Hong Kong’s commerce minister has criticised public broadcaster RTHK for what he considers a breach of the “one-China principle” after one of its reporters pressed a World Health Organisation official last week on whether the body would accept Taiwan as a member. In a statement released Thursday, Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau Tang-wah also said final responsibility lay with RTHK’s director of broadcasting and asked that the station “abide by” its governing charter. RTHK, for its part, has denied breaching either the “one country, two systems” principle or its charter. The row marks the second time in a month the broadcaster has found itself in the crosshairs of senior government officials. In early March, they were publicly accused of undermining the work of the Hong Kong police after the satire programme “Headliner” aired sketches implying the force had stockpiled masks during the Covid-19 epidemic and were too quick in ruling deaths during the anti-government protests as suicides. The latest incident involves the March 28 episode of English-language current affairs TV programme “The Pulse”. In one segment, a journalist asks WHO’s assistant director general Dr Bruce Aylward via teleconference if the organisation would consider granting Taiwan membership. In the clip, which circulated widely on Twitter, Dr Aylward said he could not hear the question, then asked the reporter to skip to the next question when the reporter offered to repeat it. When the reporter continued to ask about Taiwan, the line was abruptly disconnected. Hong Kong police lodge complaint over RTHK’s satirical show When Dr Aylward rejoined the programme later, he was asked to comment on Taiwan’s progress in containing the Covid-19 virus, to which he replied that all areas of China had done well and wished Hong Kong luck in its efforts. In a statement on Thursday, a spokesman for the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau, which oversees RTHK, said: “The secretary holds the view that the presentation in that episode … has breached the one-China principle [which considers Taiwan and China part of a whole] and the purpose and mission of RTHK as a public broadcaster as specified in the charter. “It is common knowledge that WHO membership is based on sovereign states. RTHK, as a government department and a public service broadcaster, should have a proper understanding of the above without any deviation. “As the editor-in-chief of RTHK, the director of broadcasting [Leung Ka-wing] should be responsible for this.” Yau “once again” urged Leung and RTHK to fully abide by the charter and to handle all programmes in a professional and vigilant manner, the bureau spokesman said in the statement. “The public purposes and mission of RTHK have been clearly specified in the charter, which includes engendering a sense of citizenship and national identity through programmes that contribute to the understanding of our community and nation; and promoting understanding of the concept of ‘one country, two systems’,” the statement read. Reached by the Post , a spokesman said the bureau was not prepared to comment further. In a reply released later in the day, an RTHK spokesman said: “The episode was to explore the outbreak of Covid-19 in various places of the world. On the part about Taiwan, it was referred to as ‘place’. [The question] takes no stand. After reviewing the whole episode, we are of the view that it did not breach the ‘one country, two systems’ principle nor did it breach the RTHK charter.” Hong Kong’s TVB axes RTHK programmes after watchdog’s rule change That view was echoed by the broadcaster’s employees union, which on Thursday evening issued its own statement defending the line of questioning. “Taiwan’s experience in combating the virus and how it can link up with the world are issues of wide interest to the media,” the RTHK Programme Staff Union response read. “How could raising the questions breach the one-China principle?” Opposition lawmaker Claudia Mo also came to the broadcaster’s defence, accusing the government of “politically censoring” it and questioning if the station could still report on Taiwan elections or news about the self-governing island at all. But former lawmaker Tik Chi-yuen, who sits on the RTHK board of advisers, said he was convinced the question about Taiwan’s WHO standing had gone beyond the parameters of the Covid-19 outbreak. “RTHK is a government department and public broadcaster. It should understand the one-China principle,” he said. “[The question on Taiwan] is not an issue of free speech. RTHK head as the gatekeeper should be held responsible.” RTHK has in the past year repeatedly drawn the wrath of pro-police and pro-establishment groups, who believe it has been biased towards protesters since the eruption of anti-government social unrest in June.