Hong Kong effectively blacklists senior British journalist

Hong Kong effectively blacklists senior British journalist

Senior FT editor refused entry to Hong Kong

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The dissident author, who now lives in London, writes dark and satirical works depicting life in China. His books are banned on the mainland, but he was due to appear at the Hong Kong international literary festival later this week to promote his latest novel China Dream, a title that plays on Chinese President Xi Jinpings rhetoric of national rejuvenation. It is described by publisher Penguin as a biting satire of totalitarianism.

A spate of recent events have stoked concerns that liberties in Hong Kong are under serious threat from an increasingly aggressive China. The former British colony has long enjoyed freedoms that were negotiated when the city was returned to Beijing by Britain in 1997, but concerns are growing that rights are being eroded by Chinese authorities.

Read more But on Wednesday, the author announced on Twitter that his two speaking events had been cancelled by Tai Kwun arts centre, where the festival is held, not by festival organisers who he said were trying to find an alternative venue.

Mr Mas newest book charts the psychological disintegration of a Chinese provincial leader who is haunted by nightmares of his violent past, wrote its publishers, Penguin. It is a biting satire of totalitarianism that reveals what happens to a nation when it is blinded by materialism and governed by violence and lies.

Just been told that my two events at the Hong Kong international literary festival this week can no longer be held at Tai Kwun, where all the other events are taking place. An alternative venue will have to be found. No reason has been given to me yet, he said in his tweet.

Tai Kwuns director Timothy Calnin said in a statement on Thursday that the cancellation took place because we do not want Tai Kwun to become a platform to promote the political interests of any individual.

In October, Hong Kong authorities also denied a visa without explanation to a Financial Times journalist who hosted a speech by the leader of a Hong Kong separatist political party at the citys foreign press club. That group, the Hong Kong National Party, was deemed an illegal organisation in September.

We have therefore worked closely with the Hong Kong international literary festival to find a more suitable alternative venue. We are very grateful to the festival for their co-operation in reaching this solution, said Calnin.

The Hong Kong International Literary Festival on Thursday confirmed it had been "asked to change the venue for two events by Tai Kwun, according to a statement. We arent speculating on the reasons for the move and instead focus on our mission of ensuring our authors are all heard.

But Ma told the Guardian that he was never intending to use Tai Kwun as a platform to promote my political interests.

"Just been told that my two events at the Hong Kong International Literary Festival this week can no longer be held at Tai Kwun, where all the other events are taking place, Mr Ma wrote in his tweet. An alternative venue will have to be found. No reason has been given to me yet.

I am a novelist, not an activist. I have been invited to attend the Hong Kong literary festival to talk about my new novel, China Dream, said Ma.

And the citys publishers have been under intense pressure ever since five booksellers known for printing scurrilous titles about Chinas leaders disappeared in 2015 only to turn up a year later  in custody on the mainland.

Of course, since my books were banned in China 30 years ago, every word I have written has been, in a sense, a political act of defiance, a refusal to be silenced. When you write about China, it is impossible to separate politics from literature. Indeed, it is the duty of every writer to take a stand. But I am not trying to start a revolution. I write fiction to express the truth as I see it. My politics are very simple: I believe in freedom of thought and freedom of speech. Without them, life has no value or meaning.

Pen Hong Kong calls on Tai Kwun to clarify why it cancelled this award-winning authors events, and to affirm its commitment to freedom of expression in Hong Kong, said Jason Ng, president of Pen Hong Kong.

Hong Kongs government says it wants to turn the city into an arts and culture hub, with Tai Kwun the result of a multimillion-dollar renovation of a colonial-era prison and police station, led by the government and the Hong Kong Jockey Club.

The city has rights that are not enjoyed on the mainland, protected by an agreement made before it was handed back to China by Britain in 1997, but there are fears they are being steadily eroded. A highly anticipated art show by Chinese political cartoonist Badiucao was cancelled last week, with Hong Kong organisers citing safety concerns due to threats made by Chinese authorities relating to the artist.

Last week, an art show by dissident Chinese-Australian political cartoonist Badiucao was cancelled by Hong Kong organisers over safety issues after threats made by Chinese authorities relating to the artist.

Hong Kong authorities also faced a major backlash when they denied a visa without explanation last month to a Financial Times journalist who had chaired a press club talk by a Hong Kong independence activist.

Mr Ma has said he couldnt find a Hong Kong publisher willing to put out a Chinese translation of China Dream given the books political content. The English version of the book was released in Britain last week.

The Hong Kong literary festival attracts leading authors from around the world and this year features Scottish novelist Irvine Welsh and bestselling American author Cheryl Strayed. Its director Phillipa Milne said in a statement: We are Hong Kongs leading organisation committed to promoting literature, education and the exchange of ideas. We are proud to present a diverse programme and roster of local and international writers, which this year includes Ma Jian. We are very happy to confirm that our planned events are all going ahead on schedule, but we have been asked to change the venue for two events by Tai Kwun. We arent speculating on the reasons for the move and instead focus on our mission of ensuring our authors are all heard. Venue updates will be announced on the festivals website.

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