And Tango Makes Three among 10 children’s books with LGBT themes taken off the shelves in public libraries by Hong Kong government
Book banned in Singapore among titles hidden from view as anti-gay-rights group celebrates victory after months of pressure on Home Affairs Bureau
Ten children’s books featuring same-sex parents and other LGBT themes have been hidden away from public view at Hong Kong’s libraries after months of pressure from an anti-gay-rights group.
Among the titles which have been moved to closed stack sections and are now only available on request is the critically acclaimed And Tango Makes Three.
The book, about two male penguins that fall in love and build a family together with the help of a zookeeper, was published in 2005 by Simon & Schuster and has been nominated for a host of awards.
The pressure group, the Family School Sexual Orientation Discrimination Ordinance Concern Group, celebrated its achievement on Facebook on Monday, posting a reply to its campaign from the Home Affairs Bureau, dated June 15.
In its reply, the bureau said the Collection Development Meeting, consisting of library professionals, had reviewed 10 children’s books mentioned in the group’s complaint and had decided to move them to the closed stacks in the city’s public libraries.
However, the bureau added that among the books were seven titles the panel felt were actually “neutral without promoting homosexual or single-sex marriage”.
The bureau’s Leisure and Cultural Services Department, which oversees the city’s 70 libraries, told the Post the professionals did not see the books as “encouraging or criticising single-sex marriage or homosexual, nor with other unethical messages or with other intimate acts”.
But the department spokesman said that to ensure children can get guidance from parents when reading the books, the library put them in closed stacks, although they will be available for reading or borrowing on request.
The department refused to disclose when the decision to remove the books from public view was made.
The news prompted lawmakers to demand an explanation as to why titles such as And Tango Makes Three, Daddy, Pappa and Me, and Mommy, Mama and Me, were being hidden away.
Education sector lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen said he had not read the books, but said the bureau should explain how they had handled the neutral titles.
“Judging from the statement, the comments on the seven children books are neutral, which raises a question about why they were moved to closed stacks?” Ip said. “Without a clear explanation, it makes people think that the decision was made due to pressure.”
The city’s only openly gay lawmaker Raymond Chan Chi-chuen expressed his anger in a post on his Facebook page, criticising the department for bowing to pressure from the anti-gay-rights group.
“The books were put in closed stacks because of complaints, it [the department] is afraid of getting into trouble,” he wrote. “If the content of the books are neutral, why still decide to put them in closed stacks?”
The Leisure and Cultural Services Department said the Hong Kong Public Libraries acquired materials in accordance with the Unesco Public Library Manifesto and was “committed to safeguarding access to free information”, but would not use library materials to promote a specific belief or view.
Big Love Alliance, the gay advocacy group, however, criticised the department and said it was going against the principles of the manifesto, which called for the development of a balanced and diversified library collection.
In 2014, authorities in Singapore sparked outrage for removing and pulping three gay-themed books, including And Tango Makes Three, after a parent complained the books were against family values.
Two of the books, And Tango Makes Three, and The White Swan, were eventually brought back after a public outcry, but were kept in the adult section, rather than with the other children’s books.
THE 10 BOOKS
Daddy, Papa, and Me
Mommy, Mama, and Me
And Tango Makes Three (The Chinese version)
The Family Book
The Boy in the Dress
Milly, Molly and Different Dads
Annie on My Mind
Good Moon Rising