HONG KONG: Blogger faces charges for posting, linking to 'indecent' image

Editor and blogger says Hong Kong's laws governing obscenity are outdated

By Winghei Kwok
AsiaMedia Contributing Writer

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Global Voices editor and Inmediahk.net blogger OiWan Lam is facing 12 months of imprisonment or HK$400,000 fine for posting images authorities say are indecent. Lam published the art photograph to protest the government's standard in determining obscenity. Flickr this month began filtering images uploaded on its photo-sharing website, limiting Yahoo! Hong Kong users' access to the photo Lam used in her article as well as other possibly obscene images.

On May 11, Lam posted an article on Inmediahk.net, a Hong Kong-based Chinese-language journalism forum that promotes media independence, in protest of the arrest of a Hong Kong citizen who put hyperlinks to erotic website on an online forum. In the article, she posted a hyperlink to a foreign pornography website and urged readers to comment with more hyperlinks. She also posted with the article an image by photographer Jake Applebaum that she got from Flickr. The photo, which has since been removed from Inmediahk, is of woman with her breasts exposed. She told InMediaHk reporter Ip-Iam Chong (in Chinese) that she chose that picture because she knew "the standard of Obscene Articles Tribunal is to classify articles by counting the number of exposed vital parts" and she anticipated that '"according to existing bureaucratic procedure, it could be classified 'indecent.'"

Global Voices reported that on June 22 the Television and Entertainment Licensing Authority referred Lam's article to the Obscene Articles Tribunal for review and on June 28, the Tribunal classified the photograph posted on InMediaHk as "Category II: Indecent" in its preliminary findings. Lam wrote on InMediaHk that she was notified of the Tribunal's final findings on July 7. Lam now faces prosecution by the Hong Kong Police.

Flickr, which is part of Yahoo!, launched its Chinese-language service in mid-June. Since then, Yahoo! Hong Kong account holders can no longer access the Applebaum photograph. Bloggers and Flickr users are protesting the restrictions. Hkxforce, a Hong Kong blogger and Flickr user, launched a signature campaign last week against Flickr's filtering policy.

Lam told BBC Five Live earlier this week that the rule on obscenity is an "old law that is now applying to the Internet without revising." She believes that the government is "trying to set up showcase in Hong Kong, to intimidate the Internet user."

Lam wrote on InMediahk that she does not intend to hire a lawyer and will defend herself in court. Her court hearing is scheduled for Aug. 15.