The Annex, owned by property developer Nan Fung, said it would not be hosting the two events on SaturdayThe venue had been named as a stand-in by the Hong Kong International Literary Festival after Tai Kwun cancelled on Thursday
A second arts venue in Hong Kong has refused to host two talks by Chinese dissident author Ma Jian, one day after the original venue’s top management said the events were cancelled to prevent the promotion of political interests.
In a response to the Post on Friday afternoon, The Annex denied it would be hosting Ma Jian’s two talks on Saturday.
“The Annex will not be the hosting venue for the event and we have no affiliation with the event nor the author,” The Annex said. The arts venue is owned by the property developer Nan Fung.
Follow-up emails and calls to The Annex have not been returned.
A member of staff at the International Literary Festival declined to confirm if the event venue would have to be changed again.
“If there is any update, we will publicise it on our website. You will have to check our website,” the staff told the Post in a phone call.
By 3.50pm, the latest press release on the Festival’s website, which was last updated at 12.49pm on Friday, still said the events would be held in The Annex.
Ng Mei-kwan, one of two Hong Kong writers due to appear with Ma Jian at a panel discussion on Saturday, told the Post that, as far as she knew, the venue was still The Annex.
Phillipa Milne, director of the festival, has not replied to inquiries from the Post .
Ma was originally supposed to attend the panel discussion and to introduce his latest novel China Dream in separate events at the F Hall of Tai Kwun on Saturday afternoon.
However, in an email sent from London on Thursday morning, Ma confirmed to the Post that Tai Kwun had cancelled his events and the festival’s organisers would have to look for an alternative venue.
The cancellation came a week after Ma revealed on Twitter that China Dream – a satirical novel critical of the Beijing government and published in English translation last week in Britain – had failed to find a Hong Kong publisher to bring out the original Chinese version.
Timothy Calnin, director of Tai Kwun, in giving a reason for the cancellation, had said: “We do not want Tai Kwun to become a platform to promote the political interests of any individual.” Renovated by the Hong Kong Jockey Club and the local government, Tai Kwun is managed by non-profit operator Jockey Club CPS.
Ma Jian hit back on his Twitter account on Thursday evening, saying that he would not use Tai Kwun to promote his political interests. “I’m a novelist, not an activist… My ‘politics’ are simple: I believe in free thought and free speech. Without them, life has no meaning,” he wrote.
Bernard Chan, chairman of Tai Kwun’s advisory board, said he didn’t know why the management decided to call off Ma’s events and the board was not aware of any particular regulations concerning politically sensitive activities.