Hong Kong university scraps World Press Photo exhibit over ‘safety’ fears

A Hong Kong university has scrapped an exhibition of World Press Photo winners just days ahead of its opening, citing “safety and security” fears.

The decision by Hong Kong Baptist University comes as Beijing and local authorities oversee a sweeping crackdown on dissent.

World Press Photo is an annual competition that awards “the best visual journalism” around the world each year. 

AFP photographer Yasuyoshi Chiba bagged last year’s top prize, with an image of a man in Sudan reciting poetry during anti-government protests.

The exhibition was also set to include prize-winning images of the huge and often violent pro-democracy protests that swept Hong Kong in 2019.

“After giving due consideration to campus safety and security, and the need to maintain pandemic control, Hong Kong Baptist University considers that it is not an appropriate time to hold the ‘World Press Photo Exhibition 2020’ on its campus,” the university said in a brief statement.

The university did not elaborate on what those safety fears were.

It is not the first time the World Press Photo has struggled to exhibit inside China. 

Last October an annual exhibition in neighbouring Macau, which had run for more than a decade without incident, was suddenly shut down without explanation by authorities.

Both Hong Kong and Macau are former colonies that were granted certain freedoms unseen in the mainland when they returned to Chinese sovereignty.