A Hong Kong government-appointed board of advisers has said that public broadcaster RTHK needs to embrace and explain the impending national security legislation from Beijing, as well as help Hongkongers’ nurture their civic and national identities.

The board met with Director of Broadcasting Leung Ka-wing on Wednesday, at the first meeting of a working group established last month to review RTHK’s governance and management. It came after a series of controversies surrounding the station’s programming, including satirical show Headliner and opinion show Pentaprism, which have been slammed as “insulting” police and “inciting” hatred towards the force.

RTHK. File photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

After the meeting, board chairman Eugene Chan told reporters that RTHK has been advised to make programmes to help citizens “fully understand” the intention of Beijing’s resolution to punish secession, subversion, terrorism and foreign interference in Hong Kong.

Chan said the public broadcaster should discuss the national security legislation “positively” and let citizens form a “correct understanding” of the draft law. He denied the board had “exerted pressure” on RTHK, saying no instructions on programme production have been given from the advisers to the station.

“If we are having a new law, everybody should understand. I won’t use the word ‘promote,’ I will use the word embrace,” Chan said.

He added: “As the director and deputy director have said, RTHK is kind of a little mirror of what the Hong Kong society is, and I think it is the most appropriate platform that all those controversies and views can be fully explored.”

Eugene Chan. Photo: RTHK screenshot.

The unprecedented recent move by China has stunned democrats, civil society groups and trade partners, as such laws have been used broadly to silence and punish dissidents in China.

Chan added the board has requested that RTHK ensure its programmes abide by regulations set out in its charter. The station should create more programmes to promote One Country, Two Systems, as well as help cultivate Hongkongers’ civic and national identities, he said.

RTHK’s Head of Corporate Communications and Standards Amen Ng announced on Wednesday afternoon that the station will produce a programme with 20 episodes on the draft law from Beijing. She said the production was planned two to three weeks ago, brushing off speculation that the move was based on the advisers’ suggestion.

People of different political persuasions will be invited to voice their opinions and the programme will delve into similar laws in other countries, if time allows, Ng said.

RTHK. File photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

“This programme will adopt an impartial, diversified approach to reflect different opinions of Hong Kong citizens on the national security legislation,” Ng told RTHK reporters.

RTHK Programme Staff Union said it is “baffled” by Chan’s statement, saying the public broadcaster has followed up on the national security law issue on a daily basis and has invited people from different camps to express opinions. The union urged the board to stop “pressuring” staff to accept its “one-sided” interpretation of the charter.

“The board has fully expressed its opinions through different channels. The union urges the board to stop ‘coercing’ the director to give orders to RTHK,” the group wrote on Facebook.

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Kelly Ho

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.