Hong Kong public broadcaster Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) said on Wednesday that they would not accept any awards during a “transition period” after an episode of their news show won a press award.

An episode of RTHK‘s Hong Kong Connection about the 2019 Yuen Long mob attacks has won the Kam Yiu-yu Press Freedom Award, the Hong Kong Journalists Association announced on Wednesday.

RTHK. File photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

The documentary, titled 7.21 Who Owns the Truth, was aired on July 13, 2020 and received 1.5 million views on YouTube. It analysed and identified individuals suspected to have participated in the Yuen Long mob attacks in 2019 based on surveillance footage from the day obtained from nearby businesses.

On July 21, 2019, over 100 rod-wielding men stormed Yuen Long MTR station leaving 45 people injured – including journalists, protesters, commuters and pro-democracy lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting. Police were criticised for responding slowly to the incident, with some officers seen leaving the scene or interacting with the white-clad men. The official account of the incident evolved over a year, with the authorities eventually claiming it was a “gang fight.”

“Through detailed and professional use of public records, examinations of original CCTV footage, and interviews with key figures, the production team of 7.21 Who Owns the Truth raised important leads that the people in power refused to respond to, when the public still has doubts about the cause of the incident,” said Fu King-wa, associate journalism professor at the University of Hong Kong and one of the judges for the award.

The awards ceremony would be held online on May 15, but RTHK told HKFP that they would not accept the award.

“The intellectual property rights of Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) programmes belong to RTHK,” said RTHK Head of Corporate Communications & Standards Echo Wai, adding that the public broadcaster was in a “transition period” as it “reviews its operation in all aspects.”

“During the transition period, RTHK decided not to nominate programmes for awards, would also withdraw their entries from those competitions, and would not accept related awards.”

Last month, RTHK tried but failed to withdraw their entries from journalism awards organised by the Society of Publishers in Asia Awards (SOPA) and the Human Rights Press Awards, HKFP revealed.

Court verdict

The award was announced a day before Bao Choy, one of the producers of 7.21 Who Owns the Truth, is set to receive a verdict at court for allegedly violating the Road Traffic Ordinance in seeking to obtain vehicle licence plate information for the episode.

Choy pleaded not guilty to making two false claims when searching online for vehicle licence plate information related to potential suspects connected to the 2019 attacks. If convicted, the producer could face up to six months in jail.

Correction 21.04.2021: A previous version of the article wrongly stated that Choy could face up to two years in jail if she is convicted. Under the Road Traffic Ordinance, she could face up to six months in jail and a HK$5,000 fine.

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Candice Chau

Candice is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously worked as a researcher at a local think tank. She has a BSocSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of Manchester and a MSc in International Political Economy from London School of Economics.