Cultural Revolution left Hongkongers with fear

How history has made Hong Kong realise the importance of defending for speech freedom

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Millions were murdered or beaten to death during the Cultural Revolution.

Former Chairman Mao Zedong once said: “Opposition and struggle between ideas of different kinds constantly occur within the Party; this is a reflection within the Party of contradictions between classes and between the new and the old in society. If there were no contradictions in the Party and no ideological struggles to resolve them, the Party’s life would come to an end.”

Perhaps it is what the Communist strongman said during the ten-year-long “Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution” that made Hong Kong go through a lot in the past decades.

This year is the 50th anniversary of the Cultural Revolution. It all started in 1966 when then Chairman of the Communist Party of China Mao Zedong called on the nation’s youth to purge the “impure” elements of Chinese society. During the time, millions of lives were affected. Innocent people were unjustly criticized, wrongfully accused of imaginary crimes, or murdered in the name of ideology.

Yet, as great as the impacts had left Mainland China, it is not the only place that suffered or being impacted. It has led to a long riot between the pro-Communists and the colonial administration in Hong Kong in 1967, which was started from a pure labor dispute.

Chief Science Officer at Bitquant Research Laboratories Mr Joseph Wang, who has been blogging a lot on Hong Kong protests, said the tension in Hong Kong that time was heightened by the ongoing Cultural Revolution to the north.

“The trade unions had connections to Beijing and the Cultural Revolution in the PRC that was already on the way by this time, further fueled the HK communist leaders, who adopted violence as their tactic and even journalist were murdered by the communists during the riot,” Mr Wang said.

He was referring to the case of radio reporter Lam Bun, who was a critic of the leftists. He was burned alive in his car during the 1967 riot.

“The tactic of the HK Communists backfired, because his assassination outraged the Hongkongers and he eventually became an icon of free speech,” he added.

In fact, the Cultural Revolution has made many people realise the importance of freedom of speech.  Here in Hong Kong, pro-democracy politicians and citizens are very aware of their speech freedom because of the fear of a Cultural Revolution replication will take place.

According to the Hong Kong Press Freedom Index, the freedom of press in Hong Kong has reached a new low in 2014. The ranking has gone from 18 in 2002 to 61 in 2014.

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The freedom of press in Hong Kong is declining each year.

 

In January 2015, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying was accused of stirring up new Cultural revolution in Hong Kong for publicly criticising a student magazine run by the University of Hong Kong Students’ Union. Leung attacked an article in the magazine for “advocating independence” and “putting forward fallacies”, which he said, is a violation of Basic Law.

His comments was slammed by many pan-democrats. Mr Lee Cheuk-yan, chairman of the Labour Party, accused Leung of behaving like Mao Zedong, who purged dissidents, suppressed free speech and forced academics and capitalists to become farmers during the Cultural Revolution in 1966.

“He (Leung Chun-ying) was trying to stir up another Cultural Revolution in Hong Kong. We hongkongers are entitled with freedom of speech. Publicly denouncing one’s remarks is nothing but what Mao had done around 50 years before,” Mr Lee said.

As if one example is not enough, the incident of Professor Johannes Chan Man-mun further increased Hong Kong people’s fear of a Cultural Revolution revisit.

Ever since the rumour that Mr Chan may have a chance to become the pro-vice chancellor of University of Hong Kong came out, newspaper in the mainland had begun a spate of ferocious attacks against Mr Chan, challenging his capability for such a key managerial position in the university.

One of the major reasons the Communist newspapers did that was Chan’s association with Mr Benny Tai, the convenor of the Occupy Central movement in 2014. The communist press hinted that Prof. Chan is somehow involved in unlawful funding of the protest movement and that he neglected his academic duties. Following these accusations, his appointment to a pro-Vice Chancellor post was blocked.

A professor in the University of Hong Kong who does not want to be named, said university appointments are purely internal matters.

“Leftist newspapers resort to this kind of denunciation to put pressure on the university kind of remind Hongkonger the dark days of Cultural Revolution where the educated are criticised and accused,” he said.

Liang zhongren, who once suffered in the Cultural Revolution and is now settled in Hong Kong, said the greatest impact of the movement on Hong Kong is making Hong Kong people realise the consequence of not standing up for the freedom of speech.

“What is happening right now in society does not worry Hongkongers. History does,” Liang said.

He explained Hong Kong people are afraid of losing the freedom of speech because they know what the Communist government could do. The Cultural Revolution, the Tiananmen incident, and even the Occupy Movement, he said, are examples of extreme means the party could resort to when it comes to a point where the majority stops fighting for their rights.

“The Cultural Revolution has made a huge impact on Hong Kong. Many of my friends in the mainland have told me they think the situation in Hong Kong is getting alike with what happened in China decades ago,” Liang said. “People have had enough with the dictatorial government.”

Liang was one of the countless educated youths who were extracted from urban cities to an enormous undeveloped land in the northeastern China for the sole purpose of nurturing the wasteland and the swamps in 1970.

“The Cultural Revolution has changed my attitudes to China completely,” said Liang. “I used to support the movement. I used to admire Chairman Mao. I used to think by criticising and beating the nationalists can make our country cleaner and stronger. But fifty years after the movement, no improvement could be seen in China. It only gets worse especially regarding freedom,” he added.

The greatest fear of a Cultural Revolution revisit probably came after local bookseller Lee Bo was disappeared and appeared again in the mainland, with his passport left at home.

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Capitalists were denounced for the name of ideology

For many years, Hong Kong has been supplying the world with forbidden information in the mainland. Many mainlanders come all the way to Hong Kong for the banned books. Yet, the act of detaining publishers of controversial books suggests that mainland law enforcement officers are carrying out duties in Hong Kong to suppress the freedom of speech, which was how the Cultural Revolution started.

Sharon Hom, executive director of Human Rights in China, an NGO, once said in an interview: “This trend of targeting critical voices can only fuel greater fears about the ongoing erosion of the fundamental freedoms that make Hong Kong special”.

“This problem is not new. China is very worried that the freedom of expression and of publication in Hong Kong would affect mainland politics,” said Teng Biao, a fellow at Harvard Law School and formerly an academic at the Chinese University.

He said Lee’s disappearance could almost trigger another Cultural Revolution in Hong Kong. It was meant to intimidate those who are in Hong Kong spreading messages unfavourable to China’s ruling regime.

Fifty years after the tragedy, Mao’s Cultural Revolution is still a taboo in today’s China. While most of us are forbidden to remember, it is highly unlikely that the movement will truly be forgotten. The Cultural Revolution will not only remain as a threat to China, but had also left a huge impact on Hong Kong, creating fear that what happened 50 years ago will strike the city again.

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HK women are waiting longer than ever to become mothers

More and more women in Hong Kong are waiting until they’re older to start having children, according to the latest figures.

Data from the Census and Statistics Department shows the average age of women having their first chilScreen Shot 2015-10-19 at 3.51.02 amd was a record high of 31.3 years old in 2013 and 2014. That’s an increase of 6.2 years since 1981, when the average age was 25.1.

Most of the change took place between 1986 and 1991, when the average rose to 28.1. It stayed relatively stable around 29 until 2006, when it started climbing again to its current high.

The average age of first-time mothers is increasing because more women are waiting until their 30s and 40s to start having kids and fewer women are having their first kids in their teens and 20s, the report says.

In 1981, only 34.4 out of 1,000 women were having their first child between the ages of 35-39 years. By 2011, that rate had increased to 51.8 women out of 1,000. The rate then continued to grow to 56.9 out of 1,000 women by 2014.

The same rate of increase can be seen at the ages of 40-44 too. 11.3 women out of 1,000 were having their first child at this age in 2014, almost doubling the number in 1981 where it was only 6.8 out of 1,000 women.

As for the age of 20-24 years, the rate has dropped significantly from 85.9 out of 1,000 women in 1981 to 25 women out of 1,000 in 2006. Since then the rate continued to decrease to a new low in 2014 at 19.6.

Democratic Party embraces tough election battle

Democratic Party Chairwoman Ms Emily Lau Wai-hing said the coming district council election is going to be a very tough battle.

Speaking two months ahead of the election, the 63-year-old chairwoman admitted the party has difficulties in finding very good candidates who are prepared to work hard.

“More than half of the seats will not be contested by candidates of pro-democracy camp. We are having difficulties in finding good candidates who have prepared themselves for the upcoming election,” said Ms Lau.

Since there are not enough candidates to stand for every constituency, the pro-democracy camp has used other tactics to maximise their chance of winning in the election. Earlier in April, the camp has started to invite some of the groups to join a co-ordination mechanism that aims to prevent pan-democrats from running against each other.

However, Ms Lau implied that some of the groups that shared similar mission, have deliberately come to the constituencies they are competing in and fight against them, without specifying which groups they are.

“There are so many seats which would not be contested by any pan-democratic candidates. But they still want to come and fight against someone from the pro-democracy camp, which we cannot understand,” the chairwoman said.

According to the official page of Disctrict Council Election 2015, there are at least 10 constituencies that are having both the democratic party and post-occupy groups competing against each other.

Baggio Leung Chung-heng, convenor of the newly formed political party Youngspiration, said the mechanism is a complete nonsense.

“What Hong Kong people fought for a year ago was a fair right to elect and to be elected. We want a universal suffrage without a filtering process. But the co-ordination mechanism is doing just the opposite,” Mr Leung said.

Nevertheless, the 29-year-old said his party has tried their best to avoid sending candidates to constituencies that are currently held by the pro-democracy camp.

“This is our bottom line. But if we are still fighting against the candidates from the pro-democracy camp after all the attempts, we still should not rely on the mechanism as Hongkongers shd be the ones who make their own choices,” he added.

Non-human source: http://www.elections.gov.hk/dc2015/chi/nominat2.html

Cosplay: More Than Just Another Hobby

Riku Ho, is no ordinary teenager. One might think that he is just a typical Louis Vuitton sales, but when he changes into his cosplay costume, one might become cynical of him.

Cosplay, namely costume play, is by definition a performance art in which participants wear costumes and fashion accessories to represent a specific character or idea that is usually identified with a unique name. Cosplayers often interact to create a subculture-centered role play. A broader use of the term “cosplay” applies to any costumed role-play in venues apart from the stage, regardless of the cultural context.

Favorite sources include manga and anime, comic books and cartoons, video games, and live-action films. Inanimate objects are given anthropomorphic forms, and it is not unusual to see genders switched, with women playing male roles and vice versa. A subset of cosplay culture is centered on sex appeal, with cosplayers specifically choosing characters known for their attractiveness or revealing costumes.

As for Hong Kong, there has long been a trend of cosplaying since the emergence of japanese culture with the influence of cultural exchange under the globalization context. People like Riku, has started cosplay 15 years ago. He is really into the japanese popular culture including music and fashion, so he started with cosplaying his favorite brand and studied how to make his own clothes.

Cosplaying is a subculture and it is very popular and passionate. However, some people think these people are weird, and could not accept them. Luckily, Riku’s family is very supportive of him.

Being not-so-accepted in Hong Kong, Riku says he understands the stereotype in society is not likely to end. Yet, he does not care about what others think about him as a cosplayer. He is proud to dress in the costumes he made, given years of experience as a stylist before, to go out and with full make up on. The professional LV sales says he is going to die with his costumes together, passion glows in his eyes while he speaks those powerful words.
Riku Ho, is no ordinary teenager. One might think that he is just a typical Louis Vuitton sales, but when he changes into his cosplay costume, one might become cynical of him.

Cosplay, namely costume play, is by definition a performance art in which participants wear costumes and fashion accessories to represent a specific character or idea that is usually identified with a unique name. Cosplayers often interact to create a subculture-centered role play. A broader use of the term “cosplay” applies to any costumed role-play in venues apart from the stage, regardless of the cultural context.

Favorite sources include manga and anime, comic books and cartoons, video games, and live-action films. Inanimate objects are given anthropomorphic forms, and it is not unusual to see genders switched, with women playing male roles and vice versa. A subset of cosplay culture is centered on sex appeal, with cosplayers specifically choosing characters known for their attractiveness or revealing costumes.

As for Hong Kong, there has long been a trend of cosplaying since the emergence of japanese culture with the influence of cultural exchange under the globalization context. People like Riku, has started cosplay 15 years ago. He is really into the japanese popular culture including music and fashion, so he started with cosplaying his favorite brand and studied how to make his own clothes.

Cosplaying is a subculture and it is very popular and passionate. However, some people think these people are weird, and could not accept them. Luckily, Riku’s family is very supportive of him.

Being not-so-accepted in Hong Kong, Riku says he understands the stereotype in society is not likely to end. Yet, he does not care about what others think about him as a cosplayer. He is proud to dress in the costumes he made, given years of experience as a stylist before, to go out and with full make up on. The professional LV sales says he is going to die with his costumes together, passion glows in his eyes while he speaks those powerful words.

What do you miss the most about Hong Kong?

Sharon Tang, Hebert Cheung, Choco Chan

When we started the vox pop project, my groupmates and I had a thought in mind about how certain values or things that used to be valuable or popular have been forgotten or become obsolete nowadays. Concrete things like the big old telephones, or even on the spiritual level, the lack of communication due to advancement in technology. Thus, one thing that all of us would like to ask Hong Kongers is what they really miss. We then took our cameras and phones to conduct such an interesting project and did a vox pop. We have been to different places, asked people we know or do not know to get as much answers as possible. In the end, I think we are pretty satisfied of what we’ve got and we are glad to present you portraits of these beautiful people and their cherishable memories. What do you miss the most about Hong Kong?

The girl with hope (Photo essay)

As the jam-packed crowds fade — along with the threat of tear gas and electric nighttime vigils — some in Hong Kong are trying to save pieces of their“Umbrella Revolution” before it disappears.

For more than a week, the pro-democracy protests have paralyzed parts of the city with resolved residents hoping to wrest true voting rights from their Communist rulers in Beijing. And a group of die-hard demonstrators is likely to continue for days even if the massive crowds don’t.

Karen Chiu, a student from The Chinese University of Hong Kong, is among the committed minority. She insists to go to the demonstration site in Admiralty every day, trying her best to remember and contribute to the historical event, before the protest dies out altogether.

  1. Karen started another day in Admiralty as she walked out from the MTR station, with a backpack carried her dreams and determination.
  2. Banners were all up on the bridge and everywhere at the site, showing Hong Kongers’ strong desire for true democracy.
  3. Leaflets of slogans and pictures reminded Karen the initial purpose of the movement.
  4. “It’s the best of time. It’s the worst of time.” “We are here for a genuine universal suffrage,” says the banner.
  5. Karen was writing her dreams for Hong Kong on a memo, to cheer up for the beautiful city like all the others have done.
  6. “Do not forget the most lovely and valuable thing about Hong Kong,” wrote Karen.
  7. Colorful memos have covered every corner of the wall, marking the most remarkable moment ever in history, which all Hong Kongers stand up to fight for the right thing as one.
  8. Drawings, words, posters… all of which touched this young girl’s heart and made her remember why she was here in the first place.
  9. “Nothing is going to break me down or stop me from staying unless we get what we want,” says the determined university student.
  10. People all around the world are concerned about the movement. Here a French supporter wrote “We are pacifists. Police should stop violence.”
  11. “My parents aren’t supportive. I am here anyway.”
  12. “We come to speak out, not to fight. We are so peaceful.”
  13. Participating in a political movement does not mean one has to forgo study. Same as many other students, Karen revised silently during the Occupy.
  14. Tough – both her face and determination.
  15. Papers of slogans are tied with yellow ribbon. The message is clear. Wishes of Hong Kongers are clear.
  16. Karen called off a day in Admiralty. “I’ll be here tomorrow again,” says the girl with resolution.