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Tuesday, January 12, 2021, 10:31
RTHK should stop aiding subversion
By Tony Kwok
Tuesday, January 12, 2021, 10:31 By Tony Kwok

If there is a list of subversive elements in Hong Kong, Radio Television Hong Kong ought to top it. This supposedly official government media agency apparently took no notice of Hong Kong’s return to China as it continues to act as the mouthpiece of our former colonial ruler and toes the former governor Chris Patten’s policy of providing uninterrupted support to the opposition camp, while continuing its attacks against the Chinese mainland on all fronts. Despite criticism from all quarters, RTHK simply turned a deaf ear and carries on merrily like a Western-appointed watchdog of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government. A few recent events are illuminating.

Since the mass resignation of opposition members of the Legislative Council, the opposition camp started planning to set up a “shadow parliament”. This was initiated by a group of pro-Hong Kong independence activists cum members of the District Councils. Their plan is to start with attracting at least 80 members from the 18 District Councils to form the “shadow parliament” of Hong Kong with a view to unite the opposition forces in all districts to continue their “mutual destruction strategy”. Such a proposal attracted immediate condemnation from the authorities, as it is a blatant breach of the Constitution, the Basic Law and the National Security Law (NSL). Indeed, such a “shadow parliament” can be labeled as a subversive organization under the NSL. As a result of the official warning, many DC members withdrew their support and the plan was abandoned. But it must be noted that throughout the planning stage of this platform, RTHK had been providing ample airtime for the organizers to drum up support. Even after the plan was aborted by the organizers, RTHK television still hosted a talk show at prime time for the organizers to reflect on their failed attempt!

The author is an adjunct professor of HKU Space and Council member of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies.

Curiously, this is reflected once again in RTHK’s recent treatment of the mass arrest of 53 opposition activists for mounting the so-called 35-plus fake primary election aimed at paralyzing the government. Throughout its planning stage, RTHK provided generous airtime on its various platforms for the organizers, including Benny Tai Yiu-ting and participating candidates to promote the scheme. On the days of the ballot on July 11 & 12 of 2020, RTHK went so far as updating the progress of the ballot on its hourly news summary, clearly intended to encourage its listeners to join the ballot. As the ballot is a criminal act of subversion under the NSL, RTHK can arguably be deemed to be involved in abetting the commission of the offense, contrary to Article 23 of NSL, and liable to the maximum penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment. Police should get to the bottom of this by identifying RTHK’s liaison channel with the subversive group at that time.

The other incident is the public voting for the “Person of the Year” Award, organized by the Backchat English program of RTHK. Among the candidates selected for public voting, many were astonished to find two candidates on the list. One was Apple Daily, a notorious anti-government and anti-China newspaper owned by Jimmy Lai Chee-ying, now in jail pending prosecution for suspected NSL violations. The other candidate is RTHK’s own employee, the reporter Nabela Qoser, best known for her rude attitude in questioning government officials. She once verbally attacked Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor by demanding that the latter “answer like a human being” during a news conference in July 2019.

RTHK’s motive for organizing this “Person of the Year” competition at this time is suspect. They probably hope to get both these two candidates topping the list to embarrass the SAR government. “Apple Daily” is just a stand-in for Jimmy Lai Chee-ying, and if he wins, it will give the international media the most timely ammunition to embarrass the Chinese government. As for Nabela Qoser, it is simply ridiculous to put her on the list at all in the first place. She is an RTHK employee hence there is a clear case of conflict of interest. One would never imagine Time magazine featuring one of its writers as “Person of the Year”! Secondly, she is a disgrace to the media industry as she did not bother to conduct herself with even the basic professional courtesy of a journalist. Thirdly, she is in the middle of a personal dispute with the management and the organizer probably hopes to embarrass the top management with her election which will strengthen her hand. Fortunately, RTHK’s top management realized the political consequence of the exercise and ordered its cancellation at the last minute just before it was due for public announcement.

Many Hong Kong citizens may not be aware that RTHK maintains a close relationship with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). Every Sunday morning, BBC has an exclusive one-hour weekly news program on the RTHK Chinese Channel. I have listened to this program many times and discovered, not to my surprise, that BBC had been using this channel to air its anti-China vitriol. The most recent examples include bashing China over the COVID-19 pandemic and alleged abuse of human rights. The program basically is a repository of negative news about China. It had a “Letter on China” which read out purported messages from overseas Chinese, and used their mouths to criticize China. It is also a mouthpiece for the US government as it highlights critical remarks about China by Donald Trump, Mike Pompeo and other senior American officials. In short, this program serves as a launching pad for anti-China rhetoric by Western leaders. No responsible Hong Kong media should even consider hosting it, much less a TV and radio station owned by the HKSAR government! 

While it is understandable that this arrangement was instituted by the British colonial administration, it makes no sense that it is maintained 23 years after Hong Kong’s return to China! Our taxpayers also have a right to know about the financial arrangement for this program. If RTHK had to pay BBC for it, this is an unconscionable waste of public funds. But if BBC pays for it, or provides the program free of charge, then it raises questions about RTHK inappropriately accepting foreign aid of an influential service, which might fall within the ambit of the NSL. The Advisory Committee of RTHK should look into this issue with a critical eye and terminate it as appropriate.

All in all, it is high time for RTHK to undergo a major revamp. Perhaps the coming financial budget exercise provides just such a golden opportunity for the legislative councilors to push for its reform.

The author is an adjunct professor of HKU Space and Council member of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies.

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

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