Oiwan Lam © Rebecca MacKinnonWho the hell is Oiwan Lam and why does she need freeing?

That was the question I was asking myself as when I got the invite to join the Free Oiwan Lam Facebook Group. It was that question that led me to Imagethief’s post of the same title.

Turns out Oiwan, an editor for Global Voice’s North East Asian desk, doesn’t actually need to be freed from anything, at least not like Hao did, and Celil still does. She is, however, facing a serious slap on the wrist (not the kind your mom gives you, but the kind oppressively-sensitive govm’ts give).

Her crime? She posted a link to this picture (WARNING: contains boobies in an artistic way) in protest to the charges and $5,000 fine given to Woo Tai-wai, a 48-year-old Hong Kong resident.

And so now I was asking myself what this guy did to deserve such a steep fine? Well:

“[Woo] pleaded guilty in Kwun Tong Court to publishing eight obscene photos via a local internet forum. He provided a linked message which, when clicked, would enable other forum users to access an overseas pornographic website showing the photos. A hyperlink is a graphic or text string which, when clicked, opens a new web page or jumps to a new location in the current page.” – South China Morning Post/via ESWN

He actually got off easy, as a link to a pornographic Web site deemed Class III offensive under the Control of Obscene and Indecent Articles Ordinance (COIAO) can amount to a HK$1 Mil. fine or three months in jail. Just for linking to it!

And there in lies the trouble with this whole thing, and what us Weblishers are, rightfully, getting all ansy over. Can we really be held liable for the content of sites we link to?

The obvious question then is, aren’t search engines in a whole load of trouble?

I’m sure that last bit is likely keeping key members of respective Bureaus Responsible For The Betterment of Mankind Because We Say So up all night, just thinking of ways they can leverage this to finally allow them to get into Google’s panties.

The real point of this though is one that Oiwan herself made:

Another gap through which political censorship can be introduced is pornography. This gap gathers the power of the state as well as the forces of religious people and fake moral politicians. – Oiwan Lam

That power is a snowball that rears its head all over the globe. It makes me itch that we still live in a world where the values of the influential can be placed on those of the not.

One last question… why, in 2007, are we still scared of naked people?

Summary of Sources:
Hyperlinking in Hong Kong :: East South West North, May 12/07
Hong Kong, obscenity laws, and Flickr’s regional censorship :: RConversation, July 14/07
Free Oiwan Lam :: ImageThief, July 15/07
Free Oiwan Lam Facebook Group
Access Flickr :: This is for anyone who is having trouble accessing Flickr.

Discussion

8
  1. You might want to re-edit this post, is Oiwan a guy or gal? You need to recheck the pronouns.

    As for why we’re scared of naked people, I have no idea. We can look at renaisance paintings and sculptures and call it art, but if it’s a modern person it’s porno. A woman breastfeeding in public is beautiful and natural, yet we get all wired up and angry when college students have wet-tshirt contests. For me, I have no problem with people being unconfortable with what they deem to be pornographic, but I think its very sad and unfortunate that we legislate it and dictate it on everybody.

  2. @Chip: Regarding the pronouns… they’re all fine. You may have got confused when the subject switched from Oiwan to Woo Tai-Wai, as he’s a guy.

    I agree 100% in that people are welcome to let whatever they want make them feel uncomfortable – but legislating their insecurities should not be acceptable. I’ve been to the Louvre in Paris and to Spring Break in Daytona Beach – I’ll let you guess which nudity I enjoyed more.

    • I believe adults have the right to watch porn; single adults have the right to purchase sex services; and that prostitution should be legalized.

      In terms of openness to nudity or porn, a number of regions are ranked in decreasing order: Europe/North America > Hong Kong > Mainland China (Dejour illegal; Defacto a florishing market of sex services exists) > Muslim world.

      Ryan, I guess you won’t bother to preach to Muslim world to be more open to porn?

      • Profile photo of

        Wow, tracking down 4-year-old posts?

        Only if I end up living in a Muslim-dominant country, otherwise I have no stake in the argument, nor any local perspective. But as far as my opinions on it go — they are the same no matter what country you apply it to. But fortunately in Europe/North American you can’t be fined massive amounts of money for linking (linking) to an image that someone has decided is obscene.

  3. Pingback: Free Oiwan Lam | A China Blog on Suzhou Expat Life | The Humanaught

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