One of Japan’s most celebrated authors Haruki Murakami’s latest novel Killing Commendatore has been declared indecent by Hong Kong censors. According to a report in Hong Kong Free Press, the decision was taken by Obscene Articles Tribunal. It was stated so in a routine newspaper after the tribunal received a request on July 9 to do the same. The book was removed from a book fair where it was on display.
The Chinese-language edition of the book has been classified as “Class II – indecent materials”, albeit temporarily. According to a report in Guardian, the publisher is not allowed to distribute the book to those who are below the age of 18 and it must be wrapped with warnings printed on both the front and the back cover. A spokesman for the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, as quoted by the report, said “Readers who have reached the age of 18 can request to borrow the book from library staff.”
The decision has raised many eyebrows and is being widely criticised. “[F]or a place that holds itself out as Asia’s world city, the Hong Kong authorities’ views toward sexuality and the literary treatment of it are archaic”, Jason Y Ng, president of PEN Hong Kong, said while speaking to the Guardian.
“They are also arbitrary: who is to say Mr Murakami’s depiction of sex in Killing Commendatore is any more indecent than that in a James Joyce or Henry Miller novel? And yet the former is banned from a literary event and the latter is taught in school as classics,” he added.
Almost 2,000 people have signed a petition and called for reversing the tribunal decision.
“Tribunal decisions must be in line with common sense, and the common sense of the publishing industry states that Murakami’s works are not indecent. This precedent makes Hong Kong the most conservative area in the Sinosphere, and will bring shame to the people of Hong Kong,” the statement read.