Events canceled, editor excluded: Hong Kong's freedom lost

HONG KONG – After refusing literary and artistic events and refusing to allow an editor of the Financial Times to enter semi-autonomous Chinese territory, concerns about freedom of expression have been raised in Hong Kong.

A look at three recent events and the impact they have on freedom of speech and citizenship:

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AUTHOR MA JIAN'S EVENT CANCELED

An arts venue in Hong Kong has canceled the appearance of exiled Chinese writer Ma Jian, known for his novels criticizing China's ruling Communist Party.

Ma tweeted, the venue Tai Kwun, where the Hong Kong International Literary Festival takes place, said its two planned events had been scratched. He said that no explanation was given.

Ma told reporters on his arrival in Hong Kong on Friday that he had not experienced anything unusual when entering the territory and that the organizers still provided a place for him to speak.

"The talk will definitely happen. If there is a person from Hong Kong who is willing to listen, or a single reader who contacts me, I will be there, "Ma said.

He speculated that there was a "black hand" behind the authorities controlling the conditions under which he could appear, but he pledged to "communicate with readers in Hong Kong these days, whenever possible."

Ma, 65, is a dissident writer whose six published novels are banned in mainland China. He said he did not find a Chinese publisher in Hong Kong for his latest work, "China Dream," which in its haunting description of authoritarian rule was compared to the work of George Orwell.

The book has already been published in English, with a cover of the famous dissident Ai Weiwei, who also lives outside of China.

The Financial Times quoted Timothy Calnin, director of the original site, as saying, "We do not want Tai Kwun to become a platform to promote an individual's political interests."

In a tweet, Ma said he would not use Tai Kwun as a platform to promote my "political interests."

"I'm a writer, not an activist … My 'politics' is simple: I believe in free thought and expression – without them, life does not make sense."

Hong Kong was promised 50 years of autonomy by British rule as part of its 1997 surrender, preserving its limited democracy and the rights to assembly and freedom of expression denied in mainland China.

However, concerns about the protection of civil liberties continue to grow, as evidenced by the alleged abduction of Chinese security forces by publishers of sometimes violent work on the country's leaders and the persecution of organizers of protests against Beijing.

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FINANCIAL TIMES EDITORS OF ENTRY

The Financial Times says its Asia editor Victor Mallet was turned down on Thursday when he tried to re-enter Hong Kong as a visitor.

This happened after Mallet was forced to leave Hong Kong after the government refused to renew his work visa in retaliation for having received a spokesman for the Foreign Correspondents Club, who led a now-banned political party that declared independence of the territory of China advocates.

The Hong Kong Immigration Department did not explain its expulsion and responded on Friday with a statement that it "acted in accordance with the laws and regulations and decided whether or not entry would be allowed after careful consideration of circumstances".

Hong Kong journalist groups have submitted a letter of protest to the Hong Kong government regarding the expulsion, denying the territory's reputation as a legally regulated place where freedom of speech is protected.

Right-wing groups have identified the rejection of the visa as the latest sign of Beijing's extension of restrictions in the area, including trials against pro-democracy lawmakers and large-scale protests against the government in 2014.

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ARTIST SHOW CANCELED AFTER SAID HAZARDS

An exhibition by the Chinese-Australian artist, Badiucao, was canceled after organizers said in a statement that threats had been "made by the Chinese authorities in relation to the artist."

Hong Kong Free Press, Amnesty International and Reporters Without Borders – all groups that are often critical of China's ruling Communist Party – were organizers of the event entitled "Gongle".

They said in a joint statement that the exhibition had been canceled because of "security concerns".

Two members of the Russian activist band Pussy Riot were also to appear, along with Joshua Wong, the secretary-general of the opposition Demosisto political party and local political artist Sampson Wong.

Badiucao's caricatures are helping China's leaders and the surveillance society they set up, and his website says he "uses his art to challenge censorship and dictatorship in China."

"He believes that art and the Internet have the power to deconstruct the arrogance and authority of the dictatorship as a building block of individual awakening and free independence," he says.

Previously, Badiucao told Hong Kong Free Press that he would not appear at the show because he was afraid or was kidnapped or revealed his true identity.

"I really admire artists and dissidents brave enough to do so openly. I see myself as a coward, "the website quoted him. "But I'm trying to explain that I'm just an ordinary guy. I'm not as brave as a hero. And an ordinary guy also deserves a vote. "

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, transmitted, rewritten or redistributed.

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