The tribunal tends to be sensitive to works of art depicting the unclad human body, but regularly ignores quite graphic and shocking depictions of violence. Thus Dame Elisabeth's work has been deemed to fall into "Class II", a category embracing "violence, depravity and repulsiveness".
Yet it is common to see children clutching comics full of severed heads and other violent depictions, which do not seem to warrant the same treatment.
The problem arises over the life-size bronze statue of a nude man called New Man. It is very much in Dame Elisabeth's rather austere style. There is nothing erotic about it, unlessa flaccid penis on a nude man is automatically considered erotic. The offending member is now delicately covered.
The statue stands in a commercial development owned by Woo Po-shing, a rich art collector, who bought it in a Christie's London auction. Trouble began when a visitor reported New Man to the authorities. Mr Woo asked the Obscene Articles Tribunal to make a ruling.
Oscar Ho, Hong Kong Arts Centre's director, has described the hearing as a "terrifying day for arts in Hong Kong".
Efforts yesterday to get any official to explain why the work had been declared indecent proved fruitless. It is clear, however, that the decision has caused embarrassment in upper echelons of government, where it is being made known that the indecency order's enforcement is not considered a priority.Reuse content