Complaints about Bible surge after HK student paper classified as indecent

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Bible
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The Hong Kong Television and Entertainment Licensing Authority (TELA) has received 2,041 complaints within 3 days, calling for the Bible to be reclassified as "indecent", following a heated controversy sparked by the sex column of an university student newspaper, which was classified by the government's publication tribunal as "indecent". By 17 May, TELA decided not to submit the Bible to the tribunal.

Two weeks ago, the Chinese university of Hong Kong's student newspaper sparked a public debate when it was found that they had asked readers if they fantasised about incest or bestiality, along with some soft sex stories and an unrelated abstract drawing about sex.

Although there is no explicit description or pornographic photos, the paper was classified as "Category II: Indecent" by Obscene Articles Tribunal (OAT) on 14 May because it asked the question— "Have you fantasised about incest or bestiality?". This classification means that the student editors have breached the law by distributing the paper to the public, will have a criminal record, and risk a jail sentence.

Since then, OAT's decision has been hotly contested among teachers, activists, commentators and scholars.

Complaints about the Bible then immediately flooded in to the authorities, claiming that the Bible is "indecent" due to its textual descriptions of rape and incest. The accusation was first made by a web site truthbible.net which said the holy book is full of sexual and violent content and its "indecency" far exceeds that of the recent sex column published in the Chinese University's student newspaper.

A webmaster of truthbible.net, who wishes to remain anonymous, said if the sex column of the student's newspaper is indecent because of public complaints, "there's no reasons not to judge the Bible as indecent" because of its sexual content.

By May 17 (UTC+8), TELA had received 2,041 complaints on the indecency of the Bible, up from 200 in three days. By the same day, TELA announced it will not submit the Bible to the Obscene Articles Tribunal for classification. "The Bible is a religious text which is part of civilisation. It has been passed on from generation to generation. TELA considers that such longstanding religious texts or literature have not violated standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable members of the community."

According to the regulations in Hong Kong, any books classified as "indecent" by the OAT can only be sold or distributed to people over 18. All such publications must be sealed in a wrapper with a statutory warning notice.

The CUHK Student Journals editorial board stated that the Bible complaints are not related to them, and they had no prior knowledge of such a movement.

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