Discussion of Gao Xingjian's visit to Hong Kong

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Discussion of Gao Xingjian's visit to Hong Kong

 

Professor Zhang Longxi of CityU responded to the SCMP article on Gao's visit to Hong Kong (2 February 2001)

 

Nobel Prize winner GAO used to fewer restrictions in his adopted home of France (1 February 2001, SCMP)

 

Comments of SCMP article on GAO's visit to HK

by Zhang Longxi, Chair Professor of Comparative Literature and Translation, CityU (2 February 2001)

 

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After reading the SCMP article on GAO Xingjian's lecture given yesterday at my own University in Hong Kong, I feel that I must respond and provide some information from a different angle.

 

Mr. GAO Xingjian, winner of this year's Nobel Prize in Literature, came to Hong Kong at the invitation of a number of his friends at the ChineseUniversity of Hong Kong, City University of Hong Kong, the Ming Pao Monthly, and the Ming Pao Reading Club.

 

A close friend of his, Mr. Liu Zaifu, is currently a visiting professor in my department (Chinese, Translation, and Linguistics) at CityU, who was instrumental in bringing Mr. GAO to CityU for a lecture.

 

Mr. GAO gave an excellent lecture on how his novel, Soul Mountain, was first conceived in the early 1980s and how, in a ten year period thereafter, he found the appropriate form and language for this novel. His lecture was a convincing, elegant, and stimulating self-analysis of the novel in terms of artistic form and techniques. The whole lecture was a big success, and anyone interested can read the lecture in either a transcript in Chinese or an English translation now made available on CityU Publications Office's webpage (http://www.cityu.edu.hk/cityutoday/).

 

Mr. GAO never talked about politics per se, and the question of political implications of his visit did not come up till after the lecture when a reporter in the audience asked why he chose to come to Hong Kong, knowing that his arrival might put the HK Government in a difficult position. Mr. GAO quickly dismissed the question by saying that he came because of his friends and that his visit had nothing to do with the government. "Literature," he added, "has nothing to do with the government in the first place."

 

May Sin-mi Hon of SMCP, however, latched on to this brief exchange of question and answer, while ignoring the entire lecture and much of the question and answer session afterwards. The SMCP article gives the impression that the Nobel Laureate feels restricted in Hong Kong and "laments" in a public lecture the "lack of freedom." This is simply taking Mr. GAO's remark out of context and distorting it beyond recognition. I urge all those interested to read the transcript or the English translation of Mr. GAO's lecture and form their own judgment.

 

Before Mr. GAO's lecture, Professor H. K. Chang, CityU President, gave a warm welcome to our speaker, and after the lecture, our President invited Mr. GAO and a number of academics and scholars to a pleasant lunch before Mr. GAO went to another gathering in the afternoon. It is true that Mr. Tung Chee-hwa or other high level officials of the HK Government did not meet Mr. GAO, and I think that was unwise and embarrassing. To overly politicize Mr. GAO's visit and misrepresent his lecture at CityU in an article, however, makes one wonder whether the reporter in question had any respect for a Nobel Laureate in Literature, whether that reporter had any understanding of, or even interest in, what Mr. GAO had to say about his own art and works.

 

As someone actively involved in Mr. GAO's visit to City University of Hong Kong, I feel obliged to send this corrective.

 

Zhang Longxi

Chair Professor of Comparative Literature and Translation

CityUniversity of Hong Kong

Tel: (852)2788 8789

Fax: (852)2788 8706

 

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Originally appeared in South China Morning Post, Hong Kong

 

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Nobel Prize winner GAO used to fewer restrictions in his adopted home of France

by May Sin-MI Hon

(1 February 2001 )

 

Exiled Chinese Nobel laureate GAO Xingjian said he was embarrassed by the lack of freedom he felt in Hong Kong - but could not resist the warmth of his welcome.

 

Asked at a CityUniversity seminar whether he thought his controversial visit put the Government in a dilemma, the France-based author said literature should have nothing to do with government. However, he praised Hong Kong for its freedom of creativity, compared with the mainland.

 

"'If I don't come, my friends will be disappointed. The situation of Hong Kong is a bit subtle. I also felt a bit embarrassed as I don't feel very free [here]. I have been used to being free," he said.

 

"However, it is difficult to resist a warm invitation and I have also received a warm welcome here. I have no relations with the Government. Literature has nothing to do with government in the first place."

 

The central Government has said the conferring of the Nobel Prize for Literature on GAO was politically motivated. GAO has refrained from making political comments since arriving on Monday.

 

Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa has not met the author during the visit. The highest ranking official to attend a function for GAO has been Secretary for Home Affairs Lam Woon-kwong, who was at a speech at ChineseUniversity on Tuesday.

 

Deputy Director of Leisure and Cultural Services Choi Suk-kuen was among 360 invited guests at yesterday's speech and seminar. A further 800 academics watched on TV monitors outside the hall.

 

Asked whether mainland authors were free to say what they wanted, GAO said yesterday he was not qualified to comment since he left China 12 years ago. However, he praised Hong Kong's creative environment.

 

"Hong Kong is the best place occupied by the Chinese to conduct drama because it enjoys the best conditions to conduct plays and has freedom of creativity. There are more than 100 drama groups in Hong Kong," he said. GAO directed the premiere of his play The Other Shore at the Academy for Performing Arts in 1995.

 

Attending the seminar was veteran journalist Thomas Lu Keng, who now lives in San Francisco. He said it was not Mr Tung's fault that he had not met GAO

 

"It's neither the problem of GAO Xingjian nor that of Tung Chee-hwa - it's the stupid advisers of Mr Tung," he said.

 

A spokesman for the Chief Executive's office responded by saying that the Government maintained an interest in cultural exchanges.

 

Mr GAO leaves for Taipei today and will meet Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian and Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou. He will give two lectures to the public in Taipei and one at the NationalChengKungUniversity in southern Tainan city on his works and the future of Chinese-language literature.

 

He will also take part in a seminar at the Taipei International Book Exhibition next week.

 

GAO, who is also a painter, said he planned to display up to 50 of his works at an exhibition in Taipei in September.

 

Last night he attended a reception given by Ming Pao newspaper.

 

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