Sunday, May 15, 2011

scmp: Banned mainland books on shortlist for HK prize

Banned mainland books on shortlist for HK prize

Inclusion of dissident writer's critique of Premier Wen Jiabao fascinates net users across the border

Tanna Chong 
May 16, 2011
A Hong Kong book prize organised by government departments has triggered debate among mainland web users over its eyebrow-raising shortlist.

Publications the mainland banned, including China's Best Actor: Wen Jiabao and a memoir of veteran mainland Aids activist Dr Gao Yaojie , are among 22 shortlisted for the fourth annual Hong Kong Book Prize, organised by RTHK and the Leisure and Cultural Services Department.

While it is not the first time books restricted on the mainland have been included, adjudicators who compiled the shortlist see an increasing social and political awareness among Hong Kong readers.

Members of the panel, comprising 17 academics, cultural critics and social-policy workers, said they were happy to have the event turned into a platform for what one called the "export and reimport" to the mainland of prohibited information.

"I picked the critique of Wen for the list and I think it reflects the freedom of publication in Hong Kong," said Dr Hung Ching-tin, a member of the panel and a research fellow with the Hong Kong Institute of Education. "Hong Kong has preserved its unique value in transferring knowledge, which could be politically sensitive, to mainland citizens. It is sort of a knowledge export and re-import process."

In the book on Wen - widely available in Hong Kong - dissident writer Yu Jie lambasts the premier for hypocrisy over democratic values.

Mainland users of social networking site Twitter were fascinated that the book was included in an event organised by government bodies.

Hung said there were more political publications in this year's list, which helped maintain an information flow to the mainland.

"This chimes with an increasingly popular activity among mainland tourists: buying books banned by Beijing in Hong Kong as souvenirs," he said.

Another adjudicator, Dr Wong Chi-ching, said the list "reflected the intellectual development of society".

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