(New York, NY) — Hong Kong Baptist University abruptly canceled the World Press Photo Exhibition 2020 just three days before it was set to begin, citing “campus safety and security, and the need to maintain pandemic control.” The exhibition, which would have begun March 1, included images of the Hong Kong protests and will reportedly appear online instead. In response to the news, Julie Trebault, director of the Artists at Risk Connection (ARC) at PEN America, released the following statement:

“While Hong Kong Baptist University has only referred broadly to campus security and safety as the rationale for the event’s cancellation, there is an obvious and unspoken sub-text: that Hong Kong’s recent National Security Law has imposed a far-reaching climate of censorship and fear within the city, rendering artistic events like the World Press Photo Exhibition ‘unsafe’ due to the risk of governmental repression. Universities should not have to fear for the safety of their students and administrators merely for displaying photography with remotely political content. And yet, the systematic use of the national security law to crack down on political expression is stoking widespread self-censorship and threatens artistic freedom within the city on an existential level. This abrupt cancellation appears to represent a painful truth: that under the National Security Law, many artists, journalists, and cultural practitioners may no longer be safe to conduct their work freely in Hong Kong.”

PEN America leads the Artists at Risk Connection, a program dedicated to assisting imperiled artists and fortifying the field of organizations that support them. If you or someone you know is an artist at risk, please contact ARC.