China’s free Literary Festival

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The Hong Kong International Literary Festival 2014 showcases key works that can’t be read in the mainland. Get your tickets now.


This year’s Hong Kong International Literary Festival, which runs from Oct. 31 to Nov. 9, is probably the most overtly political since the event started in 2001. It would be hard imagining it taking place in any Chinese city other than Hong Kong.
On Nov. 3, Luke Harding, a Guardian correspondent and author of “The Snowden Files” (2014), will be holding a talk called “Escape to Hong Kong.” Previously, he had co-written “WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange’s War on Secrecy” (2011). The evening before, Nov. 2, Harding will recount what it was like to be the first journalist to be denied re-entry to Russia since the Cold War, in a discussion called “Russia’s Mafia State.”

Chan Koonchung, a Hong Kong-born, Beijing-based author, will be doing two talks. On Nov 3, he will look back on “The Fat Years” (2009), in which an entire month is erased from public record and memory, in a not-so-subtle allusion to Beijing’s censorship of the June 4, 1989 crackdown. The next night, Nov. 4, Chan will talk about his latest novel, “The Unbearable Dreamworld of Champa the Driver” (2014), about a Tibetan migrant who tries to make it in Beijing, only to get caught up with radical animal rights activists and an unfortunate job as a black-prison thug. Not surprisingly, Chan’s books are not easily available on the mainland.

On Nov. 5, Frank Dikötter, a University of Hong Kong professor best known for “Mao’s Great Famine” (2010), will discuss “The Tragedy of Liberation,” (2013) the second volume in a trilogy about Mao-era China.

Kate Adie, a veteran war correspondent who has covered conflict in Rwanda, Libya and Bosnia – as well as the 1989 Beijing student protests – will speak on Oct. 31 about how the role of female reporters has changed over the years.

On a less political front, the two most prominent speakers will be Junot Díaz, a Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and short story writer; and Chang-rae Lee, a South Korea native who is now considered one of America’s great living novelists.

The festival is supported by the U.S. Consulate, the British Council, the Hong Kong Arts Development Council and other organizations.

For full listings and ticketing details, go to www.festival.org.hk. Some talks are already sold out.

Joyce Lau spent nearly a decade as an editor with The International Herald Tribune and The New York Times. Previously she was The South China Morning Post’s Arts Editor, and HK Magazine’s Managing Editor. She also runs the Hong Kong Human Rights Press Awards at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club. She is a Montreal native and a mother of two children.