The original Scopes “Monkey Trial” was a test of a 1925 bill passed in Arkansas that forbade any doctrine from being taught that opposed divine creation as expressed in the Christian Bible. Scopes, a teacher, was accused of teaching evolution. At that time, and even today, many people like the just-departed Jerry Falwell, viewed the Bible as the literal word of God and inerrant in its view of the world. Others still follow closely with the belief that it is a “God-Breathed” and man written document that is the essence of what God intended us to know about creation. . The issues raised by the Scopes trial remain, to this day, hotly contested in communities and American courtrooms and it is not religion they are arguing. Lately, Hong Kong has seen a bit of the circus atmosphere that was part of the Scopes courtroom drama between famed atheist lawyer Clarence Darrow and Presidential candidate, and fiercely Christian, William Jennings Bryan. The players, although not as flamboyant, are acting with a fervor and commitment about Freedom of Speech issues and drawing a crowd on both sides of the debate. An “Obscene Articles Tribunal” recently ruled that a student newspaper at Chinese university (academically one of the highest rated in the World and once a bastion of free speech) broke the law by distributing a sex survey. The Tribunal has yet to issue a penalty, but I am guessing, regardless of its weight (there is possible prison time involved), that the punishment will have as profound a public impact as did the $100 fine given to Scopes who was found also guilty of teaching evolution. The chief editor Tsang Chiu-wai said that regardless of the ruling of the Tribunal the will continue to publish the paper. This morning things got a bit more interesting. The South China Morning Post had an article on the front page that asked in its lead-in: “Is the Bible decent?” An anonymous website (http://truthbible.net) has launched a campaign to have the Christian Bible censored. The website is reported to object to references to “rape, cannibalism and violence in both the Old and New Testament.” So far the number of complaints to the Television and Licensing Authority concerning the Bible to has almost tripled those that were aimed at the Chinese University publication. If the complaints are proved valid ,full texts of the Bible could only be read by adults and would have to be sold sealed and tagged with a warning label. The website has its own warning on its header that reads: “This website contains biblical material,which may be offensive and may not be distributed, circulated, sold hired, given, given, lent, shown, played or projected to a person under the age of 18 years”:
Still a few decades away from surrendering autonomy to the mainland, Hong Kong is still struggling with how to please Beijing, maintain some semblance of self-rule and yet answer to constituents and leaders on both sides of Freedom of Speech issues. On the same front page issue of today’s SCMP the chairman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, Ma Lik, said Hong Kong had an “unpatriotic view” of one issue in particular, “The government should teach what actually happened on June 4th….” and he went on to add that “Freedom of speech is not absolute; it should be based on facts. when facts are not clear, people can only have wild talk.” Mr. Ma has been an advocate of universal sufferage (the right of anyone to vote) in Hong Kong, but qualifies that by saying only after the Hong Kong government educates teachers about what “really” happened in history. It is Arkansas all over again. I am glad that in the west we have preserved the right to “wild talk” from the days of Moses right up to the Jerry Falwell and historical revisionist Ma. It is time for America to watch, as did Europe during the Scopes trial, to see who or what prevails. One hopes a win is not brought on by the “alchemy of ignorance” whereby hot air is transmuted into gold, but by a concern for civil liberties, in the Hong Kong Monkey Trials.
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