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CCHH News & Events

Faces of Hong Kong: New Short Documentary Films

Curated by Tammy Cheung (張虹). Presented by Prof. Chris Berry (KCL Film Studies) in association with Visible Record (Hong Kong)
Time: 6.30 pm, Wednesday 20 March
Place: Nash Lecture Theatre (K2.31), King’s College London, Strand, WC2R 2LS
The event is free and open to all, but registration via eventbrite is essential. More...

Call for papers: Healthcare in China, a medical-humanities perspective

Interdisciplinary workshop jointly convened by Oxford Brookes University and Peking University HSBC Business School UK Campus, Friday 14th June 2019. https://www.brookes.ac.uk/hss/events/healthcare-in-china---a-medical-humanities-perspective/ More...

Body Mirrors: transcultural reflections on an Edo medical puppet

An international, interdisciplinary workshop led by Shan JIANG 姜姗 (Peking University; UCL IAS), in conversation with Vivienne Lo (UCL History), Man GU 顾漫 (China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences; NRI), Ronit Yoeli-Tlalim (Goldsmiths) and Isabelle Lawrence (Science Museum).
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Acu-Moxa and Qi 氣: a UCL IAS Talking Points seminar

with IAS visiting research fellow Dr Shan Jiang 姜姗, and respondents Dr Vivienne Lo and Dr Nancy Holroyde-Downing.
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Chinese New Year Festivities

Celebrate the New Year of the Pig with CCHH in the Refectory (UCL Wilkins Building, Lower Ground) on Monday 4 February 2019, from 6pm onwards. More...

Chinese Food Philosophy: A Recipe for Life

Vivienne Lo (UCL CCHH), Bee Wilson and Ching-He Huang in conversation with Donald Sloan.
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Madness in Paris, Paris in Madness: The City, Emotions and the Insane at the Dawn of Mass Society

A History of Psychological Disciplines Seminar with Professor Jean-Jacques Courtine (University of Auckland, NZ / QMUL.
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Movement Matters: Dance, Kinaesthesia and the Avant-Garde

A workshop-performance event to mark the paperback edition of Irina Sirotkina and Roger Smith, The Sixth Sense of the Avant-Garde: Dance, Kinaesthesia and the Arts in Revolutionary Russia (Bloomsbury, December 2018).
More...

China and Freedom of Speech: new systems for the accountability of the press. An evening with John Kampfner

14 March 2014

6th March 2014, panel discussion hosted by UCL’s China Centre for Health and Humanity and Centre for Transnational History and sponsored by UCL Grand Challenges (ii) and the UCL Institute for Human Rights.
Read all about it: Report by Dylan Brethour, PG History student.


Beware of Security, Responsibility, and Stability: Fighting for Freedom of Expression in China and Beyond

by Dylan Brethour

'Freedom of expression is a fundamental, universal and transnational right, only to be restricted in extremis.'

So began John Kampfner’s portion of 'China and Freedom of Speech: new systems for the accountability of the press. Kampfner, a journalist and former Chief Executive of the Index on Censorship, set the tone for the rest of the evening.

Organised by UCL’s China Centre for Health and Humanity and Centre for Transnational History, the event was introduced by Professor Axel Körner and Dr Vivienne Lo and included presentations and a subsequent discussion by Professor Zhengxiao Guo, Dr Lily Chang, and Mr Stephen Perry.

Despite some differences among the panellists, there was a common sense that no country can afford the luxury of indifference in the maintenance of something so essential as freedom of expression.

While China was the locus of the discussion, all of the participants touched on broader global threats to freedom of expression. Kampfner discussed some of the methods governments use to disguise restrictive measures.

There was the disheartening general reminder that people’s fears about international security and stability can be exploited to justify invasive laws. As an example of this, Kampfner spoke of the pornography filter debate in the UK.

Ostensibly designed in the name of child protection, the filter controls access to an extent that allows authorities to carry out other activities under the auspices of its original ‘intent’. This is, in Kampfner’s words, an ‘unarguable proposition’ – one might disagree with invasive internet control, but not with protecting children.

There was also some question as to whether social media are helping or hindering freedom of expression. In recent years there has been an enormous amount of optimism surrounding the potential of the internet and social media to increase freedoms in China.

Kampfner was more circumspect about the possible utility of social media, arguing that political movements are not created online. More optimistically, he suggested that where a political movement already exists, social media can help it spread.

Kampfner also considered the differences between old and new media. Reading the newspaper, he argued, exposes people to a greater variety of views. In contrast, because information online is self-selected, it has the potential to reinforce existing prejudices and worldviews.

There is also the possibility that when functioning as a political outlet, social media have the effect of displacing activity in the real world. The internet also benefits the state by providing a context for mass surveillance.

The revelations about data collection by the NSA and GCHQ were dramatic demonstrations that democratic countries are not exempt from government intrusion.

This raises the question, why don’t we respond to the erosion of something so fundamental? Steven Perry suggested that Chinese people simply don’t care about political measures restricting freedom of speech.

He argued that something similar is happening in the UK, where people are indifferent to control over the media by political and corporate interests. During the debate after the speeches, Kampfner expressed some scepticism about this point, arguing that people do care when they are affected by political restrictions.

Rather than assume that the population is indifferent or lazy, it seems more useful to ask what network of rights and obligations we are collectively trying to balance. Lily Chang introduced the concept of spheres of freedom.

Rather than addressing freedom as a comprehensive whole, she asked how different aspects of society interact. The demands of political, economic and media freedoms may be very different and even potentially at odds. She noted the elasticity of these relationships, which change according to requirement and context.

This concept of elasticity continued throughout the remainder of the discussion. There was a general question as to whether the complexity of social requirements entailed the sacrifice of certain freedoms.

All of the panellists acknowledged in some sense the number of demanding and potentially competing interests at play here. What remained clear, however, was the strong utilitarian benefits that freedom of expression provides.

Kampfner in particular argued that an ‘open, critical, fearless society’ will lead to better political outcomes. In a similar vein, Professor Guo spoke of the 'nutrients' that are needed for a strong, healthy society. The development of constructive state practice is evidently contingent on free and vital public discourse.

By the end of the evening, there were still no obvious answers as to what the ideal conditions are to preserve freedom of expression.

Unsurprisingly, given the topic at hand, there was a strong agreement about people bearing an individual responsibility to consider what kind of society provides the greatest benefits.

Rather than offering a vision for the future, the event posed the questions: what are our obligations as global citizens and, ultimately, what will the consequences be of our neglect?

See also: http://blogs.ucl.ac.uk/events/2014/03/18/fighting-for-freedom-of-expression-in-china-and-beyond/

Page last modified on 14 mar 14 14:31 by Penelope Barrett