PEN Hong Kong is dismayed at the news that the Macao Literary Festival, the biggest international literary event in the city, has been told that three of its authors would not have been assured of entry in the former Portuguese colony. The three writers that have been singled out are Jung Chang, the award-winning author of Wild Swans and a biography of Mao Zedong, both highly critical of the Chinese political system, and two authors who have written perceptive and critical volumes about North Korea, Suki Kim and James Church.
As the director of the Festival, Mr Hélder Beja told Radio Macau, he had no option but to cancel the planned events with these three writers, as he was made aware, through informal channels, that their presence was deemed problematic and they may not gain entry into the city. We deem this to be a very worrying development, and one that infringes directly on the right to freedom of expression and on literary expression, which should be guaranteed in Macao as everywhere else. To ban authors solely on the base of the political acceptability of their writings, according to fuzzy standards that are not even publicly disclosed, is a very concerning development that cannot be defended.
While we recognise that immigration authorities have all the discretion to decide whom to allow in, we urge the Macao administration not to use access to their city as a covert tool of political control in determining what kind of books are deemed acceptable. In so doing, they are not only blocking internationally acclaimed authors from visiting Macao, and harming Macao’s reputation as a city known for its cultural and creative industries, but Macao authorities are also limiting the cultural exchanges their citizenry is allowed to enjoy.
This is a censoring and authoritative move that we find deplorable.