- A Hong Kong broadcaster is airing a “patriotic” show featuring chief executive Carrie Lam.
- The channel said it would air “Get to Know the Election Committee Subsectors” four times a day.
- The government-owned broadcaster received backlash after citizens called the show “propaganda.”
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Hong Kong broadcaster Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) has come out in defense of its decision to air a daily “patriotic’ television show hosted by the island’s chief executive Carrie Lam four times a day.
Lam is a divisive and controversial political figure in Hong Kong. A skilled bureaucrat selected by the Chinese government, her proposal for a new national security law to allow extraditions to mainland China sparked a “summer of discontent” in 2019 as pro-democracy protests carried on for months.
Lam is seen as a mouthpiece for Chinese President Xi Jinping by pro-democracy opposition leaders. Last year, Lam was among more than a dozen officials from Hong Kong and Beijing who were sanctioned by the US government for their support of the national security law.
Lam’s presence on RTHK and her new role as a broadcast personality follows Beijing’s landmark shift in Hong Kong’s legislation last month when it announced that it would be installing “patriots” to govern Hong Kong.
This move by the Chinese Communist Party sparked condemnation from the international community – as it makes it virtually impossible for pro-democracy candidates to be elected to the city’s legislative council.
A spokesman for the government-owned broadcaster told the Hong Kong Free Press Lam’s daily program would not be reviewed by the channel’s management, nor would the number of screenings be scaled back.
“The Charter of Radio Television Hong Kong requires that Radio Television Hong Kong as a public service broadcaster has to engender a sense of citizenship and national identity through programs that contribute to the understanding of our community and nation,” an RTHK spokesman told the HKFP.
“The program ‘Get to Know the Election Committee Subsectors’ is in line with the Charter,” the spokesman added.
According to the Washington Post, an online forum popular amongst young Hong Kongers saw a flood of posts asking if Lam had got a “part-time job,” with one commenter remarking that George Orwell’s “1984” had come true.
Lam defended the program in a video posted on her Facebook page.
“The restructuring of the election committee is one of the core elements among changes made to the electoral system,” Lam said. “I will invite guests from these subsectors to discuss how the restructured subsectors can be broadly representative and achieve balanced participation. You’re welcome to tune in.”
In March, RTHK replaced its top executive with a Chinese civil servant with no television experience. The move prompted a wave of departures by longtime employees from the network.
Voice of America News also spoke to an anonymous source within RTHK, which called the current slate of programming “propaganda,” as “political correctness” has now become the public broadcaster’s sole consideration.
“Propaganda is propaganda, and reporting is reporting,” the source said. “But then I’d say the boundaries would be blurrier and blurrier, and to the end of that road, it could end up becoming another CCTV (China Central Television Network).”