Petition launched to save BBC World Service 24-hour broadcast in Hong Kong

The BBC World Service’s 24-hour radio transmission is to go silent in Hong Kong after nearly 40 years.

Local government-owned Radio Television Hong Kong will drop the continuous service in favour of an eight-hour broadcast by the World Service between 11pm to 7am from September 4.

The remaining programming replacing the BBC will come from mainland state-broadcaster China National Radio, locally known as Central People’s Radio in Chinese.

Following the news, an internet user under the name Alex H launched an online petition calling on RTHK to ‘Give us back our BBC World Service’.

Writing on the petition site, he said: “Hong Kong touts itself as an international city. Yet the removal of the BBC World Service from the airwaves makes the city feel more parochial and inward‐looking.

“To be clear, we are not against the service provided by China National News. We just don’t want RTHK to broadcast China National News at the expense the BBC programming which many Hong Kong people rely on for news from far flung places.

“Programming on the BBC World Service is of high quality. Its critical news reporting is excellent. RTHK is ignoring the fact that thousands of people in Hong Kong regularly enjoy the BBC World Service, and will be deeply saddened by its axing.”

At the time of publication, the petition had reached 679 signatures.

According to the Guardian, the Chinese programme will broadcast almost entirely in Mandarin, instead of Cantonese, Hong Kong’s main language.

Until now, the BBC has been broadcast continuously in English since 1978 on the same channel in Hong Kong, even after the island was handed back to China in1997 following 150 years of British colonial rule.

A spokeswoman for the BBC in Asia-Pacific said: “We’re always disappointed when a service our listeners are used to changes, and always thinking about the best ways to reach audiences. BBC World Service will still be available on RTHK FM Radio 4 overnight, and available online 24 hrs a day for listeners in Hong Kong.”

RTHK told the Guardian that the move was intended to “enhance the cultural exchange between the mainland and Hong Kong”. However, fears have been growing about rise of mainland China’s influence on Hong Kong in recent years, which have sparked a number of protests over freedom of speech. 

Earlier this year, Beijing-preferred Carrie Lam was elected as Hong Kong’s new leader, much to the dismay residents who see the city’s freedoms as becoming increasingly under threat from China.


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