A radio show advocating LGBTQ equality will conclude its 17-year run on Hong Kong’s public broadcaster this Sunday, with station management attributing the cancellation to “changes in programme.” The termination of “We Are Family” occurred in the aftermath of Beijing’s crackdown on Hong Kong’s democracy movement and the imposition of a sweeping national security law in 2020, which has stifled civil society and silenced dissenting voices.
Co-host Brian Leung expressed that he anticipated the government-funded Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) to drop the show, but he did not receive a satisfactory explanation during a meeting with station management earlier this month. “For a traditional platform like RTHK, this programme was more or less walking a tightrope,” Leung stated in an interview with AFP shortly before the final broadcast.
“We Are Family” was a groundbreaking show that championed gay rights in the city, becoming a rare platform for LGBTQ content at the public broadcaster when it premiered in 2006. Initially enjoying considerable editorial freedom, the show featured a mix of chitchat, news, and guest interviews, presenting LGBTQ issues in an engaging and approachable manner.
Leung reminisced about an episode that addressed the high school bullying of LGBTQ teens, which won a Human Rights Press Award in 2010. Other episodes sparked discussions on topics such as drag culture and the discrimination faced by transgender individuals. Hosting such a program on a public broadcaster was significant in itself, challenging taboos surrounding sexual orientation.
Listeners expressed their admiration for the show, with some sharing stories of how it influenced their lives and fostered conversations with family members and strangers alike. However, the cancellation raises concerns about the erosion of diversity and freedom of expression in Hong Kong.
While support for same-sex marriage has grown among the city’s younger residents, Hong Kong’s Beijing-approved leadership has shown little willingness to pass laws advancing LGBTQ equality. RTHK’s decision to end the show adds to a series of notable program cancellations, indicating a tightening of media control.
Despite the challenges, Leung expressed hope that “We Are Family” expanded the scope for discussion and contributed to changing minds, even amidst a difficult climate for LGBTQ rights advocates.