Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam said on Tuesday that RTHK must uphold “One Country, Two Systems,” after a minister condemned a journalist’s question about Taiwan during an interview with a World Health Organisation (WHO) adviser.

At a media briefing before the Executive Council meeting, Lam said that – as a public broadcaster and government department – RTHK could not claim immunity and fail to observe the “important and fundamental” principle of upholding the “One Country,Two Systems.”

Carrie Lam April 7 2020
Carrie Lam in a media briefing on April 7th. Photo: inmediahk.net.

“Even as a public broadcaster, in the charter for RTHK, there are very clear appliance of its public broadcaster role in deepening the Hong Kong people’s understanding of One Country, Two Systems’, so these are clear parameters of regulating the operation of RTHK,” Lam said.

Lam’s remarks came after RTHK’s The Pulse released an interview with WHO adviser Bruce Aylward on March 28. 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.

Bruce Aylward
The World Health Organization’s assistant director-general Bruce Aylward (right). Photo: RTHK screenshot.

Last Thursday, Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau condemned the programme, saying that RTHK had breached the One-China principle and its duties as a public broadcaster.

“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,” a statement issued on behalf of Yau read.

Lam supported the criticism made by Yau: “I certainly endorse and support the stance and position of Secretary Edward Yau.” She added the minister and the Director of Broadcasting Leung Ka-wing would appear at the special finance committee meeting at the Legislative Council on Monday to give further explanation on the matter.

Cédric Alviani, Reporters Without Borders East Asia bureau head, condemned the government’s criticism: “The charter of RTHK clearly contains abusive dispositions and should be immediately revised… The purpose of a public media is, in the interest of the public, to investigate and report facts independently from any political or economic pressure and not to assist the authorities in promoting government messages.”

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Taiwan has been ruled by the Republic of China government since 1945 after Japan — which occupied the island for 50 years — was defeated in the Second World War. The People’s Republic of China claims that Taiwan is one of its provinces and does not recognise it as an independent country.

Kelly Ho has an interest in local politics, education and sports. She formerly worked at South China Morning Post Young Post, where she specialised in reporting on issues related to Hong Kong youth. She has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong, with a second major in Politics and Public Administration.