Two Decades of Obscenity and Free Speech Issues in Hong Kong, With a U.S. Comparative Perspective

29 Pages Posted: 14 Jun 2018

See all articles by Mark Kende

Mark Kende

Drake University Law School

Jenna Bishop

Ahlers & Cooney, P.C

Date Written: May 21, 2018


It is the twentieth anniversary of Hong Kong's transfer from British to Chinese sovereignty. But Hong Kong has experienced turmoil in recent years regarding civil liberties and civil rights. In 2016, several prominent Hong Kong bookstore owners "disappeared" and ended up in Chinese custody. As one of the largest financial centers in the world, these actions in Hong Kong are significant as they reflect on its stability and on Chinese attitudes.

This paper deals with Hong Kong's community tribunal approach to obscenity, a core free speech issue that also illuminates its civil liberties situation. Indeed, Hong Kong has considered revising its obscenity related laws for almost two decades but has yet to do so, despite holding numerous public surveys and issuing reports and recommendations. Another reason obscenity is important is that some political material can be, and has been, labeled obscene, despite a free speech provision in the Hong Kong Basic Law. This paper will analyze Hong Kong obscenity law, its administrative processes, court procedures, seminal cases, and recommended improvements. It will also compare Hong Kong to the United States in the obscenity area, and shed light on relevant Chinese attitudes.

Keywords: Obscenity, Speech, Civil Liberties, Internet, Constitutional Law, Basic Law, Courts, Tribunals, Administrative Procedures, Hong Kong, China, United States, First Amendment, Miller v. California, Indecency, Bookstores, Financial Stability

JEL Classification: K30

Suggested Citation

Kende, Mark and Bishop, Jenna, Two Decades of Obscenity and Free Speech Issues in Hong Kong, With a U.S. Comparative Perspective (May 21, 2018). Georgia Journal of International and Comparative Law, Vol. 46, No. 2, 2018. Available at SSRN:

Mark Kende (Contact Author)

Drake University Law School ( email )

27th & Carpenter Sts.
Des Moines, IA 50311
United States
515-271-3354 (Phone)
515-271-1958 (Fax)


Jenna Bishop

Ahlers & Cooney, P.C ( email )

100 Court Avenue
Suite 600
Des Moines, IA 50309-2231
United States

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