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Feb 26 2021

World Press Photo Exhibition Canceled in Hong Kong

by ArtAsiaPacific

View of the World Press Photo Exhibition 2020 at the State Library of New South Wales, Sydney. Image via Facebook.

Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU) has canceled a display of the touring World Press Photo Exhibition three days before its scheduled opening date on March 1 at the university’s Koo Ming Kown Exhibition Gallery. In their announcement, organizers did not give an explicit reason for the school’s decision, however they noted the exhibition was meant to be a “showcase of some of the world’s best visual journalism, as a testament to the importance of visual storytelling and press freedom.”

According to video trailers posted online ahead of the opening, the exhibition was slated to feature photographs and videos of Hong Kong’s anti-government protests in 2019. Acts such as displaying flags and banners and chanting slogans related to the 2019 protests could be deemed as subversion or succession under the vaguely worded provisions of the National Security Law (NSL), enacted on June 30, 2020.

In a short statement sent to ArtAsiaPacific, Baptist University’s Communication and Public Relations Office said that the reason for the cancellation was due to the “need to maintain pandemic control” and that the decision was made after “due consideration to campus safety and security.” The statement said that it was “not an appropriate time to hold the World Press Photo Exhibition 2020 on [the HKBU] campus” and that the displays are “are accessible online for public viewing.”

The World Press Photo Foundation announced the last-minute reversal by the university on its Facebook page on Friday, February 26. The exhibition was to feature short documentaries and photo stories in eight categories, from Contemporary Issues, to Environment, Nature, Portraits, and Sports, selected from almost 74,000 photographs entered by 4,283 photographers from 125 countries. Public events were also slated to be held at art venues around Hong Kong, including Blue Lotus Gallery, Alliance Française de Hong Kong, La Galerie – Paris 1839, and the Journalism and Media Studies Centre, University of Hong Kong.

The exhibition is supported by the Netherlands Consulate General in Hong Kong and Macao SAR and Hong Kong Baptist University Institute of Journalism and Society. Based in Amsterdam, the World Press Photo Foundation has run international exhibitions of photo-journalism for more than 60 years.

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