(Bloomberg) -- The author of a novel critical of President Xi Jinping’s slogan touting the Chinese Dream will be allowed to speak at the main venue of the Hong Kong International Literary Festival, after being initially barred over political concerns.
Before Ma Jian’s arrival in the city Friday evening, he said he’d been told that the Tai Kwun arts complex had canceled his two events scheduled for Saturday. The venue reversed its decision after listening to its members and becoming satisfied with the novelist’s intentions.
“Ma has made public statements which clarify that his appearances in Hong Kong are as a novelist and that he has no intention to use Tai Kwun as a platform to promote his personal political interests,” Timothy Calnin, the venue’s director, said in an emailed statement Friday evening. “I have decided to offer our venue for the two talks so that the events may continue to take place as planned.”
The verdict will be seen as a positive sign amid growing concern about mainland Chinese efforts to tame dissent in the former British colony. It comes only a day after city authorities denied Financial Times journalist Victor Mallet entry into Hong Kong and weeks after the local authorities declined to extend his work visa, according to the newspaper.
Mallet attempted to enter Hong Kong as a visitor but was turned away at the border after several hours of questioning by immigration officers, the FT reported.
John Lee, Hong Kong’s secretary for security, told reporters that he wouldn’t comment on an individual case when asked about Mallet on Friday. But he said the move had nothing to do with freedom of the press, and declined to elaborate.
Read more: With Journalist’s Ouster, China Draws New Red Line for Hong Kong
After Ma landed in Hong Kong Friday, he said in a tweet that he’d just learned that a second venue had pulled out of hosting his talks. Hong Kong Free Press reported earlier that the second venue for Ma’s presentations, The Annex, would not host the events.
The Annex is owned by Nan Fung Group, a property developer led by former Financial Secretary Antony Leung.
--With assistance from Sheridan Prasso.
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