The United Kingdom’s media regulator has found China’s English-language broadcaster CGTN in “serious failure of compliance” with UK impartiality laws during its coverage of last year’s Hong Kong protests.
Ofcom said on Tuesday it was “minded” to sanction the Chinese channel after hearing its defence.
The most serious breaches are punished in the UK with fines and – in case of repeat or especially egregious violations – licence suspensions.
The announcement comes during a cooling in relations between London and Beijing.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is under pressure from top ministers to reduce China’s leading role in the roll-out of the UK’s speedy 5G mobile data network.
The UK government on Tuesday said it found a new wave of Hong Kong protests last weekend over China’s proposal to impose a new security law for the formerly British-held global financial hub “concerning”.
“We are fully committed to upholding Hong Kong’s autonomy and respecting the one country two systems policy,” a Downing Street spokesman said.
The five CGTN programmes cited by Ofcom were all aired during a seven-month spell last year when Hong Kong was upended by huge and often violent pro-democracy protests.
“Various news items on protests in Hong Kong were not duly impartial on a matter of major political controversy and a major matter relating to current public policy,” Ofcom said in a 61-page report.
Ofcom said it has been in contact with CGTN about the programmes and would study the channel’s defence of the case.
Calls for greater democracy in Hong Kong have snowballed in recent years as fears rise that Beijing is working to erode Hong Kong’s freedoms.
Millions hit the streets last year for seven months of pro-democracy rallies that sometimes descended into clashes between police and protesters.
Those protests were initially sparked by a controversial bill that would have allowed extraditions of suspects to mainland China to face trial there.
That bill, which was eventually withdrawn, also sparked fights in the legislature before the political unrest exploded onto the streets.