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No Oscars or Sensitive Art Fuel Hong Kong Fears

People walk in front of "M+" visual culture museum in the West Kowloon Cultural District of Hong Kong, Monday, March 29, 2021. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
People walk in front of "M+" visual culture museum in the West Kowloon Cultural District of Hong Kong, Monday, March 29, 2021. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
No Oscars or Sensitive Art Fuel Hong Kong Fears
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Public concern is growing in Hong Kong that Chinese lawmakers in Beijing are beginning to censor the city’s arts and entertainment.

That includes the decision not to show a politically sensitive picture in a museum show and not to broadcast the Academy Awards. It is the first time in many years that the Academy Awards, known as the Oscars, will not be shown.

Hong Kong officials have taken a harder stand in favor of mainland China since the 2020 passing of a national security law. The law came in response to months of demonstrations in 2019 by well-known pro-democracy activists and anti-government protesters.

The announcements on the Oscars and the picture come as China’s top lawmaking body discusses changes to Hong Kong’s elections. New laws in Hong Kong would put more power in the hands of a committee led by mainland China loyalists.

Henry Tang is head of Hong Kong’s West Kowloon Cultural District Authority, a development group for arts and culture. He said at a news conference this week that there are no plans to show a picture at the opening of the city’s new M+ museum. In the picture, dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei is holding up his middle finger at Tiananmen Square in Beijing.

The decision has led to concern that the security law will not just quiet dissent but also affect freedom of art and expression.

Tang dismissed the idea that the museum was under pressure to remove the picture. He told the Associated Press that there never were plans to include it. Tang added that if any of the museum’s works breaks a law, he is sure law enforcement officials will contact his organization and he will cooperate fully.

Artist Ai Weiwei could not be reached immediately for comment.

Earlier this month, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said officials were on “full alert” to ensure that museums do not break the security law. Pro-China lawmakers have said that some of M+’s artwork is politically sensitive and may violate the law.

Separately, public broadcaster TVB said Monday that it will not show this year’s Academy Awards for the first time in decades. TVB said in a statement that it did not have the broadcasting rights for the show.

Local newspaper The Standard suggested that critical comments about China’s government by Chloe Zhao could be linked to the decision. Zhao is the Beijing-born director of the film “Nomadland,” which was nominated for an Oscar. The newspaper also said a short documentary about the 2019 protests in Hong Kong may have affected the decision.

Old comments by Zhao in which she was seen as critical to China led to anger in the country. Searches for “Nomadland” were blocked on the Chinese internet, which is heavily censored to remove material that the government sees as politically sensitive.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which presents the Oscars, could not be quickly reached for comment.

I’m Alice Bryant.

The Associated Press reported this story. Alice Bryant adapted it for Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.


Words in This Story

censor - to examine books, movies, letters, etc., in order to remove things that are considered to be offensive, immoral, harmful to society, etc.

finger - n. one of the five long parts of the hand that are used for holding things

decade - n. a period of 10 years