Officials 'must justify snub to Nobel laureate'
Remember Chinese novelist Gao Xingjian? He is the only Chinese to have won the Nobel Prize for Literature. That was a year ago. Today's News Review looks at his visit to Hong Kong soon after he won the honour.
SCMP, January 31, 2001: Officials will be asked to explain why they have cold-shouldered Nobel laureate Gao Xingjian, who arrived in Hong Kong on Monday for a three-day visit.
The administration has confirmed it will send representatives to appear at a Legco home affairs panel meeting on Monday, said Democrat Andrew Cheng Kar-foo.
'Officials must explain why they treated [Gao] so differently from pianist Li Yundi,' Mr Cheng said.
'Talking about international status, I think Mr Gao's achievements far outweigh those of Mr Li. The Government should give an account as to why they gave Mr Li such a big welcome but opted to cold-shoulder Mr Gao.'
When Li gave a recital at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre earlier this month, a raft of senior government officials turned up, including Tung Chee-hwa and his wife, along with Anson Chan Fang On-sang, Donald Tsang Yam-kuen and Elsie Leung Oi-sie.
Gao, the first Chinese-born winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, has lived in exile in France since 1988. Many of his works are banned on the mainland.
Last October, Director of Leisure and Cultural Services Paul Leung Sai-wah said he would be invited to a literature festival later this year.
But last night a spokesman for the department said the administration had since decided to pool resources with the Arts Development Council in organising a cultural arts festival.
He said the department had yet to decide who would be invited as talks 'have only just started'.
A pro-Beijing newspaper yesterday criticised Gao for making remarks that offended other Chinese authors.
Ta Kung Pao said the news that he had won the Nobel Prize for Literature would have been welcomed but for the political elements surrounding the announcement. Gao described the past 50 to 100 years as a dark age for literature and said Chinese authors had to keep quiet or flee.
'Is the prize he won one for literature or politics?' the newspaper asked.
Meanwhile, with Gao's works banned in China, visiting mainland academics seized the chance to exchange views with the writer during his talk at the Chinese University of Hong Kong yesterday.
A lecturer from a teacher-training institute in Shangdong, who has been using his books as teaching materials since the 1980s, said: 'I share a lot of your views and would like to express my respect for you.'
However, another mainland academic said he disagreed with Gao's view that literature could be detached from politics. Asked if he considered his roots to be on the mainland, Gao replied: 'Chinese people face enormous hurdles trying to balance their duty to the nation and their individual values. Those who toe the line are crushed to death. I think it's more important to recognise your own self than to conform to general values.'
Gao attributed his success to his mother for telling him to keep a diary when he was eight. His works include One Man's Bible and Soul Mountain.
cold-shoulder (v) to snub someone
laureate (n) someone who has won an important prize, especially the Nobel Prize
status (n) a person's position in society
exile (n) a prolonged, usually enforced absence from one's country
pool (v) to draw together
flee (v) to run away from
Do you think officials should have given Gao Xingjian the cold shoulder?
What do you think of Gao?
Edited by Catherine Chisholm