Chow Ka-shing, who was being remanded in custody for the primary election, was sent to him by a friend the book "Upbringing" by the German writer Swanez, but the CSD suspected that the book was labeled "Naked!" by the CSD because it contained a picture of the famous Renaissance painting "The Birth of Venus", and the painting was exposed. Retreat!" refused to hand over the label to Zou. Chow considered it unfair and applied to the High Court yesterday (4th) for judicial review, arguing that a painting with revealing elements could not be obscene, and that the Department should not ban prisoners from receiving it blanket because the drawings contained revealing elements, and considered that the Department's decision was illegal and unreasonable, and asked the court to order an overturn the decision.


The applicant was Chow Ka-shing and the respondent was the Commissioner of Correctional Services.

Chow Ka-shing was remanded in custody in connection with the primary election case, and he said that a friend wanted to give him the book, but the correctional department said that the content was obscene and returned. (File photo)

The Correctional Services Department (CSD) pointed out that books containing obscene content were not allowed to be taken

According to the application, Chow's friend applied to the Department on September 9 this year to send Chow a book entitled "Upbringing: What You Need to Know About History, Literature, Art, Music, Philosophy and World Customs and Culture". Two days later, CSD staff informed Chow that he was not allowed to take possession of the book because of its obscene content.

A friend retrieved the book and saw a note that read: Naked! Withdraw!

On the 16th of the same month, the friend was returned by the Department with a post-it note on the pages of the painting "The Birth of Venus", which read: "Naked! Retreat!" After complaining to the Office of The Ombudsman and Legislative Council Members Di Chi-yuen and Kwan Ho-ming, he complained to the Office of The Ombudsman respectively.

Botticelli's The Birth of Venus is a famous painting of the Renaissance. (Wikimedia Commons)

The Ordinance does not prevent prisoners from receiving works of art with nude elements

Chow pointed out that the Department had forbidden him from receiving the book "The Birth of Venus" because of the book, and that under section 56 of the Prison Rules, the Department could withhold the book publication because it included violence, or interfered with the order of the prison, but these categories did not include blatance and indecency. Chow pointed out that the provision did not give the department the power to prevent prisoners from receiving revealing artworks, and therefore the decision was unlawful.

Zou pointed out that "Wei" is an international famous painting

Zou Xu pointed out that "The Birth of Venus" is an international famous painting and one of the most representative works of the Italian Renaissance. However, the Department failed to understand the historical and cultural background of the painting and did not fully explain how the painting involving revealing elements contravened the relevant provisions. Chow emphasised that receiving foreign books and newspapers was part of his freedom of expression, but the Department's decision disproportionately restricted that freedom. In addition, Chow pointed out that the book could also be borrowed from public libraries and considered that the Department's decision was unreasonable.

Case No.: HCAL2164/2023

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