Hong Kong public broadcaster RTHK launches probe over show segment featuring June 4 vigil organisers marking Tiananmen crackdown

·3-min read

Hong Kong’s public broadcaster has launched a probe into an unapproved addition to a television programme showing June 4 vigil organisers commemorating the Tiananmen Square crackdown, warning those held responsible could face disciplinary action and may need to pay the production costs.

RTHK chief Patrick Li Pak-chuen issued the warning on Tuesday after the station deleted from its archive and online platform a segment of the Legco Review show on the grounds it was irrelevant and not approved for broadcast. The programme aired last Friday and the section featured vigil organisers running a marathon to mark June 4.

Li told a Legislative Council panel meeting the programme’s production would be outsourced while the production team had been transferred to other duties until the investigation had ended.

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“We discovered there was a segment being added to the end of the programme without the approval of our editorial committee. The unapproved content deviated from our editorial management mechanism,” he told lawmakers.

Marathon commemorating Tiananmen crackdown proceeds in diminished form

Li, a career bureaucrat who replaced veteran journalist Leung Ka-wing as director of broadcasting in March, warned those responsible could face civil service punishment and cost implications.

“We take this investigation seriously. Those held responsible will be handled by the civil service mechanism and may face disciplinary action,” he said. “If misuse of public funds is involved, we could invoke the Public Finance Ordinance, so the responsible staff might have to pay compensation to the government.”

The images showed Richard Tsoi Yiu-cheong, secretary of vigil organiser the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, and three core members running in the alliance’s annual marathon to commemorate the crackdown.

RTHK established a new mechanism for editorial management in March. Photo: SCMP
RTHK established a new mechanism for editorial management in March. Photo: SCMP

The candlelight vigil in Victoria Park has been the only large-scale public commemoration of the crackdown held on Chinese soil.

But the event planned this year to mark Tiananmen’s 32nd anniversary would be the first since Beijing imposed its sweeping national security law on Hong Kong last June.

Since Li took the helm at RTHK on March 1, the station has axed several shows it considered biased or inaccurate.

The editorial committee was formed as the broadcaster established a new mechanism for editorial management in March. Its membership comprises Li and senior management.

The committee is tasked with reviewing contentious shows before allowing them to go on air while production staff need to submit programme plans for approval at the early stage of planning.

Asked by lawmaker Chan Kin-por if he would go overboard in reforming the broadcaster, Li insisted only three shows had been pulled but they were completed before the vetting mechanism was introduced.

In other instances, he said, the editing was carried out as normal during programme production.

Li pledged to set out a comprehensive set of editorial policies and guidelines to ensure programmes complied with RTHK’s charter, which required shows to be balanced, objective and impartial. He also said he sought to produce more programmes promoting the “one country, two systems” principle and Hongkongers’ understanding of China.

“We have to produce these shows under RTHK’s charter. These topics may not attract a lot of viewership, but we have a responsibility as a public broadcaster and we must produce them,” Li said.

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