Baptist University has cancelled a press photography exhibition which included images of the Hong Kong protests, two days before it was expected to launch next Monday.

The exhibition showcased “the best visual journalism” of the past year and included prize-winning images of the local pro-democracy demonstrations. It was set to be held from next Monday until March 21 at the the university’s Koo Ming Kown Exhibition Gallery.

world press photo awards 2020 nominee
Students cross a road to school after participating in a human-chain rally, in Hong Kong, on 12 September 2019. Photo: Nicolas Asfouri, World Press Photo.

“After giving due consideration to campus safety and security, and the need to maintain pandemic control, Hong Kong Baptist University considers that it is not an appropriate time to hold the ‘World Press Photo Exhibition 2020’ on its campus,” an emailed statement from the university obtained by HKFP read. “The exhibits originally planned to be showcased in the exhibition are accessible online for public viewing.”

In another email obtained by HKFP, the organising committee said that they were now seeking another venue: “The university held a top-level emergency meeting on February 25 and decided it is neither the political nor pandemic climate for the event after all. They said the security and protection of their students would be at risk if the exhibition – that had been planned for months and was hours away from being installed – would go ahead.”

Despite the pandemic, the university held a fashion show this week.

The World Press Photo Interactive of the Year was awarded to the 360 degree production Battleground PolyU by DJ Clark of China Daily last year.

The exhibition’s last minute cancellation comes amid growing concerns of self-censorship in the city as authorities move to crackdown on all political dissent under the national security law. Local authorities have said the security law was necessary to restore order after the city was rocked by pro-democracy demonstrations in 2019.

Macau exhibition

The same exhibition planned to be held in Macau was abruptly cancelled last October: “Supporting the conditions for freedom of expression, freedom of enquiry, freedom of the press is a fundamental part of our work,” Laurens Korteweg, director of Exhibitions at the World Press Photo Foundation said at the time.

macau 2020 annual tiananmen massacre vigil june 4
On June 4, 2020, Macau police dispersed crowd who remain at Senado where annual Tiananmen vigil takes place annually. Photo: Chan Sai-mei, Choi Chi-chio/United Social Press.

HKFP has reached out to World Press Photo and BUHK for comment.

Additional reporting: Tom Grundy.

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Hong Kong Free Press is a new, non-profit, English-language news source seeking to unite critical voices on local and national affairs. Free of charge and completely independent, HKFP arrives amid rising concerns over declining press freedom in Hong Kong and during an important time in the city’s constitutional development.