Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK): Patrick Li, Director of Broadcasting or political commissar?
Since assuming office three months ago, Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) Director of Broadcasting Patrick Li has already censored hundreds of hours of content. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) urges the Hong Kong government to dismiss him at once and stop interfering with the public broadcaster’s editorial independence.
Since 1st March, the day Patrick Li took up his position as Radio Television Hong Kong's (RTHK) Director of Broadcasting, at least 12 new productions have been pulled from the air at short notice and more than 200 past episodes of documentary programme Hong Kong Connection and news talk show The Pulse have been deleted from the public broadcaster’s Youtube channel. In the latest act of censorship, political show LegCo Review had an episode containing Tiananmen massacre vigil footage removed from the RTHK archives after it was aired without Li’s “final approval”. Patrick Li, a bureaucrat without any media experience, has also threatened to halve the salaries of employees involved in the production of content he considers unfit for publishing.
"Is Patrick Li, recently appointed at the helm of Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK), truly Director of Broadcasting or a political commissar?” asks Cédric Alviani, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) East Asia Bureau head. “Recruiting him highlights the intention of the government to set-up a censorship system at Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK), a media outlet previously renowned for its fearless investigations of public policies. We urge Chief Executive Carrie Lam, who appointed Li, to immediately dismiss him and stop, once and for all, interfering with the public broadcaster’s editorial independence in accordance with Hong Kong Basic Law, which enshrines press freedom.”
The recruitment of Patrick Li led to the resignation of at least four staff members, namely executive producers Fong Hiu-shan, Liu Wai-ling, Doris Wong, and award-winning reporter, Yvonne Tong. Another journalist, Nabela Qoser, known for posing hard-hitting questions to government officials, didn’t have her contract renewed.
An unprecedented decision: rejecting a press freedom award...
Under Li’s leadership, RTHK also made the unheard of decision to reject Hong Kong Journalists Association’s Press Freedom Award, given to a documentary investigating a mob attack on pro-democracy protesters in 2019. In an even stranger move, the public broadcaster recently televised a Cantonese-language talk show, aired four times-a-day over 20 days, hosted by Chief Executive Carrie Lam herself, which allowed her to freely promote her policies without exposing herself to questions from journalists.
The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China, once a press freedom stronghold, fell from 18th place in 2002 to 80th place in 2021 in the World Press Freedom Index published by RSF. The People's Republic of China, for its part, stagnates at 177th out of 180.