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HKBU cancels World Press Photo exhibition prematurely

The World Press Photo exhibition, scheduled to open on Mar. 1, was cancelled prematurely by its host Hong Kong Baptist University.

The exhibition was set to take place in the Koo Ming Kown Gallery at HKBU. (Photo courtesy of WPP)

On Thursday, four days before the opening, HKBU released a statement saying that now was “not an appropriate time” to hold the exhibition due to “consideration to campus safety and security” and “the need to maintain pandemic control.”

HKBU cited “safety and security” concerns for its last-minute cancellation of the exhibition. They did not elaborate on what those concerns entailed.

Senior Lecturer and Director of International Journalism concentration at HKBU, Robin Ewing, said, “The university management made the decision not to hold the exhibition for safety reasons. We are disappointed that our students and the people of Hong Kong will not be able to see the exhibition in person. It’s a real shame that the current political climate doesn’t allow for such a compelling global work of visual journalism to be shown. ”

Ms Ewing is a faculty advisor to The Young Reporter.

Organizers of the exhibition had planned to implement pandemic-control measures, including the mandation of mask-wearing, completion of a health declaration, temperature screening and limited entrants for social distancing.

The Netherlands Consulate General in Hong Kong that funded the exhibition was “disappointed” about its cancellation. 

“The exhibition bears testament to the important work photojournalists do all over the world in bringing us the stories that matter,” the Consulate General said on Facebook. “In these uncertain times, it reminds us that a free and independent press is vital for maintaining stable and resilient societies.”

Users on Twitter speculated the cancellation was due to exhibition photos of the Hong Kong pro-democracy protests in 2019.

Dot Dot News, a pro-Beijing online propaganda site based in Hong Kong, published an article on Feb. 22, saying that the exhibition would “display photos taken during the period of ‘black violence’ a year ago that aimed to beautify rioters and provoke anti-police sentiment.” 

The article specifically referenced the award-winning photo series Hong Kong Unrest by Nicolas Asfouri from Agence France-Presse that would be featured in the exhibition — which captured the Hong Kong protests — and said it would “contain messages that incite hatred.”

Four images from the winning series were among 62 images to be featured in the exhibition, showcasing some of the world’s best photojournalism and digital storytelling.

The travelling exhibition was arranged in Hong Kong after it was suddenly shut down in Macau last October without any notice or explanation from local organizers. Like now, many speculated that it was because of political pressure due to the Hong Kong protest photos.

Ms Ewing said at the time, “We are aware of the early closure of the exhibit in Macau, but we trust that Hong Kong’s law guaranteeing freedom of the press will continue to be respected.”

《The Young Reporter》

The Young Reporter (TYR) started as a newspaper in 1969. Today, it is published across multiple media platforms and updated constantly to bring the latest news and analyses to its readers.


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