Punctuation fans rejoice at RTHK’s headline ‘Activist faces new sedition charge, over shared mic’. The government is piling on sedition charges against pro-democracy broadcaster and activist Tam Tak-chi. Without the comma, the headline would suggest that all the charges have been over a shared mic. But thanks to the plucky little punctuation mark, it is clear that only the latest one is.
RTHK’s editors are also taking care to be impartial. A sloppier writer (ie me) might write ‘Activist faces new sedition charge – over shared mic’.
The government prosecutors allege that by passing someone a mic, Tam ‘conspired to utter seditious words’. This means ‘inciting hatred and contempt against the government’. A hyphen in that headline would imply a surprise – that something is amiss. It might implicitly suggest to readers that maybe it is the prosecutors, not Tam, who are encouraging hatred and contempt toward the government, and indeed further damaging the rapidly declining reputation of Hong Kong as a whole, perhaps making it look like the sort of place where consulates have plans to evacuate citizens and top officials excuse police perjury.
Fortunately for the government, RTHK is admirably grammatically correct and objective.