On 3rd November, police arrested Choy Yuk Ling (also known as Bao Choy), a freelance producer involved in the making of an RTHK documentary that highlighted the police’s inaction during a mob attack last year targeting pro-democracy demonstrators in the district of Yuen Long. The producer, who is accused of making false statements in her efforts to obtain information whilst researching for the documentary, was released on bail the same day, and is expected to be tried on 10th November.
This arrest comes after a string of intimidation attempts on RTHK earlier this year. In May, the government-appointed RTHK Board of Advisors sparked controversy with its announcement of a "working group" which is meant to monitor the governance and editorial principles of the public group, to which neither management nor staff representatives were invited. In June, the government also accused RTHK’s satirical show Headliner of “insulting the police”.
“The harassment of public media group RTHK is symbolic of the recent acceleration of press freedom's decline after the passing, four months ago, of a National Security Law imposed by Beijing”, says Cédric Alviani, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) East Asia Bureau Head. "The Hong Kong government would do better in making efforts to uphold press freedom, a value enshrined in Article 27 of the Basic Law, rather than trying to intimidate a media known for the quality and independence of its reporting."
According to a survey published last year by the Chinese University of Hong Kong, RTHK remains the most trustworthy media in the eyes of Hong Kong residents. On 30th June this year, the Chinese regime passed a National Security Law which allows it to directly intervene in the special administrative region of Hong Kong to suppress, with the appearance of legality, anything it deems to be “terrorism”, “secession”, “subversion” or “collusion with foreign forces”, four crimes often used in the Mainland as a pretext to prosecute journalists.
Hong Kong, once a bastion of press freedom, has plummeted from 18th place in 2002 to 80th place in 2020 in the RSF World Press Freedom Index. The People's Republic of China, for its part, remains at 177th out of 180.