An executive producer who headed Hong Kong’s longest running TV documentary programme Hong Kong Connection has resigned from the embattled public broadcaster RTHK, a source on the team has told HKFP.

Hong Kong Connection is one of the RTHK programmes aired on free TV channels. Photo: RTHK screenshot.

Paul Lee Yin-chit had led the team behind the renowned, 30-minute programme which has aired every Monday since 1978.

He quit after suggestions for new programmes on the 2019 Yuen Long mob attack and local Tiananmen Massacre commemorations were rejected by the management, a current member of the production team told HKFP on condition of anonymity.

The Hong Kong Connection team was also told it could only cover human interest and social issues in the future, instead of current affairs – the programme’s main stay.

Award rejected

His resignation came hours after an episode from the programme about the Yuen Long mob attacks was proclaimed a winner at the 2021 Human Rights Press awards. RTHK had attempted to withdraw the episode from the awards and said the prize would be rejected.

Hong Kong Connection 721 Who Owns the Truth. Photo: RTHK, via video screenshot.

The documentary entitled 7.21 Who Owns the Truth analysed and identified individuals suspected to have participated in the Yuen Long mob attacks based on surveillance footage from the day obtained from nearby businesses. It questioned the slow police response to the incident, where white-clad men beat passengers, pro-democracy protesters, a democrat legislator and reporters in the local MTR station.

The broadcaster also axed an episode of the programme on April 30, which looked at the funding models of digital news outlets such as HKFP.

Hong Kong Connection is the city’s longest-running television documentary programme and one of the most-trusted shows in the city. It has featured multiple documentaries related to the Tiananmen Square Massacre in the past, including interviews with survivors of the 1989 crackdown living in self-imposed exile.

RTHK’s website archive shows Lee was a producer on the show from as early as 2013. He previously resigned from his role as principal producer at TVB’s News Magazine in 2013, after an episode about a weeks-long dock strike at the time was delayed from airing until the strike was over.

RTHK Broadcasting House. Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

He graduated from the Chinese University of Hong Kong in 1997 before working as a reporter at the Metro Radio and Commercial Radio, according to the university’s alumni website.

Shows axed

Since the arrival the new Director of Broadcasting Patrick Li in March, who has no media background but introduced a massive editorial overhaul, ten RTHK television episodes have been censored before they were broadcast.

At least five top executives have resigned or took early retirement amid a staff exodus. Meanwhile, RTHK began deleting content more than a year old this week from YouTube.

In response to HKFP’s enquiry, a spokesperson from RTHK said: “Programme content and broadcast scheduling are internal editorial matters of RTHK. RTHK would not comment on individual programmes. According to the Charter, RTHK is editorially independent and we hope that its editorial decisions would be respected.”

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Selina Cheng

Selina Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist who previously worked with HK01, Quartz and AFP Beijing. She also covered the Umbrella Movement for AP and reported for a newspaper in France. Selina has studied investigative reporting at the Columbia Journalism School.