Hong Kong Book Fair

Authors praise city's infectious freedom

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 20 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 20 July, 2013, 4:29am

The city's freedom of expression makes it unique in China and will help advance such freedom on the mainland, internationally acclaimed writers said at the Hong Kong Book Fair yesterday.

Biographers William Shawcross and Jung Chang and novelist Erica Jong praised Hong Kong as a mixing pot of various cultures, where, as Jong put it, "free speech flourishes".

The idea of freedom of expression in Hong Kong has gone into China in many ways. I just can't say how grateful I am [to Hong Kong]
Jung Chang

The trio shared their impressions of Hong Kong with the media before addressing a crowd at the fair's open public forum last night.

Shawcross, the official biographer of Britain's Queen Mother, first visited Hong Kong in the early 1970s when he was covering the Vietnam war for The Sunday Times in London . He said he was pleased to see that Hong Kong had developed enormously after the handover in terms of its economy, while maintaining its freedom of speech.

"Hong Kong is unique in the whole Chinese system. And you do have freedom of the press," said Shawcross, who also visited Hong Kong immediately after the Tiananmen crackdown in 1989 and has witnessed waves of Hong Kong immigration to Britain.

He said Beijing had been much wiser than people feared after Tiananmen in its approach to governing Hong Kong.

Chang said she had seen many mainlanders travelling to Hong Kong to buy books banned across the border - including her best-seller Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China, a book based on the story of her family.

"The idea of freedom of expression in Hong Kong has gone into China in many ways," she added. "I just can't say how grateful I am [to Hong Kong]."

Born and raised on the mainland, the 61-year-old moved to Britain in 1978 and has visited the city often since then.

Jong shared Chang's sentiments. Her first and most famous novel, Fear of Flying, was "morally banned" for being bold about women's sexual fantasies.

"Freedom is contagious," said Jong, hoping the free atmosphere in Hong Kong would have an impact on the mainland.

Businessman and socialite David Tang launched the forum three years ago. He said freedom of expression had given Hong Kong a special position in China.

"We have here the most precious freedom, which [mainland] China does not have. This place has given so many people so much pleasure and freedom in expressing whatever they want," he said.