HONG KONG: More Free Than US?

LAUREN CHEN WRITES – In a column in the South China Morning Post, International author Graeme Maxton lauds Hong Kong for its press freedom. His perspective is based on his experience over the years, writing hundreds of articles and making radio appearances in Hong Kong without being censored for tackling controversial topics. He commented on absence of police brutality during citizen protests, as compared to that found at Occupy Wall Street and similar instances in other countries.

Maxton said, “Living as I do, partly in Asia and partly elsewhere, I think there is a need for some perspective here. The media in much of the rest of the world are a lot less free than in Hong Kong. They are certainly less free in most of the rest of Asia. The press in much of Europe and the United States are not much of a guide, either.”

This perspective is clearly seen in a  juxtaposition of Hong Kong and mainland China. For example, Chinese avant-garde artist Ai Weiwei is known for his contemporary, human rights art activism. Authorities in China arrested Mr. Ai for “economic crimes” and have held his passport since 2011.

Though unable to leave his home country, Mr. Ai was able to curate an art show in Hong Kong. The exhibit presented a challenge to the “frames” that attempt to confine them. Through his art Mr. Ai hopes to “give some kind of statement on the way authorities can limit freedom of speech, can limit basic human rights for artists to travel or participate in cultural activities — very ruthlessly and with no explanation.” Good thing Hong Kong can handle it.

At the show’s launch, Mr. Ai shared his thoughts on “one country, two systems” via video: “I think Hong Kong is a free island even [if] it’s part of China…It still has a possibility of freedom of speech,” he said. By contrast, “In China we are still very restricted on the limitation on the freedom of speech. That is the big difference between these two societies.”

Only time will tell if Hong Kong will become more like mainland China or more free, but it cant be both.

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