Writing and Freedom

It’s a great experience to attend PEN International’s 82nd PEN Congress in Ourense, Galicia. It’s also the first time for me to attend it as a Hongkonger and as one of the three delegates of the newly reestablished PEN Hong Kong. The other two delegates are Nicholas Wong, a poet and a Vice-President of PEN Hong Kong, and Kris Cheng, a journalist and a founding member of PEN Hong Kong.

Although most of the meetings were about various aspects of the business of PEN International’s work, the core values were still very much related to writing and freedom. That makes me to think about writing this blog post.

No matter we write literary works like novels, poetry, plays and films, or non-fiction writings like news articles and features, commentaries, travel writing, academic papers, human rights reports or blogs, we can’t always take it for granted that we always have the freedom to write.

No society is always entirely free. Not only people living in authoritarian countries need to face the challenges about what they can write. Needless to say, people living in these countries need to be brave enough to write articles or simply express their views to criticise the government and risk losing their personal freedom or even their lives. People living in some democratic countries might also need to rethink how they would want to write about issues like race, gender, sexuality and sexual orientation, or write in their own languages or dialects if there are oppressive policies or discouraging  mainstream public sentiments in their communities. They might face intimidation, harassment or harsh ridicule.

The relationship between writing and freedom is so interesting and important that, being a member of PEN Hong Kong, I’m ready to embark on this journey again to learn from writers (in the broadest sense) around the world about how we should continue to perceive these two significant elements in human lives. It’s also about how we human beings perceive and treat one another.