BEIJING – The British embassy voiced disappointment Wednesday after the English-language branch of Chinese state television decided not to air an interview with the ambassador that included a discussion on Hong Kong.
Beijing has repeatedly warned Britain to keep off its internal affairs as London has voiced concerns over increasingly violent pro-democracy protests in the former British colony.
Ashley Rodgers, head of communications at the embassy, said that Ambassador Barbara Woodward was asked about Hong Kong during an interview in October with Liu Xin, a well-known anchor at China Global Television Network (CGTN).
“They had a good discussion and it’s a shame that it won’t be broadcast,” Rodgers said, declining to give more details about what the ambassador said.
On Twitter, Rodgers said: “Disappointed that CGTN has decided not to broadcast Liu Xin’s interview with HMA (Her Majesty’s Ambassador) for ‘technical reasons’.
“It was an engaging discussion on relations & viewers would have enjoyed it. This unfortunately highlights the challenges we face working with a tightly controlled media,” Rodgers wrote.
Neither Liu nor a member of her team were immediately available for comment.
CGTN is an arm of Chinese state TV giant CCTV and a soft power tool for Beijing.
Under the terms of the 1997 handover deal from British to Chinese rule, Hong Kong enjoys rights and liberties unseen on the mainland, including freedom of expression.
Prior to taking office as prime minister, Britain’s Boris Johnson said in July that he backed Hong Kong protesters “every inch of the way.”
In November his government said it was “seriously concerned” over the violence and an escalation between protests and police.
Separately, CGTN is facing a probe by Britain’s broadcasting watchdog following a complaint filed by a former employee of the British consulate in Hong Kong, Simon Cheng.
A human rights group, Safeguard Defenders, said last month that state-run CGTN, which holds a licence to broadcast in Britain, had aired an item including “direct lies, violations of his privacy and unproven allegations reported as facts.”
Cheng, a Hong Kong citizen, has alleged that Chinese police tortured and interrogated him about London’s role in the protests.
Police later released a video purporting to show him confessing to soliciting prostitutes, which Cheng said in his complaint to the regulator, was shown on CGTN.
Cheng said he felt he had no choice but to confess to the charge, which he said was offered by police as an alternative to “indefinite criminal detention.”