For art's sake give us a home, nudists plead

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 10 October, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 10 October, 2004, 12:00am

Hong Kong's naturists want their own place to hang out - ideally on a deserted Sai Kung island

More than 400 Hong Kong nudists are fighting for a place of their own on a deserted island in Sai Kung so they won't fear harassment from the law.

The Body Arts Association, a group representing local nudists which says their rights to go without clothing are protected under the Basic Law, has called on the government to designate an area for their outdoor activities.

Association president Simon Cheung said the group held activities including swimming, barbecues, hiking, boat trips, yoga, drawing and photography sessions.

'Our activities are very healthy and have nothing to do with obscenity,' he said. 'What we are doing is artistic creation.'

Article 34 of the Basic Law says Hong Kong residents shall have freedom to engage in academic research, literary and artistic creation and other cultural activities.

Mr Cheung said association members were prepared to argue their rights in court if they were arrested for exposing their bodies in public places.

'Right now we have to plan carefully for our outings,' he said. 'We always go to remote sites on weekdays to avoid disturbing others. We very much want to have a place of our own so we can enjoy nudity freely.

'We are not asking to have an area in Central, but on a deserted island.'

The association's membership has risen from only 50 when it was set up three years ago to 440, including 100 women and 10 couples.

Some members are professionals including doctors and lawyers.

Mr Cheung said if the nudists had a base it could be turned into a holiday villa and a famous tourist attraction. Sai Kung is their first choice, with its beautiful beaches and water.

'Our members love mountains, water and sunshine,' he said. 'We like playing volleyball and badminton on the beach.'

Mr Cheung, who works in the advertising industry, said that if Hong Kong wanted to be the real 'Asia World City', it should accept a diversity of cultures. 'Look at the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and many other countries in Europe, they all have nudist camps, why can't Hong Kong do the same?' he said.

He said nudity was not only a 'behaviour art' but also an effective way to release pressure. 'Every day we live with pressure at work,' he said. 'It is wonderful to release ourselves in nudity.'

Gary Fan Kwok-wai, a Sai Kung district councillor, applauded the association's proposal. 'It is a great idea,' he said. 'Hong Kong should accept different cultures. There are so many deserted islands in Sai Kung and there is a lot of room for development.

'Having such a special site can attract more tourists to Sai Kung,' he said, adding that only 10 per cent of tourists visiting the district's famous seafood centre came from overseas.

'Our rules are the same as any other uniformed group,' Mr Cheung said. 'The only difference is our uniforms are given by God. Smoking and drinking are not allowed during our activities. Members should not make reference to others' bodies.'

The group has expelled several members in the past after finding they had 'other purposes' in joining the group.

'Once you have obscenity in your mind, your eyes and body language betray you,' Mr Cheung said.