The recent furore surrounding the soon-to-open M+ museum of visual culture in Hong Kong reminds us that the portrayal of nudity and the discussion of sex remains a taboo for many people in Hong Kong despite the city’s outward appearance as a cosmopolitan, open society. Critics of M+ insist that, national security law aside, its collection is problematic because it features “pornography” and portrayals of homosexuality that they consider to be indecent and obscene. There will always be art in any city around the world that can upset social conservatives. But here in Hong Kong, I fear the latter are winning the battle, to the detriment of our cultural life. Over the past year, my nine-year-old son Jet and I have regularly visited the Hong Kong Museum of Art (HKMoA) except for when it had to close between waves of Covid-19 case spikes. Yet, every time we came close to our favourite work there, which is in the “Hong Kong Experience. Hong Kong Experiment” exhibition that has been extended until May 30, we were inevitably discouraged from even going near it together. In a small corner of the second floor is Rati version 3.2 (2001), a video by Hong Kong artist Phoebe Man Ching-ying that is hidden behind curtains where a uniformed security guard stands sentry. When we went, a large sign read: “The video explores gender issues and contains sexual content. For persons aged 18 years or above only.” The Film Censorship Ordinance states that “cultural” films can be exempted from being classified under the Film Censorship Authority’s three-tier rating system. Rati is not rated. But the museum has unilaterally decided that the work is not suitable for anyone below the age of 18, treating it as if it were a Category III film. It is rare for any artwork to receive such heavy-handed censorship in the museum. So why does it deserve such treatment? Avid collector brings Hong Kong’s colonial history to life Rati is a short film created exactly 20 years ago by Man, a groundbreaking feminist artist who is today an associate professor at the City University of Hong Kong’s School of Creative Media. It is a comedic portrayal of the dating life of a young lady wearing a vagina-shaped costume, torn between the artificial constructs of beauty and the opposing ideals of feminism. The video won the Hong Kong Independent Short Film & Video Award and has been shown in more than 30 festivals and art events around the world since. (You can view an extract of the video online ). So there is some nudity and sexual content in Rati . But I have seen it shown at the museum (which acquired it in 2002) without such warning before. Furthermore, there was no age warning for all that nudity on show in the recent “Botticelli and His Times – Masterworks from the Uffizi” exhibition in the museum: besides the nude portraits of Venus, there is a painting by Luca Signorelli of a group of naked men flagellating Jesus Christ. Why does this matter? On the most superficial level, this incident eloquently illustrates a double standard that HKMoA applies towards a local, contemporary work by a female artist as opposed to imported works by “Masters” for a blockbuster exhibition. The danger here is that HKMoA may be sending a message that the dating life of a pretend vagina in Rati is so depraved, dangerous and subversive that only those over 18 years old (both men and women) would possess the requisite intelligence and self-control to view and understand it. Not only is this message insulting to younger people, it trivialises the female experience that Rati describes and denies the legitimacy that the work so rightly deserves. By including Rati in its collection and simultaneously restricting access to it, HKMoA is effectively paying lip service to the ideals of equality and inclusion, while concurrently becoming part of the patriarchy that oppresses the voices that the artwork is fighting so hard to be heard. Indeed, in this age of toxic masculinity, so sharply illuminated by the #MeToo movement, artworks like this can be a wake-up call. And as THE art museum to officially bear Hong Kong’s name, the Hong Kong Museum of Art is in a powerful position in influencing “what art is” in Hong Kong. I had to fight tooth and nail every time we visit HKMoA so that my nine-year-old son could see the work in defiance of the age warning. Yet we inevitably got whispers and strange glares from both the museum staff and the visitors when we entered the booth. All this reaction is because of the existence of a simple sign. Indeed, what kind of cultural legacy would we create if HKMoA seeks to bury one of the most important works by the foremost feminist artist in Hong Kong? By hiding the work, are we not perpetuating the same sexual violence that the work seeks to address? I fear what is at stake here is not simply the justice for one piece, but the very soul of HKMoA and the future of the art world of Hong Kong. After Post Magazine inquired about the thinking behind the sign, the Leisure and Cultural Services Department said it had changed the wording to be more “advisory” in nature. It now reads: “The video explores gender issues and contains sexual content. Not recommended for persons aged below 18.” Wouldn’t it be great if the museum’s mindset can change so that one of its most searing and innovative works is recommended to all persons? Fung Chun-bong and his nine-year-old son, Jet, are private collectors of modern and contemporary art.