Unnecessary fuss turns a cultural event into a political drama

If true, the row over the word ‘national’ shows Hong Kong bureaucrats are taking political correctness to extremes

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 23 March, 2016, 8:42pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 23 March, 2016, 8:47pm

A government-sponsored cultural drama has unnecessarily been thrust onto the political stage, all because of the innocuous word “national”. A misguided sense of political correctness within the Leisure and Cultural Services Department is being blamed. Officials seem so eager to screen out perceived unacceptable content that even an artiste’s biography in a house programme is not spared. The alleged censorship is not just a threat to artistic freedom; it also undermines the city’s image as an arts hub and risks upsetting ties with other places.

Home affairs minister Lau Kong-wah would neither confirm nor deny if the department had told the drama producer that the university she went to – the Taipei National University of the Arts – should not carry the word “national” in the house programme. She protested by replacing her biography with a statement lamenting the restriction on freedom. The university also protested against the alleged censorship.

The case involving local drama group The Nonsensemakers is not the first of its kind. Another performing group with Taiwan-educated members also claimed to have had a similar experience. But a search of the LCSD’s website still found the names of Taiwan bodies with the word “national”.

Lau’s short and ambiguous statement does nothing to clear the air. But his pledge to look into the “communication” with arts groups suggests something is amiss.

In the intricate world of politics and diplomacy, language can be a sensitive issue. This applies to cross-straits relations, with each side adhering to a set of jargons when interacting at the official level. But the case in question merely involves the name of a university, which is factual and hardly politically sensitive.

Neither the name of an institution nor the performer’s background can be arbitrarily altered. The incident is totally unnecessary. Such kind of political correctness is not conducive to the development of culture and the creative industry in the city.