Freedoms cannot be taken for granted

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 24 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 24 June, 2012, 12:00am

Despite growing integration over the past 15 years, Hong Kong still stands out from other parts of China in many ways. Freedom of expression is one of the vital distinctions. Although concerns over restrictions of the city's freedom emerge from time to time, people can generally express their opinion without fear or suppression. The freedom, along with strengths like the rule of law and free flow of information, has undoubtedly contributed to our success.

Recently, our freedoms received a vote of confidence when Swiss arts collector Dr Uli Sigg donated Chinese artworks valued at HK$1.3 billion to the future museum of contemporary art. The 1,463 pieces, including the works of mainland dissident artist Ai Weiwei, will form part of the permanent collection of M+ when it opens in 2017 at the West Kowloon Cultural District. Sigg conceded that he chose Hong Kong rather than the museums on the mainland because of the city's freedom of expression. He rightly pointed out that unlike on the mainland, where there are still restrictions on the display of art works, Hong Kong's artistic expression remains largely censorship-free.

It is reassuring to see that our freedoms have been internationally recognised and become one of our drawing cards in the arts world. It is to be hoped that the donation will set the ball rolling for future acquisitions.

That said, there is no room for complacency. The confidence shown by the art collector is a good reminder that we should guard against erosion of our freedoms. One of the perceived looming threats is the copyright amendment before Legco. Critics fear it would be used to curb political parody deriving from copyright materials, like film posters and Canto-pop songs, which is an increasingly popular genre in the city's political landscape.

Arts and creativity should be allowed to develop and flourish without limits. Every effort has to be made to preserve the city's freedom of expression and creativity.