Hong Kong’s official radio station said it will replace its 24-hour BBC broadcast with Chinese state-run programming in a move critics on Saturday said was a step towards “mainlandization”.
The city’s Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) has been broadcasting the BBC World Service live since 1978 but will replace it starting September 4 with the China National Radio Hong Kong Edition (CNR).
Some see the move as signs that the city is further aligning itself with China.
“This is absolutely one step forward towards mainlandisation in Hong Kong,” pro-democracy lawmaker Claudia Mo told AFP, adding that Chinese authorities may feel that city residents were not patriotic enough.
“They should all be reigned in and taught to feel Chinese,” Mo said of the motive behind the move, which comes at a time when many feel Beijing is squeezing the semi-autonomous city’s freedoms.
Residents also took to social media to decry the move, with Yu Yeuk-mui saying on Facebook: “One more bad news! Hong Kong is burning already”.
Frustrations over the city’s political and social developments have led to the emergence of a new independence movement calling for Hong Kong to break from the mainland.
The unveiling of a controversial rail link to the mainland last month which would see a portion of the city come under Chinese law has been the focus of the most recent backlash, with critics saying the city’s cherished freedoms are being eroded.
RTHK’s head of corporate communications Amen Ng said the CNR Hong Kong edition is “tailor-made for Hong Kong people”.
“It will encourage the cultural exchange between mainland China and Hong Kong,” Ng said.
Bank teller Alex Yan agreed, saying the benefits of the broadcast outweighed the disadvantages as the new CNR programming would offer residents an insight into the lives of their northern neighbours.
“It can help them better understand the things happening in China,” Yan, 21, said.
The CNR broadcast will include programming in news, arts and culture, and lifestyle mostly in Mandarin, with some programmes in Cantonese. The official language in Hong Kong is Cantonese, while Mandarin is the main language over the border.
RTHK said it will still be broadcasting the BBC World Service, which residents use as an English-learning tool, but it will switch to another channel for eight hours from 11pm onwards on a daily basis.
Hong Kong was handed back to China by colonial ruler Britain in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” formula designed to protect its freedoms and way of life.