PEN Hong Kong is one of the 148 centres of PEN International. It is a bilingual society of Hong Kong-based writers, poets, publishers, editors, translators, journalists and academics. The mission of PEN Hong Kong is to bring together individuals working in the field of the written word to celebrate and promote literature and defend the freedom of expression in Hong Kong and the rest of China.
An English-language-only PEN Hong Kong Centre was founded in the 1980's by a number of Hong Kong-based expatriates. In the 1980's and 1990's, the organization was widely recognized for its work providing assistance to writers who were Vietnamese refugees. The centre became inactive after key members of the organization left the city.
In 2016, a number of writers, journalists and academics came together to revive the Hong Kong centre, motivated in large part by the rapid erosion of press freedom, academic freedom and the freedom of expression in general in Hong Kong. High-profile incidents, such as the knife attack on then-Ming Pao editor-in-chief Kevin Lau Chun-to, the Causeway Bay Books disappearances and the University of Hong Kong pro-vice-chancellor selection controversy, have bolstered the need for a bilingual platform that brings together the Chinese language and English language literary circles, which, for years have been segregated due to the differences in language and readership.
On November 13th, 2016, PEN Hong Kong was officially launched at the Foreign Correspondents' Club, Hong Kong, in conjunction with the Hong Kong International Literary Festival.