Hong Kong Literary Festival director to leave

The festival was caught in a controversy after two venues declined to host talks by dissident Chinese writer Ma Jian.

Ma Jian (right) speaking at the Hong Kong Literary Festival held in Tai Kwun.  Photo: AFP
Ma Jian (right) speaking at the Hong Kong Literary Festival held in Tai Kwun. Photo: AFP

Phillipa Milne, the director of the Hong Kong Literary Festival, is leaving the organisation following the conclusion of the event last month.

The annual festival found itself at the centre of a dispute after Chinese dissident writer Ma Jian was denied a venue by Tai Kwun, a heritage arts centre in central Hong Kong. The venue, funded and managed by the Hong Kong Jockey Club, cited that it does not want to become used as a platform to promote political interests.

Another venue, The Annex at Nan Fung Place, had also declined to host Ma's talks. Tai Kwun however reversed its decision following a public outcry.

The scenario was reminiscent of similar events at the Macau Literary Festival, held earlier this year, where talks by three writers were cancelled. Jung Chang, the author of Wild Swans, a memoir on the Cultural Revolution, was one of the authors banned from the event. Hélder Beja, then the festival director of the event, stepped down after the debacle.

A recruitment announcement for Milne’s role was posted by the Hong Kong Literary Festival last week. Milne confirmed that she was leaving in an email but did not respond to further queries on her departure.


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