouthpiece?

The public broadcaster has been repeatedly thrust into the spotlight since the social unrest that rocked Hong Kong in 2019, with pro-establishment figures accusing it of siding with protesters against the government and police.

The government previously ordered a probe into its operations. In a subsequent damning report published earlier this month, a government-appointed panel accused the broadcaster of poor management, and Li was named to the post on the same day.

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