In Hong Kong, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying’s team is in the soup, as two of his secretaries have recently drawn criticism.
Secretary for Education Eddie Ng Hak-kim has been accused of being standoffish towards student suicides, refusing to receive a petition from students, and expressing great disapproval of the opinions given. He has been asked to step down.
Secretary for Home Affairs Lau Kong-wah has been criticized for the way he responded when the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) was accused of demanding that the word “national” be deleted from the credits in a local theatrical troupe’s performance booklet.
The theatrical troupe, called the Nonsensemakers, was invited by the LCSD to put on a play titled “Three Novels: The Third Lie” between March 18 and 20, 2016. However, the LCSD demanded that the word “national” be removed from the words “Taipei National University of the Arts.”
The university was where the troupe’s director and executive producer Luo Shu-yan graduated. The matter has been viewed as political censorship.
Taipei National University of the Arts president Yang Chi-wen told On.cc, a Hong Kong Web-based media outlet, that the LCSD’s demand was “incredibly stupid and totally without taste, respect, and wisdom.” The Taipei Economic and Cultural Office said they will take the matter up with the Hong Kong government.
The way Leung and Lau responded to the controversy sparked further outcry.
On March 22, Leung was asked about the incident when he attended the council meeting. He said the media would hear from Lau, and he made no further comments.
At noon, Lau was hounded by reporters, who asked him to clarify the matter.
He said, “The cooperation is good and fruitful, and we welcome these cultural exchanges and will continue our efforts.”
“We will look into the communication and practice with an aim to benefit our future good cooperation,” Lau added. He repeated his words in English and left in about two minutes without taking any questions.
Convenor of the Executive Council Lam Woon-kwong feels the officials concerned owe the public an explanation.
Leung, who is experiencing dwindling public trust, has had his reputation further dented by the strong criticism his assistants receive.
‘Pandering to CCP’
A few pro-democratic parties staged a protest at the LCSD office and the headquarters of the government.
Civic Party legislator Kenneth Chan Ka-lok said Lau was irresponsible for taking no questions after a two-minute speech. He said Lau owed the troupe an apology.
He added that since the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) took over Hong Kong, many departments in Hong Kong have practiced political censorship, and he finds that unacceptable.
League of Social Democrats (LSD) chairman Avery Ng Man-yuen says political censorship is not new, and he criticized the LCSD for being politically biased and pandering to the CCP. He feels the incident has impeded cultural exchanges between Hong Kong and Taiwan and that the authorities have imported the practice of having blacklisted words.
He urges the authorities to apologize to the troupe. Members of the LSD also displayed their fury by sticking the word “party” printed in red, as well as the CCP’s emblem, on the stone lions and walls at the LCSD door.
Democratic Party chairperson Emily Lau Wai-hing has written to Lau to express her rage. She believes the LCSD’s demand was most inappropriate, and it has hurt the feelings of the people of Taiwan and put Hong Kong to shame.
Legislative Council (LegCo) member James To Kun-sun says the incident has undermined the Hong Kong-Taiwan relationship, and it might be an indication that there is a change in the Beijing government’s policy towards Taiwan. He feels the Hong Kong government should clarify the matter and apologize if they have made mistakes.
LegCo member Leung Yiu-chung has noticed that since Leung Chun-ying took office, the LCSD has been politically biased, including barring the persecuted spiritual practice Falun Gong from renting venues. He said it is too ridiculous if the word “national” has to be banned too.
Convenor urges respect
Convenor Lam Woon-kwong also questioned the demand made by the LCSD. He feels the LCSD should explain why they wanted the word “national” removed. He also feels the authorities should respect the performing troupe.
“The LCSD should come forward to clarify the matter. Maybe there are sensitive words under ‘one country,’ but I think it is feasible to follow the ‘one country, two systems’ policy. Hong Kong is a free city. We should respect the people who come to Hong Kong to perform or undertake other activities,” Lam said.
Lam was Secretary for Home Affairs during the time of the first Chief Executive, Tung Chee-hwa, between 2000 and 2002.
Translated by Su Lin. Edited by Sally Appert.