Hong Kong’s RTHK Radio 3 is to start playing the Chinese national anthem every morning at 8 am, HKFP has learned.

RTHK. File photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

The embattled public broadcaster will play March of the Volunteers daily from November 16, three sources familiar with the matter have confirmed.

In June, a new government-appointed board of advisers said that RTHK needs to embrace and explain the city’s new national security legislation, as well as help Hongkongers nurture their civic and national identities.

Earlier that month, Hong Kong’s national anthem law – which criminalised insults to the song – was enacted, with violators risking fines up to HK$50,000 or three years in prison. The law included stipulations that required TV broadcasters to promote the anthem.

national anthem protesters
Pro-Beijing protesters in support of the national anthem law. File Photo: Holmes Chan/HKFP.

Last year, as the bill was discussed at the legislature, the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau said that it intended to mandate the broadcast of the anthem after the law was passed. However, it is unclear whether RTHK or the authorities were behind the decision to begin the broadcasts this month.

In response to HKFP’s enquiries, spokesperson Amen Ng said RTHK had to fulfil its charter and promote the concept of One Country, Two Systems “and engendering a sense of citizenship and national identity through programmes that contribute to the understanding of our community and nation. For TV channel[s], RTHK has already been broadcasting the national anthem each day.”

The Home Affairs Bureau told HKFP that the anthem will be played as part of an Announcement in the Public Interest (APIs). “The current arrangement for broadcasting APIs is a continuation of the arrangement adopted since 2006,” a spokesperson said.

Months of pressure

Despite regularly coming out tops for media credibility in Chinese University surveys, RTHK has faced repeated pressure from the authorities this year. In May, a satirical show was suspended following complaints from the police. In August, an interview with “wanted” activist Nathan Law was removed from the RTHK website.

In October, an investigation into a journalist who grilled Chief Executive Carrie Lam was reopened. And this week, the producer of a documentary which questioned the actions of the police was arrested.

National security law
Photo: GovHK.

The broadcaster is also facing a government investigation and has been told that its civil servant staff must swear an oath of allegiance to the city. Last week, a pro-Beijing lawmaker suggested the public service broadcaster – which is editorially independent – should be merged with the government’s Information Services Department.

In June 2020, Beijing inserted national security legislation directly into Hong Kong’s mini-constitution – bypassing the local legislature – following a year of pro-democracy protests and unrest. It criminalised subversion, secession, collusion with foreign forces and terrorist acts, which were broadly defined to include disruption to transport and other infrastructure. The move gave police sweeping new powers, alarming democrats, civil society groups and trade partners, as such laws have been used broadly to silence and punish dissidents in China. However, the authorities say it has restored stability and peace to the city.

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Tom is the editor-in-chief and founder of Hong Kong Free Press. He has a BA in Communications and New Media from Leeds University and an MA in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong. He has contributed to the BBC, Euronews, Al-Jazeera and others.