Hong Kong: News outlet accused of breaching one-China principle

The English news program, Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) was criticised by the Hong Kong government after a reporter asked a World Health Organisation (WHO) official if the global organisation would reconsider Taiwan’s membership. The International Federation of Journalists and its affiliate the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) deeply regret this criticism and urge authorities to respect freedom of speech and expression.

Reporter Yvonne Tong. Credit: RTHK

On April 2, Hong Kong’s secretary for commerce and economic development, Edward Yau alleged RTHK’s program, “The Pulse” breached the one-China principle and the “Charter of Radio Television Hong Kong” in its interview with a WHO official earlier on March 28. During the interview, the Pulse reporter, RTHK’s Yvonne Tong asked the assistant director general of the WHO, Bruce Aylward, if Taiwan’s WHO membership would be reconsidered, resulting in a disruption to RTHK’s broadcast.

Taiwan’s observer status at WHO’s annual World Health Assembly meetings was revoked in 2016. In 2018, the World Health Assembly denied two Taiwanese journalist's accreditation to the World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland. Yesterday, on April 14, the United States president, Donald Trump announced he will suspend funding the WHO, accusing the global health organisation of being biased towards China.

In response to Edward Yau’s complaint, HKJA said, “The program did not explicitly point out or imply that Taiwan is a sovereign state, and did not violate the “One China Principle” as Yau pointed out. As mentioned in the press release of the Commerce and Industry Bureau, the Charter clearly stipulates the public purpose and mission of RTHK, including the provision of programmes to promote understanding of our community, our nation and the world.”

HKJA deeply regrets Yau’s remarks equate to putting pressure on the media and directly intervening in the editorial autonomy of news organizations. If merely asking about the membership of WHO in Taiwan is also prohibited, then obviously the functions of journalists are being castrated, and so what happens to the freedom of the press in Hong Kong?”, HKJA added.

The IFJ said: “It is incredibly disappointing to witness a senior government official attempt to limit the ability of journalists who enquire about health issues, on the basis that questions may contravene the one-China principle. The IFJ encourages authorities to reconsider their approach and respect the press freedom and editorial independence of journalists in Hong Kong.”

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