Oscar Wilde once famously defended the artistic value of his hedonistic and homoerotic literature against moral judgment: “[t]here is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.”  Believing that “no artist is ever morbid”, Wilde believed that art could “express everything”. This pinpoints the dilemma between art and morality. More than a century later, modern societies continue to find it difficult to draw a “principled distinction” between art and obscenity as there is a “substantial overlap between these terms. Especially when contemporary art is often intentionally provocative so as to “[co-opt], [reverse] and [destabilise]” existing socio-political systems and standards.  In Hong Kong, the line between art and obscenity is statutorily drawn by the Control of Obscene and Indecent Articles Ordinance (Cap 390) (hereafter as “COIAO”). Instead of providing clear guidance to artists, however, the Ordinance is insufficient in protecting artistic creations. To explain the situation, this essay will introduce art in the present Hong Kong, and then evaluate its current laws. It will conclude by suggesting ways to reform the laws, so that a balance can better be struck between protection of artistic creations and regulation of obscenity.
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