Sunday, May 20, 2007

China, Censorship, and the Bible

On Friday I posted about complaints filed in Hong Kong against the Bible as a violent and indecent book, demanding that it be kept away from minors. It seemed to be another strange story out of China, and some of our commenters speculated that the Chinese government, being afraid of Christianity within China, was using this pretext for a crackdown on Christians.

However, as is often the case with China, things are not entirely what they seem. A reader with a thorough knowledge of affairs in Hong Kong wrote us this morning:

I am writing to you to comment on your article ‘A Holy Book of Violence and Indecency’. The actual background of the controversy has not been made clear in the original article. In February and March a controversial sex survey was published in the Chinese University student newspaper. These two editions of the student newspaper were subsequently classified as ‘indecent’ by the Obscene Articles Tribunal in Hong Kong. Obviously in protest and as a publicity stunt student activists then lunched the campaign against the Bible.

Though I have no doubt that the Mainland Chinese Government will not allow any challenge to its authority, this controversy was not created by the government but rather by some local student activists. To illustrate the development of events I have copied some short news bulletins from RTHK, the official Hong Kong broadcaster, here:

Student editors expect sex articles to be deemed ‘indecent’

2007-05-12 HKT 16:01

The editors of a student journal who published a controversial sex survey say they’ve been told it’s very likely that the Obscene Articles Tribunal will rule that the articles were indecent. The Chinese University student newspaper caused a stir after it published articles about sexual desires, and a survey about bestiality and incest in its February and March issues. The student editors say they’ve been told by tribunal staff that the articles will be officially classified as indecent on Tuesday.

Sex articles in editions of Chinese University newspaper classified as ‘indecent’

2007-05-15 HKT 00:59

The Obscene Articles Tribunal has classified as ‘indecent’ two editions of a Chinese University students’ newspaper. They contained articles based on a controversial survey about students’ sexual desires — which included questions about incest and bestiality. The Tribunal’s ruling will be published in newspapers tomorrow.

More Bible complaints

2007-05-16 HKT 16:45

Hundreds more complaints against the Bible have been received, following the launching of an anonymous website yesterday. The site urges people to pressure the Television and Entertainment Licensing Authority into reclassifying parts of the Bible as indecent. The site was set up after TELA classified two issues of a Chinese University student publication as indecent. A spokesman for TELA said that so far they had received 838 complaints relating to certain chapters in the Bible.
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Plea not to penalise students

2007-05-17 HKT 13:13

The Hong Kong Federation of Students has urged the authorities not to penalise the editorial team of a Chinese University newspaper that published a controversial column about sexual desires. The Obscene Articles Tribunal has classified two of the articles as indecent. The Federation also called on the Chinese University to withdraw a warning letter issued to students.

Chinese University rules out action for now in sex row

2007-05-17 HKT 22:57

The Chinese University says it won’t take disciplinary action at the moment against those involved in the controversy over a sex survey in a student newspaper. Pro Vice-Chancellor, Professor Jack Cheng, said alumni from the university had volunteered to give legal advice to the students involved. However, speaking after a meeting with the students, Professor Cheng ruled out giving them financial assistance to launch an appeal against a ruling by the Obscene Articles Tribunal.

Government says TELA won’t deal with frivolous complaints

2007-05-19 HKT 17:07

The government says the Television and Entertainment Licensing Authority will not deal with “frivolous” complaints from the public. The Secretary for Commerce, Industry and Technology, Joseph Wong, said longstanding religious texts or literature have not violated standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by members of the community. His comments followed Tela’s decision not to submit the Bible to the Obscene Articles Tribunal for classification despite receiving more than two thousand complaints about its content.

CUHK students appeal to Obscene Articles Tribunal to review its ruling

2007-05-19 HKT 18:35

A group of Chinese University students has filed an application with the Obscene Articles Tribunal urging it to review its ruling on articles in their student publication. The Tribunal earlier classified two issues of the paper as indecent because they contained questions about incest and bestiality. This meant they cannot be distributed to youngsters. If prosecuted, the editors could face a maximum fine of 400-thousand dollars and one year in prison.

Our reader goes on to say, “This goes to show once again that the MSM (Reuters, AFP in the article you quoted) cannot be trusted to report events in their true and proper context.”

And all I can say to that is, “Amen!”