PEN Hong Kong is deeply troubled by the recent announcement that Hong Kong’s public radio channel, Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK), will replace its 24-hour relay of the BBC with China National Radio’s Mandarin-language broadcast. Therefore, we support the petition currently being circulated online by concerned citizens that calls on RTHK to reconsider its decision to cancel the BBC program. We encourage everyone to sign.
The petition, “RTHK: Give us back our BBC World Service!”, can be found HERE.
Amen Ng, an RTHK spokesperson, said the move was necessary due to the government’s decision to end all digital audio broadcasting (DAB) services by next month and that the switch would “…. enhance the cultural exchange between the mainland and Hong Kong”. However, since RTHK will continue to broadcast the BBC World Service live for eight hours overnight (from 11 pm to 7 am daily) on its Radio 4 channel, the technical explanation given for the switch does not seem to justify a move of this magnitude.
The BBC, though state funded, operates as an independent news organization. China National Radio is directly controlled by the Chinese regulatory agency, the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film, which is part of the Chinese state propaganda apparatus. As a media outlet controlled by the government, all news and programming it broadcasts are subjected to China’s stringent censorship. A leaked central government memo, known as Document #9, has made it clear that the Chinese government rejects what it calls the “West’s idea of journalism” and seeks to defend the “Marxist view of journalism”, in which journalists serve as conduits for Communist Party policy and ideology. We at PEN Hong Kong believe that there is no such thing as “Western” or “Marxist” journalism: the press is either free, or it is not.
President Xi Jinping, while visiting the headquarters of the three main Communist Party and state news organizations in February of last year, reminded all media outlets they are “surnamed Party”—making clear where their loyalties must lie. As quoted by Xinhua, the state news agency, President Xi said that “All news media run by the party must work to speak for the party’s will and its propositions, and protect the party’s authority and unity”. This is not the type of news that the only public broadcaster in Hong Kong should be transmitting to its listeners.
Seen in the larger context of the deteriorating political environment in Hong Kong, PEN Hong Kong feels that the move by RTHK represents an attempt to deprive Hongkongers of objective news and programming in order to make the local media culture more closely resemble the one in the mainland, while giving a prestigious platform to Chinese state propaganda. This is an unprecedented development that goes against the principle of “One Country, Two Systems” under which Hong Kong is supposed to be governed. RTHK may choose to broadcast China National Radio, but that decision should not mean the termination of an independent and valued source of news.
Contrary to what RTHK spokesman Amen Ng has stated, this would not enhance the cultural exchange between Hong Kong and the mainland, but would impose on Hong Kong propaganda disguised as journalism and also further limit the number of independent news sources available in the city.
We urge all those who care for independent news and freedom of the press to join us in condemning this decision, and to consider signing the petition.
(Monday, 28 August 2017)