Hong Kong public libraries have added rules for writing contests – including one aimed at children – that state entries must not violate national security interests.
New conditions in the application forms for the 32nd Chinese Poetry Writing Competition and for the 4.23. World Book Day competition state that entries must not violate the laws of Hong Kong including national security laws and in the event of a violation the organizer will not be held legally liable.
Both competitions are organized by Hong Kong Public Libraries under the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD).
The annual Chinese poetry writing competition includes a student category for upper secondary students and an open category for those aged 18 and over. This year’s competition is already over, the organizers announced the results in September.
The competition, held in conjunction with World Book Day, is open to students of all ages from first to sixth secondary school. The annual competition is still ongoing and the results will be published next April.
In addition, the rules for the Chinese poetry competition state that if an entry breaks the law, the contestant must accept responsibility, including paying the government’s legal costs and damages.
The rules and regulations for both Poetry Day and World Book Day last year contained no language related to national security.
In response to HKFP, the LCSD said: “Hong Kong public libraries have always ensured that their collections and activities must comply with Hong Kong law. Therefore, the event participants are also obliged to comply with the relevant requirements.”
In June 2020, after a year of pro-democracy protests and unrest, Beijing inserted national security laws directly into Hong Kong’s mini-constitution – bypassing the local legislature. It criminalized subversion, secession, collusion with foreign forces, and acts of terrorism, which broadly included disrupting transportation and other infrastructure.
With the enactment of the national security law, civil society groups have disbanded and newsrooms have closed. The law’s impact has also extended to the city’s public libraries, which have withdrawn books on political events.
However, the LCSD has refused to publish a list of banned books for security reasons. Providing a list “may lead to widespread distribution of such library materials with malicious intent,” the LCSD said in April. A review by HKFP last year found that libraries now have 392 fewer books about the June 4, 1989 massacre than in 2009.
Authorities claim the security law has restored peace and stability to the city.
‘Complies with the law’
Separately, Culture, Sports and Tourism Minister Kevin Yeung said literary works must comply with the law to be recognized at awards.
His comment followed the publication of the results for the 16th Biennial Chinese Literature Awards, also organized by the LCSD. No prize was awarded in the poetry section, allegedly because the three books – works related to the Umbrella movement in 2014 and Liu Xiaobo, the late writer known for his criticism of the Chinese Communist Party – were disqualified by the authorities , according to Ming Pao.
The three books were removed from public library shelves last December.
“When the LCSD, as a government agency, recommends, sponsors, or rewards a particular play, it must conform to its principles and society’s moral standards and comply with the law,” Yeung said on a radio show Thursday.
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