Hong Kong’s commerce minister Edward Yau has accused public service broadcaster RTHK of breaching the “One China” policy after one of its journalists pressed the World Health Organization’s Bruce Aylward on Taiwan’s status.

Last Saturday, RTHK’s The Pulse programme released an interview with Aylward, where the physician-epidemiologist appeared to pretend not to hear producer Yvonne Tong’s question about whether the UN body would reconsider Taiwan’s membership. When asked a second time, Aylward ended the video call.

The World Health Organization’s top adviser Bruce Aylward (right). Photo: RTHK screenshot.

The Commerce and Economic Development Bureau released a statement on behalf of Yau on Thursday calling on RTHK’s director Leung Ka-wing to be held responsible for deviating from its Charter.

“The Secretary holds the view that the presentation in that episode of the aforesaid programme has breached the One-China Principle and the purposes and mission of RTHK as a public service broadcaster as specified in the Charter,” it read.

“It is common knowledge that the WHO membership is based on sovereign states. RTHK, as a government department and a public service broadcaster, should have [a] proper understanding of the above without any deviation. As the Editor-in-chief of RTHK, the Director of Broadcasting should be responsible for this.”

Taiwan has been ruled by the Republic of China government since 1945, but Beijing insists the island is part of its territory and pressures other countries and international bodies to follow its “One China” policy. Taiwan is excluded from the WHO, though participated in the World Health Assembly – the body’s annual policy meeting – between 2009 to 2016.

The interview was about covid-19, which has infected more than 939,400 people globally. Over 47,200 have died from it, but Taiwan has been praised for its efforts to combat the outbreak, such as imposing strict travel and quarantine measures.

See also: UN aviation body blocks users who raise issue of Taiwan’s inclusion on Twitter

Aylward has regularly featured in Chinese state media praising Beijing for its pandemic response after he led a WHO mission to the country during the outbreak.

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Jennifer Creery

Jennifer Creery is a Hong Kong-born British journalist, interested in minority rights and urban planning. She holds a BA in English at King's College London and has studied Mandarin at National Taiwan University.