New rules laid down for RTHK over Taiwan stories

RTHK staff have been banned from using “inappropriate” terms such as “Taiwan’s president” or “Taiwan government” in all radio, television and online output, to comply with the one-China principle.

In a circular disseminated to all staff on Tuesday afternoon, management said as Hong Kong’s public service broadcaster as well as a government department, RTHK must strictly abide by the principle and exercise a “high degree of caution” in the use of terminology in relation to Taiwan.

“Inappropriate terminology such as ‘country’, ‘Republic of China’, ‘ROC’… must not be used when referring to Taiwan. Under no circumstances should Taiwan be referred to as a sovereign state or perceived as one,” it said.

Instructions include referring to “the most senior leader of Taiwan” as ‘Taiwan leader’ rather than ‘Taiwan president.’

‘Taiwan authorities’ should be used rather than ‘Taiwan government’, it added.

The statement said such examples are not exhaustive, and RTHK should carefully standardise the use of all terms related to Taiwan.

Asked to comment, an RTHK spokesman reiterated that as a public service broadcaster and a government department, its programmes and any information it releases must strictly abide by the one-China principle.

He added that the station would continue to adhere to its charter, fulfil its responsibility as a public service broadcaster and maintain the highest journalism standards.

FTU lawmaker Luk Chung-hung had last week enquired about RTHK’s previous use of “president” to refer to the island’s leader in a written question to Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau in Legco, suggesting that the broadcaster may have breached the one-China principle in doing so.

Yau had not indicated that any policy change was in the works, saying only that the government has all along handled Taiwan-related matters in accordance with the Basic Law, the one-China principle, and the central government’s policies towards the island.

He also said that RTHK would “continue to abide by the charter, duly meet its obligations as a public service broadcaster, and uphold the highest professional standards of journalism.”

In 2020, Yau had said an RTHK programme had breached the one-China principle when a former reporter asked a World Health Organisation official if the body would consider admitting Taiwan as a member.

However, the Communications Authority later ruled that complaints about the programme were unsubstantiated. It also found last month that a separate complaint over RTHK’s use of the word ‘president’ to refer to Tsai Ing-wen was unsubstantiated.