The staff union of Hong Kong’s public broadcaster has accused the station’s top management of instructing reporters to include incorrect information in a news report about the Sha Tin protest on Sunday.

Following the violent anti-extradition law clashes, multiple media outlets – including RTHK – cited police sources in reporting that an officer’s finger had been bitten off, whilst another officer’s finger had been cut off by a protester using a pair of pliers.

protester police baton factwire
A protester grabbing a baton from a police officer. Photo: FactWire.

Although one officer’s finger was bitten off, the claim about the use of pliers was false. According to analysis in a FactWire report, protesters were – instead – holding a baton taken from an officer, and no-one had been injured with pliers.

The RTHK Programme Staff Union wrote to the broadcaster’s top management on Wednesday stating that that Wong Kam-fung – the station’s head of Chinese news and current affairs – had instructed staff to report that “officers’ fingers were bitten off and cut off using a pair of pliers” as a factual statement rather than a police claim.

The union said it received complaints from the public saying that their report was false and misleading, causing confusion and chaos: “Screenshots of the report’s text version online have been spread widely, harming the credibility of our station’s news [output],” the union said.


Posted by 香港電台節目製作人員工會 RTHK Programme Staff Union on Tuesday, 16 July 2019

The union demanded the station’s management explain who received the police tip-off, how they verified the claim, why the station chose not to report the information as a police claim, and how similar incidents could be avoided in the future.

According to RTHK, the Director of Broadcasting Leung Ka-wing said in response that he had looked into the matter with the acting deputy director and the head of the news department.

RTHK. File photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

He said that the news department handled relevant news reports with professionalism, and tried to verify the news through different means. He said news sources would not be revealed on the basis of media discipline.

He added that corrections were made in an appropriate time after the news department received the latest information.

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.