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Hong Kong’s RTHK Blacklists Pro-Democracy Musicians

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Ten Canto-pop singers and groups, including politically vocal celebrities Denise Ho, Anthony Wong Yiu-ming and his pop duo Tat Ming Pair, have been reportedly banished from Radio Television Hong Kong.

The ten act black-list began circulating on the internet on Tuesday. Radio DJs were said to be ordered by senior management to stop playing any new or old songs by these musicians, including pop rock bands RubberBand, C AllStar and Dear Jane, as well as singers Serrini, Kay Tse, Charmaine Fong and Alfred Hui, according to local media reports.

RTHK has not denied the existence of the black-list. Instead, a spokesman told local media Ming Pao that the broadcaster is supporting the development of Chinese-language pop music locally, and program hosts would select appropriate songs to feature from a professional perspective. Variety has reached out to RTHK for comment.

An RTHK radio DJ told Ming Pao that the black-list was handed down by management at the beginning of this year. The measure will affect program production as some of the songs were Canto-pop classics that had nothing to do with politics.

It has been standard practice in mainland China to banish celebrities for holding political views not aligned with the ruling Communist Party. But until recent years Hong Kong society has operated under different rules, known as One Country, Two Systems.

Since authorities quashed the 2019 pro-democracy movement, many aspects of Hong Kong life have been realigned to fit mainland norms. Opposition politicians have been jailed, the electoral system has been reshaped to only allow patriots to govern, and independent media outlets have closed.

RubberBand and C AllStar had their songs removed from mainland Chinese platforms in 2019.

RTHK, technically a government department, that was previously compared to the BBC for its high editorial independence, has undergone top to bottom changes since senior civil servant Patrick Li Pak-cheun was appointed as director of broadcasting, in place of veteran journalist Leung Ka-wing.

Li has suspended popular current affairs programs that were deemed by pro-Beijing politicians to be biased against them. The city’s longest-running TV satire show “Headliner” was closed after an episode critical of the police stirred a backlash. And the long-running English-language current affairs program “The Pulse” was axed in July last year. Its host, veteran journalist Steve Vines, subsequently left Hong Kong after 35 years, citing “white terror,” a reference to the crushing of civil society under military rule in 1950s-1980s Taiwan. Many other executives and journalists have resigned or been fired.

Hui said he was not worried about the alleged ban. “Music fans can find the kind of music they want to listen to on various platforms and channels these days. Music can also be released as NFTs (non-fungible tokens). I still plan to release two albums this year,” Hui said in a media interview.