Hong Kong has named a new head of public broadcaster RTHK, filling a position that has been vacant since the former chief was appointed to a top position in the Security Bureau.

Eddie Cheung, who is based in Brussels as the Special Representative for Hong Kong Economic and Trade Affairs to the European Union, will take up the Director of Broadcasting post in early October, the government announced on Friday. He has no previous experience in the media industry.

eddie cheung rthk
Eddie Cheung, Special Representative for Hong Kong Economic and Trade Affairs to the European Union. Photo: GovHK.

“Mr Cheung is a seasoned Administrative Officer with proven leadership and management skills. I have every confidence that he will continue to serve the community with professionalism in his new capacity,” the Secretary for Civil Service Ingrid Yeung said.

According to a biography provided by the government, Cheung has experience across a number of departments, having completed stints at the former Health and Welfare Branch, the former Education and Manpower Bureau and others.

Prior to his Brussels-based role, Cheung was the Deputy Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury (Financial Services) for more than six years until August 2019.

rthk television house broadcast headquarters logo (1)
RTHK. File photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

He is not the first appointee to the position with no media experience. Patrick Li, formerly a top official in the Home Affairs Department, was named the Director of Broadcasting in March 2021. Li was appointed the permanent secretary for security in June, and the position has been left vacant since.

Roy Tang, named broadcasting chief in 2011, also did not have any experience in media.

Government-directed overhaul

As the Director of Broadcasting, Cheung will oversee an embattled broadcaster that has seen a wave of resignations and a shake-up in programming in the wake of the 2019 protests and unrest and the implementation of the Beijing-imposed national security law.

RTHK Headliner
An episode of RTHK’s Headliner, which included a scene of a police officer emerging from a rubbish bin, received complaints for being anti-police. Photo: RTHK screenshot.

Pro-Beijing lawmakers accused the broadcaster of having a pro-democracy bias and encouraging hatred of China and the police force during the months-long unrest. Leung Ka-wing, who was the broadcasting director at the time, defended RTHK and said it abided by the principles of accuracy, balance and objectivity.

Under a government-directed overhaul over the past two years, a political satire show has been axed; the employment contract of journalist Nabela Qoser – known for her tough questioning of officials – was axed; two radio show hosts were sacked; and episodes of documentary series Hong Kong Connection were scrapped before they were aired.

Results released last month from a study by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism found that fewer people trusted RTHK compared to a year before.

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Hillary has an interest in social issues and politics. Previously, she reported on Asia broadly - including on Hong Kong's 2019 protests - for TIME Magazine and covered local news at Coconuts Hong Kong.