Hong Kong public broadcaster RTHK will from Friday “pause” the social media pages of a dozen programmes, including the axed political satire show Headliner and the popular Hong Kong Connection which is still in production.

The notice at the bottom of RTHK’s website said the government-funded media outlet would halt the Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages of 12 shows, which were previously operated by individual production teams.

RTHK Social media
Some of the Facebook pages of RTHK programmes which will be “paused” starting on December 3, 2021. Photo: Facebook screenshots.

“The Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages of the programmes below will be paused on December 3. Please pay attention,” read the notice from the station, which has long come under fire from pro-Beijing groups.

The programmes affected are This Morning, The Pulse, LegCo Review, Hong Kong Connection, This Week, Think About Thinking, Headliner, Hong Kong Stories – A Time to Mend, Rich Mate Poor Mate Series 2 and 3, Sign Language and Knowledge Zone.

Most of these shows are no longer in production and their social media pages have been dormant for periods ranging from around two months to more than two years. Some pages could not be found. RTHK still broadcasts Hong Kong Connection weekly and the previous episode was aired on Sunday.

It is unclear whether the suspension means RTHK will stop updating the social media pages, or whether they will be permanently removed. It is also unclear when the broadcaster posted the announcement. A cached version of the page taken on Monday showed the announcement had not been made at that time.

Silent protest RTHK union
A silent protest staged by the RTHK union to support their colleague Nabela Qoser. Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

In response to HKFP’s enquiries, RTHK’s Corporate Communications & Standards Unit
said the broadcaster reviews its promotional strategy of programmes on social media from time to time. It did not clarify whether RTHK will stop updating the pages concerned, or it will delete them permanently.

Asked if the suspension of social media pages would affect some of the shows that are still in production, RTHK responded: “The programme Hong Kong Connection is on RTHK TV31 8pm every Sunday, whereas the programme LegCo Review will return to RTHK TV31 after the beginning of a new term of the Legislative Council.”

Press freedom concerns

RTHK is a Hong Kong government department but under its charter is meant to be editorially independent. It has faced a barrage of criticism from pro-Beijing forces for allegedly insulting police officers and other perceived offences in some of its shows. The government ordered a major overhaul after criticising the station’s “weak” editorial accountability and transparency, sparking concerns over press freedom.

A new Director of Broadcasting with no previous media experience, Patrick Li, took office in March. RTHK has since then pulled several programmes and swapped out the production team of Hong Kong Connection. A number of long-time radio and television hosts were fired and a new set of editorial guidelines launched in September warned staff against contact with foreign governments.

‘Take care and goodbye’

On Wednesday, RTHK WEB+ also announced it would shut down starting on Friday. The page, which posted multimedia content about e-learning, culture and music, thanked people for their backing over the years and asked them to keep supporting the public broadcaster’s Facebook page.

The post included a hashtag that read: “Take care and goodbye.”

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Ho Long Sze Kelly is a Hong Kong-based journalist covering politics, criminal justice, human rights, social welfare and education. As a Senior Reporter at Hong Kong Free Press, she has covered the aftermath of the 2019 extradition bill protests and the Covid-19 pandemic extensively, as well as documented the transformation of her home city under the Beijing-imposed national security law.

Kelly has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong, with a second major in Politics and Public Administration. Prior to joining HKFP in 2020, she was on the frontlines covering the 2019 citywide unrest for South China Morning Post’s Young Post. She also covered sports and youth-related issues.