Continuing the saga over independence advocate Andy Chan Ho-tin’s upcoming speech at the Foreign Correspondents Club, RTHK’s director of broadcasting has moved to reject suggestions of suppressing press freedom after the public broadcaster banned live-streaming of the event next Tuesday.
According to RTHK, Leung Ka-wing last night claimed the decision not to air the controversial talk — which has raised the ire of Chinese and Hong Kong officials — had nothing to do with press freedom.
The said the station had “never given live coverage of a speech by a politician in the past” and that it “should not be used as a platform to advocate Hong Kong independence.”
The comments by Leung were relayed by the broadcaster’s head of corporate communications Amen Ng.
— FCC, Hong Kong (@fcchk) August 3, 2018
She said Leung had said that RTHK journalists were able to report on the talk but the outlet would not air the speech as that would provide Chan “a platform to promote his views”.
On Facebook, RTHK’s Programme Staff Union released a statement saying the speech was newsworthy, having garnered local and international attention.
“The union thinks that the public has a right to know about the news,” they wrote.
It said journalists had been told they were allowed to record the speech but that it had to go through post production before it was posted.
The FCC has refused to bow to pressure by Hong Kong and mainland officials to scrap the lunchtime talk by Chan, whose Hong Kong National Party faces an unprecedented ban, ostensibly on “national security” grounds.
The story first broke last week when it emerged that an official from China’s Foreign Affairs Ministry had approached the club and requested it cancel the speech.
Things then escalated when Hong Kong’s previous chief executive, CY Leung, took to social media to attack the FCC, saying hosting the separatist figure was akin to inviting “criminals and terrorists” to speak.
In criticizing the club, Leung, who is now vice-chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, China’s top advisory body, has repeatedly raised the issue of their lease of their government-owned iconic headquarters in Central, in what many have seen as a veiled threat.
The current city’s leader Carrie Lam also called the club’s invitation of Chan “regrettable” and “inappropriate”.
In a statement responding, the FCC stood firm and pointed to Hong Kong’s protection of free speech, something the city’s last colonial governor, Chris Patten, also noted in denouncing the pressure brought against the club.