China or more specifically the Chinese government puts a lot of effort into making sure that access to press and Internet in the mainland is limited. This is different in Hong Kong.
The contrast is an illustration of the “one country, two systems” policy that has been in place since the former British colony reverted to Chinese rule in 1997.
Censorship in the media is quite difficult to deal with when you’ve spent most of your life in Switzerland, a country which has one of the most direct forms of democracy and actively defends free press & media. If you don’t pay attention, in China and to a certain extent Hong Kong, it’s easy not to realize that all the information you’re digesting is being filtered to suit a certain agenda. For us at CHIC, it was also quite inconvenient because working in Shenzhen & Hong Kong required us to do research and stay up-to-date with what was happening in the world for our various assignments.
In order to provide a complete picture, let’s have a look at the different types of media and break them down.
As Hong Kong is a relatively stable zone, modern with a democracy, where everybody still watches TV, whether at home or in the metro on their smartphones.
The television in Hong Kong is broadcasted in two official languages which are Mandarin and Chinese. Many TV channels are totally free, for instance ATV World (Asia Television World), TVB (Television Broadcast). The above-mentioned channels offer English programs and have a Mandarin counterpart called ATV Home and TVB Home. As in Switzerland, a lot of various TV shows are provided : American TV series, sport, international news as well as small local news. It is interesting to note that some programs are broadcasted in Mandarin with English subtitles in addition.
In China, the broadcasting of TV shows is managed by a public company called CCTV (China Central Television). The majority of the TV programs are news, social education, entertainment, comedy and documentary. CCTV belongs to the Communist Party of China, which validates all the broadcasts. This means that the freedom of expression in such a TV is sometimes stifled.
CCTV is part of the “central tree” with the others being Chine National Radio and China Radio International. A large number of public or pay TV channels are proposed by the broadcaster (16 public channels and 18 pay channels). Among them, we can cite CCTV 1, the general channel, CCTV2 for the finance, CCTV5 for the Sports and CCTV8 for the TV series
Nowadays, CCTV at the instigation of the Chinese government continues to grow. This is reflected for example by the launch of an international TV channel in Arabic in 2009.
The main radio stations in Hong Kong are RTHK (Radio Television Hong Kong), Commercial Radio and Commercial Radio. As for the TV channels, the radio stations broadcast programs predominantly in English and in Mandarin. Unlike some well-established public broadcasters such as the BBC and NHK, which are primarily funded via a licence fee system, RTHK is directly funded by an annual government allocation, and operates as a department of the government (similar to the CBC) under the Communications Authority.
As of September 2017, there are three licensed broadcasters of terrestrial radio in Hong Kong, broadcasting on both AM and FM bands. An underground radio station “Citizens’ Radio” also broadcasts on FM without a license. 7 radio stations are owned by the government (RTHK radio).
In China, there is over 3’000 radio stations ! The Central People’s Broadcasting Station, which is the official radio station of the Chinese nation, has eight channels and broadcasts for a total of over 200 hours per day via satellite. Every province, municipality or autonomous region in China has its own local radio stations. The CRI (China Radio International) is the official radio broadcaster and is state-owned. The CRI is beamed in 38 languages all around the world and broadcasts for a total of 2’700 hours every day, including news, economy, culture, science or technology. This is currently the third most important broadcaster in the world.
Newspapers & Press
Newspapers and the written press is probably one of the oldest forms of media to push out information to the public.
According to Wikipedia, the number of newspapers in China has increased from “42, virtually all Communist Party papers, in 1968 to 382 in 1980 and finally to more than 2,200 today. In 2006, China was the largest market for daily newspapers, with 96.6 million copies sold daily, followed by India with 78.7m, Japan with 69.7m, the US with 53.3m, and Germany with 21.5m. China newspaper advertisement revenues increased by 128% from 2001 to 2006! Basically, between 1950 and today, the number of Chinese newspapers has multiplied over 10 times.”
Press in Hong Kong has also followed a similar evolution despite being a much smaller territory. What’s interesting to note is that public confidence in the freedom of Hong Kong press has dropped to an all-time low due to pressure from Beijing being a rising contributing factor in. These were the results of the Press Freedom Index, which measures public feeling on the subject.
Back in April 2018, Chris Yeung Kin-hing – Chairman of the Journalists Association, said “The room for press freedom has been shrinking… In the public eye […] the ‘Hong Kong system’ is shrinking and that includes the most important things, such as freedom of expression and the press.”
The Journalists Association chairman also argued that with more red lines being drawn by Beijing, more related topics such as independence would be viewed as sensitive, or even become forbidden areas in media reports.
As Swiss students visiting Shenzhen & Hong Kong, we could sense that both systems were aligning themselves in order to fulfill a long-term vision that goes further than 2020 or even 2030. There is no doubt about the fact that China & Hong Kong have a long-term plan for their region and citizens. And as per our observations, media & press are important tools that push forward a well-planned agenda on a global scale. Unfortunately, the decreasing differences in the China/Hong-Kong media may have serious effects such as the erosion of critical thinking.
In order to write this article, we went and talked to as many citizens from both sides as we could. In the end, we are relieved to say that many citizens realize certain tactics are being used to manipulate innocent people.
In their opinion especially over the past few months, given all the controversies originating in the West with Donald Trump, Russia and the state of the US media, what’s happening in China is no worse than what’s happening on our side of the world… If China’s aim is to become the most powerful economy in the world, most agree that Hong Kong serves as a gateway to reach its goals by attracting top talent and innovative new ideas from around the world all the while media is being used to push a large-scale marketing campaign to make all this happen.
Tim & Vignesh