Hong Kong’s public broadcaster has removed an interview with pro-democracy Nathan Law who is reportedly wanted by the police.
Law left Hong Kong ahead of the enactment of the national security law and has since resided in London. Last month, RTHK produced a programme about the legislative election postponement – in which Law was featured and interviewed – following Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s announcement. The programme was aired on July 31 on RTHK’s television channel, but it no longer available on the RTHK website as of this week.
RTHK told Ming Pao that the programme was temporarily unavailable as there had been reports that an interviewee was wanted by Hong Kong police on suspicion of violating the national security law.
There are no laws or regulations which state that the press cannot interview “wanted” activists.
In June, Beijing enacted laws to prevent, stop and punish behaviours in Hong Kong that it deemed a threat to national security. The legislation was inserted into the city’s mini-constitution, bypassing the local legislature, in order to criminalise subversion, secession, foreign interference and terrorism. The move – which gives police sweeping new powers – alarmed democrats, civil society groups and trade partners, as such laws have been used broadly to silence and punish dissidents in China.
Press freedom concerns
Chinese state broadcaster CCTV reported on July 31 that Hong Kong police were seeking six pro-democracy figures who are currently overseas, namely Nathan Law, Samuel Chu, Ray Wong, Simon Cheng, Wayne Chan and Honcques Laus.
Police have yet to confirm or deny the report.
Article 43 of the new law gives the police power to remove messages they deem to be endangering national security and the authorities can require the assistance of platform service providers. Magistrates may also authorise officers to “take any reasonably necessary action on the device for removing the message from the platform.”
RTHK Programme Staff Union Gladys Chiu told Ming Pao that the removal of the programme was based on unofficial news and interviewees may feel reluctant to appear on-screen in the future. She said the union was concerned that the move had deprived suspects of their political rights and may tighten press freedom.
HKFP has reached out to Nathan Law, RTHK, the Hong Kong Journalists Association and the police for comment.