THE BBC World Service’s 24-hour radio broadcast has been replaced by state-run, mainland Chinese programming, a move the British broadcaster has called “disappointing.”
Broadcast continuously since 1978, the BBC service was featured on Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK). Its replacement with material from the Chinese Communist Party reflects what observers have highlighted is the mainland’s increasing encroachment on the semi-autonomous city.
On Monday, the BBC World Service was replaced by China National Radio Hong Kong Edition (CNR) which broadcasts primarily in Mandarin rather than Cantonese. Cantonese is the most prevalent language in Hong Kong.
The BBC said it was “always disappointed when a service our listeners are used to changes,” adding that it was “doing everything we can to ensure we continue to reach our audiences.”
Hong Kong switched from British to Chinese rule in 1997 under the promised “one country, two systems” form of government. Beijing has increasingly tried to assert its influence over Hong Kong in recent years, leading to the pro-democracy Umbrella Movement.
BBC listeners in Hong Kong have started a petition to bring back the World Service, which was signed by more than a thousand people. It said the move would make the city “feel more parochial and inward-looking.”
Hong Kong's 24hr broadcasts of BBC World Service are DEAD from tonight. ⚰
Thanks for nothing, RTHK.
— Alex Hofford (@alexhofford) September 3, 2017
RTHK will still run a condensed version of its programming on a different channel only from 11pm until 7am, reported Hong Kong Free Press.
It can still be accessed 24 hours a day via the Internet. The BBC also said that RTHK had “agreed to consider including some BBC World Service English programmes in their daytime schedules.”
Last month, 20-year-old democracy activist Joshua Wong was jailed for six months along with two other pro-democracy demonstrators after Hong Kong’s government said an initial sentence was too lenient.