Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Overly Sensitive HK Bureaucracy

Lau Kong-wah says Hong Kong welcomes cultural exchanges
The Hong Kong government bureaucracy has become so sensitive about language that it needs a good slap in the face to fall back to reality.

A Hong Kong artist, Suie Lo Shuk-yin, was the executive producer for a play called Three Novels: The Third Lie, that was staged at Tsuen Wan Town Hall last Friday to Sunday by local drama group The Nonsensemakers.

For the program, she had provided a brief biography of herself and she mentioned her alma mater, Taipei National University of the Arts.

Taipei National University of the Arts campus
However the Leisure and Cultural Services Department verbally told Lo that she could not use the word "national" in the program in either English or Chinese.

Excuse me? How can you demand someone to take that word out of their biography, when it's part of the university's name?

In the end Lo cleverly rewrote her bio, taking out the mention of her alma mater and instead added a photograph of her holding a graduation certificate that showed the full name of the university.

As soon as this was reported in the media, a tsunami of outrage flooded the government, and it was forced to explain itself with a very red face.

Yesterday Home Affairs Secretary Lau Kong-wah read a two-minute statement -- in both Chinese and English -- that Hong Kong welcomed good relations with other countries, particularly through cultural exchanges. He did not specifically mention the controversy.

Tsuen Wan Town Hall where the drama was staged
But apparently this is not the first time this kind of incident has happened. In 2014, the word "national" for the same university was taken out of text of a program regarding some 20 dancers who studied there.

Cheung Siu-wing, chairman of the Leisure Services Staff General Union said the department's guideline stated only that cultural events at its venues should not involve politics.

But the guideline did not specify that the word "national" in the context of Taiwan universities was not allowed.

"I believe that our colleagues might have been oversensitive in this case," Cheung said.

You don't say!

He suggested that perhaps the issue only came to the attention of senior officials after it was reported to the media.

A cultural expert at Chinese University, Oscar Ho Hing-kay, described Lau's statement as an "empty response".

"If the government respected the arts group, why did the LCSD prohibit that word in the first place? Those were such rubbish comments coming out of his mouth," he said.

It just shows the staff working at the LCSD are not passionate about the arts, otherwise they would respect other people's backgrounds, wherever they came from.

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