Cropping of newspaper image at Music Office exhibition sparks controversy, prompting apology by officials

Date using Gregorian calendar widely used in Taiwan removed ‘to make picture fit’

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 01 June, 2017, 11:20am
UPDATED : Thursday, 01 June, 2017, 12:03pm

Hong Kong cultural officials have apologised for cutting the Gregorian calendar widely used in Taiwan out of an archived newspaper page on display at an exhibition, amid accusations of self-censorship and a disrespect for history.

The image at the exhibition to mark the 40th anniversary of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department’s Music Office carried a report from the now defunct Chinese-language daily Wah Kiu Yat Po on the establishment of the Music Administrator’s Office, the MO’s predecessor, in September 1977.

Dates in the pro-Taiwan newspaper reflected both the common calendar and the Gregorian calendar, or Minguo calendar, which numbers years from January 1, 1912, when the Republic of China, now Taiwan’s official title, was established. The title has not been recognised by Beijing.

The year 1977 is also written as “66 Republic of China” on the original page. But the picture displayed on a board at North Kwai Chung Public Library had been edited, with the Gregorian calendar year removed, along with the section header below it.

The same page appeared twice in a promotional video on the MO’s anniversary website.

The change was soon noticed by members of the public and drew sharp criticism from various quarters.

Former government records services director Simon Chu Fook-keung said the department’s act showed contempt for history and called it a foolish decision.

It might be a kind of fear of not being politically correct ... Why can’t they just face the history?
Simon Chu, Former government records services director

“It might be a kind of fear of not being politically correct,” Chu said. “Why can’t they just face the history?”

Democratic Party lawmaker Roy Kwong Chun-yu said that whatever the department thought of the “Republic of China”, the name should not be altered in an exhibition meant to display historical facts.

The department explained on Wednesday night that the change had not been made due to political considerations, and that the crop was to allow the image to fit on the exhibition board.

It gave a similar explanation for another edited picture on the Music Office website carrying a similar report in 1977 from another now defunct pro-Taiwan Chinese-language daily, the Kung Sheung Daily News.

The department admitted that it was not appropriate to trim the original layouts of the newspapers as this did not show full respect for the veracity and integrity of the historical documents.

“[The department] apologises to the public over the case. The Music Office will make corrections on the concerned exhibition board and the webpage as soon as possible.”

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Kwong said he did not accept the department’s explanation and held that the Gregorian calendar on Wah Kiu Yat Po was removed deliberately to avoid the phrase “Republic of China” from being shown.

He said this was not the first time something like this had happened with the LCSD.

Kwong was referring to a case in March last year when the department was said to have prohibited a Hong Kong artist from publishing the full name of her Taiwanese alma mater in a programme book for a drama production because it contained the word “national”.

Though Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and Secretary for Home Affairs Lau Kong-wah later avoided clarifying why the department had problems with printing the word “national”, a source from the department confirmed to the Post that internal guidelines existed in print that specifically forbade the word “national” from appearing in Taiwanese artists’ profiles in programmes presented by the department.

“I worry that if you allow it the first time, there might a be second time … if [the cropping] had not been spotted by the sharp eyes of the public and reported by the media, the case would have sunk like a stone dropped in the sea,” Kwong said.