The Hong Kong government has stressed that there is “good cooperation” in cultural exchanges with other parts of the world, following a recent case whereby the word “national” was apparently removed from the names of Taiwanese institutions. Other similar cases, however, have since emerged.

On Monday, the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) was criticised for allegedly demanding the word “national” be deleted from the biography of a member of a drama company which performed at a public theatre last week. The member graduated from the Taipei National University of the Arts.

The League of Social Democrats protested at the LCSD’s office over its alleged removal of the term “national”, saying it was political censorship. Photo: Avery Ng.

The university said in a statement that it was “deeply disappointed” by the way the LCSD handled the incident.

“[T]he University earnestly hopes that the integrity of its official name can be respected,” the statement read. “It is an undeniable fact that the word ‘National’ is an inseparable part of the official name ‘Taipei National University of the Arts,’ which defines our existence and academic position, and with which we conduct international exchange with other universities around the world.”

“The Leisure and Cultural Services Department’s demand of deleting the word ‘National’ from our official name was clearly unreasonable and improper, which we sternly protest.”

Lau Kong-wah. File Photo: Gov HK.

‘Good co-operation’

In response, Secretary for Home Affairs Lau Kong-wah read out a statement from the government at a press conference on Tuesday, without accepting any questions from reporters.

“Hong Kong has been maintaining very close and active relations with other parts of the world, especially in cultural exchanges,” Lau said. “The co-operation is good, is fruitful and we welcome these cultural exchanges and will continue our efforts.”

He added that the LCSD has “a very close relationship with our arts clubs in Hong Kong with mutual respect and mutual trust.”

“We will look into the communication and practice with an aim to benefit our future good co-operation,” he concluded.

On Wednesday, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying dodged further questions, stating: “Yesterday, the Secretary for Home Affairs Lau Kong-wah actively told you all – we will continue to look into the matter.”

Judy Cheng Chim-chu, who graduated from National University of Tainan, posted on her Facebook account that the term national was removed, on the pamphlet of the programme. Photo: Facebook.

‘Self-censorship’

A similar incident was found on a pamphlet of Czechmate, a musical sponsored by the LCSD in November last year.

Judy Cheng Chim-chu, who graduated from National University of Tainan, posted on her Facebook account that the term “national” was removed in the programme pamphlet introducing her.

“I would never think that the self-censorship [plot] in the drama would happen to a deputy stage manager,” Cheng wrote.

Another incident was found in the pamphlet of The Sorrow of young Yat Sum, a drama performed in August 2015 sponsored by the LCSD.

Cindy Cheung, who was studying at the National Taiwan University of Arts, was described as studying at “Taiwan University of Arts” in the pamphlet.

Cheung told Apple Daily that she reminded LCSD staff twice that the name of the school should include “national”. She said she was promised that changes would be made, but it was not shown on the pamphlet at the end.

The Taiwanese archive’s then Chinese name 國家電影資料館 meant National Film Archive, but it was not used.

‘Taipei’

In 2012, a government press release gave thanks to the Taipei Film Archive – rendered as “台北電影資料館” in the Chinese release – in support of the LCSD’s Hong Kong Film Archive after it loaned items for an exhibition on director King Hu.

The Taiwanese archive’s then Chinese name “國家電影資料館” translated as “National Film Archive”, but it was not used.

It changed its Chinese name to “國家電影中心” – meaning “National Film Institute” – in 2014, but it was reportedly named as Taipei Film Institute in another partnership with the Hong Kong Film Archive last year.

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Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.