By Chris Yeung
Seven months after the end of the annual Hong Kong Drama Awards ceremony last year, a belated post-ceremony show that saw the end of grants and government venue to the ceremony this year could not be uglier – and frightening.
The drama that unfolded last week has stoked more fears about the chilly effects of the Hong Kong national security law and other laws and, more worryingly, a bad move of targeting on people who have a record of defying the Government.
On the target this time are apparently Zunzi, a popular political cartoonist who has been the target of attacks by various policy bureaus last year, and Bao Choy, a former RTHK producer who has succeeded overturning a court ruling on false declaration relating to her investigative reporting of the July 21 Yuen Long attack in 2019.
Both were guests at last year’s Drama Award ceremony.
Organiser of the award, the Hong Kong Federation of Drama Societies, said in a statement on Wednesday that they have received letters from the Hong Kong Arts Development Council (ADC) in December, saying it would not subsidise the awards this year.
The council said in one letter that there were views that last year’s awards may have “directly or indirectly harmed or had a negative effect on the reputation of the body.” It did not elaborate.
Following a request of the federation for explanation, the ADC named both Zunzi and Bao Choy and the two hosts in another letter to them that explained the “inappropriate content”.
It described both Zunzi and Choy as people who were “full of talking points” at that time. It said they could not agree with the invitation if it was an attempt to arouse the attention of the media and the public and to create talking points in the society.
The council also said the talking points of “red bridge” and “red line” by both hosts have had double meaning and seemed to have meant something. It added they were aimed to arouse the attention of the media and the public and to create talking points in the society. “This we cannot agree with.”
“It is necessary for us to make a decision to reduce our grant to show our disapproval.”
Shortly before the letter was publicised, council chairman Kenneth Fok told reporters they have to be cautious in allocating resources. He stressed that they need to reduce the risk of potentially breaching the law and the national security law as far as possible.
The council letter did not mention the national security law.
How the appearance of a political cartoonist and a journalist at the ceremony would pose a risk of a breach of the national security law is unclear. The law, which took effect in July 2020, specifies acts that endanger national security with nothing on the particulars of an individual that are deemed as a potential violation of the national security law.
It is equally inconceivable that the fact that certain people like Bao Choy and Zunzi, who were described by the council as “full of talking points” were “inappropriate” guests at the ceremony. Does that mean that guests whom the media and the public won’t talk about are preferable? If yes, what is the rationale?
Mimicking the council letter, the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) confirmed it would not provide a venue for the event this year, saying the last event sparked “different views in society.”
The exercise of powers by the LCSD in rejecting an application on the basis of “different views in society” is arbitrary, to put it mildly, or unprofessional and politically-motivated, to put it bluntly.
The political drama penned and performed by the department and the ADC is indicative of the immense and profound impact of the national security law on freedom of expression and freedom of speech in the city.
Both Zunzi and Choy are reluctant public figures being dragged into political controversy by the authorities. Zunzi has not been formally charged in courts. Choy’s conviction of making a false statement has been reversed.
That their appearance as guests at the drama award ceremony has been seen as “inappropriate” is a naked act of political censorship of its worst kind by the council and the LCSD, which is based not on what the pair has said, but just being who they are.
This article was first published on Green Bean Facebook