Veteran democrat and former journalist Emily Lau said on Friday that the director of broadcasting's move to abruptly pull an episode of a TV show she featured in – covering the electoral overhaul planned for Hong Kong – was both "very alarming" and "unprofessional".
The ditched episode of Legco Review, which had been due to be aired on Thursday night, was presented by former Legco president Tsang Yok-sing along with an RTHK reporter, with the guests also including former Democratic Party lawmaker Fred Li and Derek Yuen, a former policy director of the pro-Beijing New People's Party.
An old show about teachers receiving government awards was broadcast instead.
Lau said Beijing's plan for sweeping changes to Hong Kong's electoral system is a big news story, and she had given numerous interviews on the topic over the past few days.
"So if they [RTHK] do something on it and they interviewed different people, it's understandable. And then to just pull the programme like that at the last minute, it's very, very alarming," she said.
Lau further described the move as "disturbing and unnerving" and said it harms RTHK's reputation.
"It sends a very bad signal to the community, that a programme like that, which I'm sure was very balanced, could be destroyed just because of the whim of the director [of broadcasting]. You can ask him to confirm. I think that is very, very unprofessional," she said.
Director of Broadcasting Patrick Li – who has been in the position for less than two weeks – had already pulled another TV show episode from the airwaves, and Lau said Li should provide the public with an explanation for his latest move.
"The director says he has been in public service, in government for so many years. So he should know how somebody in a leadership position should behave. If you take some action, [which] may be very controversial and very drastic, then you should come out to explain it, not just to the staff, but to members of the public," she said.
Lau said the decision also made her worry that other interviews she gives to RTHK will be pulled as well, noting that she had just been at the station to make an appearance on The Pulse.
On his Facebook, Yuen said he couldn't be sure whether the episode was pulled because of the guests that took part in it. But he said it's "very likely" this was the reason.
He added that it seems that RTHK is banning even "light blue, moderate and light yellow" figures from its broadcasts.
In response to media enquiries about the controversy, RTHK said it would not comment on "individual cases".
It said the director of broadcasting and senior management will effectively exercise editorial responsibilities and review "contentious" programmes prior to broadcast, to ensure they comply with the requirements set out by RTHK's charter and producer guidelines.
The station added that this is in response to recommendations outlined in a recent government review report which urged RTHK to strengthen editorial management.