City University of Hong Kong Closes Asian MFA in Writing
Twenty-five internationally recognised authors have signed a letter to the City University of Hong Kong protesting the university’s decision to close its successful and admired MFA Programme in Creative Writing.
The MFA Programme, established only five years ago by novelist and APWT Director Xu Xi, has brought distinguished writers to the campus. Six books and hundreds of poems, essays, and short stories have been published by the MFA's graduates and current students.
The only reason given for the closure (announced on 27 April 2015) was that “the programme has only been able to enrol a small number of students every year.” However, the program is financially self-sustaining as of 2015 and the size of the program (approximately 40 students) is well within the proposed model.
In their open letter protesting the university’s decision, the writers state: “The CityU MFA Programme is the first truly global creative writing program anywhere in the world. It has attracted students from 20 different countries, and a writing faculty that represents literary traditions of Asia, the Americas, and Europe…In the future, we feel that the MFA Programme promises to make CityU a widely recognised centre of global literary and cultural dialogue, which will in turn contribute to Hong Kong’s growing importance as a international centre of arts and culture.”
Current students and alumnae of the MFA Programme have reacted with shock and disbelief to the news of the programme’s closure. Many of them have taken to social media, noting that the MFA Programme offered them the only opportunity to pursue a degree in creative writing without relocating to the US or UK, that it has given them an opportunity to explore their roots or connections to Asia in a welcoming environment, and that it provides a rare haven in Hong Kong for free, imaginative expression. A petition from current and former students and supporters will be delivered to the university administration within days; other protest measures are under discussion.
The authors who signed the letter are: Jess Row (USA), Tabish Khair (India/Denmark), Nami Mun (USA), Evan Fallenberg (Israel), Robin Hemley (Singapore), Jose Dalisay (Phillipines), Suzanna Paola (USA), Shawn Wong (USA), Marilyn Chin (USA), Luis Francia (USA), James Scudamore (UK), Ravi Shankar (USA), Rae Armantrout (Pulitzer Prize winner, USA), Tina Chang (USA), Bob Shacochis (Pulitzer Prize finalist, USA), Junot Díaz (Pulitzer Prize winner, USA), Robert Olen Butler (Pulitzer Prize winner, USA), Ira Sukrungruang (USA), Sybil Baker (USA), Sharmistha Mohanty (India), Madeleine Thien (Canada), Chang-rae Lee (USA), Richard Blanco (US Inaugural Poet, 2012, USA), Richard Jackson (USA), Rawi Hage (Canada).
APWT also protests the closure of this first low residency academic writing programme in Asia, with a focus on writing from Asia.