RTHK has banned its staff from live broadcasting pro-independence activist Andy Chan’s talk at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club next week.

The public broadcaster’s top management held a regular meeting on Thursday where the issue of the controversial talk was discussed. Head of RTHK Leung Ka-wing, who just received a three-year extension, ordered a ban on broadcasts of the talk during the meeting, saying that the station cannot provide a platform for Hong Kong independence, Apple Daily reported citing unnamed sources.

There was opposition to Leung’s order at the meeting, Leung reportedly said: “you can blame [it] on me.”

Leung Ka-wing
Leung Ka-wing. Photo: Citizen News.

Amen Ng, head of corporate communications at RTHK, confirmed to Apple Daily that Leung had issued a “reminder” that RTHK as a public broadcaster cannot provide a platform for anyone to promote Hong Kong independence. RTHK cannot broadcast or re-broadcast Chan’s talk if Chan mentions independence, he said.

Ng told the newspaper that the content of Chan’s talk was still uncertain, “but very likely it will be about Hong Kong independence.”

“It is not about the person, but about Hong Kong independence,” she told the newspaper.

On July 21, Chan was invited to, and appeared on, RTHK’s City Forum programme to talk about the potential ban on his Hong Kong National Party by the government.

RTHK. File photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

HKFP first reported last Friday that the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Hong Kong had attempted to block Chan from speaking at a luncheon talk next Tuesday, entitled “Hong Kong Nationalism: A Politically Incorrect Guide to Hong Kong under Chinese Rule.”

The event introduction said that Chan will talk about his vision for a future Hong Kong nation: “The talk will cover a brief history of the Party, and touch on what Mr. Chan feels it means to be at the helm of a movement trying to construct a national identity for Hong Kong, and his reaction to the strong pushback from the government faced by his party.”

High news value

The RTHK Programme Staff Union said Leung’s order was that they can record the speech, but it must be edited afterwards.

The union said Chan’s issue received attention from local and international media and has high news value. It said RTHK should provide a platform for expression of opinion without fear and bias, but the order has put pressure upon the staff.

“The event is not only Chan’s speech, but it also has a Q&A session. It is very important to let the public understand the issue from different angles and to protect the public’s right to know by presenting the instant interaction,” it said.

‘Selectively censor’

Andy Chan told HKFP that Leung’s order violated press freedom. He said the public and the international world should have the right to know what he will talk about, and whether it should be broadcast should depend on news value.

“If RTHK, as the official media, selectively censor news on the basis of a political stance, is the Hong Kong government conducting a brainwashing scheme?” he told HKFP.

Andy Chan Ho-tin
Andy Chan Ho-tin. File Photo: inmediahk.net.

Former chief executive Leung Chun-ying, now a state leader, has compared the event to giving terrorists a platform.

Former Legislative Council president Jasper Tsang also weighed in and questioned why the FCC invited Chan to speak, saying that the club would know that it will be seen as a hostile and political provocation by the Chinese government.

Clarification 10.8: The article has been updated to clarify that RTHK’s ban relates to the live broadcasting of Chan’s speech.

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.