Saturday, November 26, 2022
Off-Sets: Photographies of Hong Kong Cinema -- a very cool exhibition that helped me to chase the blues away (Photo-essay)
Yesterday saw the conclusion of the trial of the ex-trustees and former secretary of the now defunct 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund. To be sure, Cardinal Joseph Zen, lawyer Margaret Ng, former legislative councillor Cyd Ho, activist singer-actress Denise Ho and co did not stand trial for breaking the national security law (despite their initially being arrested on suspicion of having done so back in May) but, rather, the much lesser offence of failing to register the fund as a society. Even so, their having been found guilty of this -- the first time this had happened to anyone in Hong Kong, as Margaret Ng pointed out -- is something that's troubling and upsetting.
After reading about this, I felt a need to get out to get some fresh air and, also, things to help me to continue loving Hong Kong. And I found that by way of a visit to the very cool Off-Sets: Photographies of Hong Kong Cinema exhibition put on by the Hong Kong International Photo Festival and featuring the works of Academy Award winning art director and costume designer Tim Yip, art teacher cum film magazine photographer Lo Yuk-ying, photo journalist Louie Wong, Man Lim-chung (the director of Keep Rolling (2020)), celebrity photographer Wing Shya, cinematographer Christopher Doyle, photographer-film person Jupiter Wong, and stills photographers Fong Ho-yuen, Justine Yeung, Okazaki Hirotake and the idiosyncratically named Karen Cloudy Tang and Sharon Salad.
How good is the exhibition (which I emotionally connected with not only because its subject, Hong Kong cinema, is what drew me back to Hong Kong as an adult but also because I (now) actually have met and interacted with a number of the people who appear in the photos!)? Hopefully, you'll be able to get a sense of it from the following photo-essay -- and by my telling you that I not only ended up spending some three hours there yesterday but returning again today to view it again. And I'm tempted to visit again -- its final day. Truly! :)
are displayed in more artistic and creative ways than usual
Creative Arts Centre where weeds have been allowed to grow :)
Tim Yip's photograph taken on the set of Rouge (can you spot
leads Anita Mui and Leslie Cheung?) caught my eye
soon after I entered the main exhibition space :)
Gor Gor; this one by Louie Wong
Brigitte Lin Ching-hsia dominates the section devoted to
Fong Ho-yuen's photos of Zu: Warriors from the Magic Mountain :)
the director of that film (and many more, including Peking Opera Blues)
-- like this one taken by Lo Yuk-ying of her friend ;D
Thursday, November 24, 2022
Bidding yet another friend farewell on the same day as an article in The Guardian asks "Why would you move to Hong Kong?"
Chiu Chow fare for a farewell dinner this evening
I went to yet another farewell dinner of a friend this evening. This particular friend is originally from the US but moved to Hong Kong before I did. I still remember his happy (ecstatic even) emails from his first months here, which made me so very envious that he had fulfilled his dream to move to Hong Kong to live.
When I finally came over to Hong Kong myself, I already had four friends living here. The first one to leave did so long before 2019. As I've previously stated: I've long thought of Hong Kong as a transient place; with my having had a friend leave every year that I've been here. (The first to leave was a friend from English boarding school who had lived here for decades but -- entirely coincidentally; it's not my fault! -- decided to leave weeks after I finally moved here!)
The friend whose farewell dinner was this evening is the second of the four to announce he's going to do so. And, in a move that came as a shock, another of that quartet -- one who had told me only a few months ago that he had no plans to leave whatsoever -- told me he's leaving the city he moved to as a child (after his father got a job here) and has spent the vast majority of his life early next year!
Some information about my friends, which will give an idea of the kind of people who love(d) Hong Kong but found that it was not a good place for them (and, in the case of one, their child) to live after all: one is a British-born (ethnic) Chinese who studied at Winchester College and Cambridge University; another is a Ph.D.; the third is yet another university graduate; and two of them have Hong Kong-born spouses. Put another way: they are the kind of people who one would expect to be viewed as being able to positively contribute to society -- and a goverment that has vowed to "trawl the world for talent" might actually target (to come here, as opposed to throw in jail).
Raleigh Chuang’s decision to move to Hong Kong from London in 2021 bemused her friends. She was offered a position at an international bank that required the relocation.
“Why would you move to Hong Kong?” her friends asked, well aware of the political and social upheaval that has gripped the city in recent years.
Hong Kong has seen an exodus of workers since a national security law was introduced in 2020. The erosion of social and political freedoms, due to the security crackdown and tighter digital surveillance that began during Covid-19 pandemic, have coincided with the city’s workforce shrinking by about 140,000 people in the past two years.
More than 10,000 have been arrested for participating in the 2019 pro-democracy protests and some activists have waited for nearly two years for trial without bail. Over the past two years, press freedom has been drastically reduced.
Some other damning facts listed in the article: "Hong Kong’s population has fallen from 7.52 million at the end of 2019, to 7.29 million in mid-2022, according to census data. The number of people aged 20-29 has shrunk from 11.8% of the city’s population in 2019, to 9.9% 2022. More than 130,000 Hongkongers moved to the UK in the first 18 months after the government opened a special visa scheme in January 2021."
The 27-year-old Chuang, who "has heritage from both Taiwan and Hong Kong, says she was not convinced by the international media’s portrayal of Hong Kong, which has at times pitched it as a city in decline. Chuang wanted an unbiased view of the city, saying she enjoys the thrill of being in a controversial place during a controversial time. “Part of my decision to move to Hong Kong is paradoxically fuelled by the current, unprecedented situation the city is in,” she says. “There must be a grey zone amidst all this and I wanted to see for myself.”"
I found myself in two minds when reading about Chuang. Part of me wondered if she's overly naive; another part is tempted to agree with her assessment that "there must be a grey zone" though. But even the latter part of me wonders for how long the "grey zone" will remain (even while, of course, hoping that it will do so for far longer than many expect and have predicted).
The Guardian piece goes on to report about others for whom Hong Kong still offers more opportunities and freedom than their home territory: specifically, Mainland China. The two people from Mainland China interviewed in the piece are: a university student who is part of the LGBT community; and a journalist who studied here and now works here.
Another country that I could imagine some people feeling that they would have more opportunities and freedom in Hong Kong than at home is Malaysia. And this particularly if the fundamental Muslim dominated, ethno-nationalistic Perikatan Nasional had ended up heading the government in the wake of the General Election on Saturday.
But, as it so happens, it's turned out not to be the case -- with Anwar Ibrahim being announced as the new prime minister of Malaysia earlier today and calming the fears of Malaysia's significant ethnic minority (which includes ethnic Chinese) by declaring that no Malaysian will be marginalised under his watch! So I'm thinking Hong Kong will (continue to) be a "hard sell" for much of the world beyond Mainland China, if even that for all that many Mainland Chinese denizens who have the equivalent academic and professional qualifications to my friends who are leaving or have already left!
Tuesday, November 22, 2022
Apple Daily ex-senior staff back in the news again after pleading guilty to doing such as holding editorial meetings!
Illustrated tribute to Apple Daily staff in
Today has been one of those days where I've felt battered by bad news. What's happening in Malaysia is scary to view (even from afar); with the worst yet to come. Then there's Hong Kong, where blow upon blow has been on our hopes for, and dreams of, freedoms and democracy for too long now. And while some might think we'd be emotionally numbed to it all by now, that's really not the case; with the latest developments involving those once associated with Apple Daily really tearing at the heart.
To be sure, there had been rumors about how former Next Digital Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Cheung Kim-hung, and Apple Daily’s former editor-in-chief Ryan Law, former associate publisher Chan Pui-man, former executive editor-in-chief Lam Man-chung, ex-editor-in-chief of the English news section Fung Wai-kong, and ex-editorial writer Yeung Ching-kee would plead in court for a while now -- but it still was emotionally devastating to get confirmation today that the six former senior staff members of the pro-democracy tabloid and its parent company, Next Digital, pleaded guilty today to the national security law charge of "collusion with foreign forces to endanger national security" which carries a maximum penalty of life in prison.
As per a Hong Kong Free Press report: "According to the summary of facts read out in court, Apple Daily was used as a platform to publish news or “content purporting to be news articles,” commentary articles, and footages." Yes, well, I don't think it ever was deniable that it was a newspaper.
The Hong Kong Free Press piece goes on to state that: "The prosecution listed at least 161 items of “impugned content” published since April 1, 2019, which they said had the objective to “sway public opinion” by making seditious statements against the central and Hong Kong governments and calling for the public to participate in protests. Some articles published also contained requests for “external elements” to “impose sanctions or blockage, or engage in nother hostile activities against the PRC or the HKSAR,” the prosecution’s case read." Wait, isn't the national security law supposed to be not retroactive?
Three of the accused "were also said have held “planning meetings” on Tuesdays with the other team heads to discuss topics or events to be covered, the prosecution said." In other words, they held editorial meetings -- as newspaper editors and writers (which five of them were at Apple Daily) normally do. As lawyer Kevin Yam was moved to Tweet: "How rotten does a system have to be for people to choose to plead guilty to clearly trumped up charges?"
Also, as an observer who goes by the moniker John deFrog on Twitter has noted: "it's worth stressing that "collusion" in [national security law] terms is a legal construct designed to jail the opposition. What [these six former Apple Daily staffers are] copping to is not collusion in any meaningful sense. That's merely how [the Hong Kong government] chooses to interpret "collusion" to justify jailing them." He goes on to also point this out: "[As far as I know,] the defendants weren't literally conspiring with foreign powers to overthrow China. But that's how [the Hong Kong government] will market this to justify shutting down news orgs, especially re: Jimmy Lai's trial. The guilty pleas are tactical, nothing more. They don't mean [the Hong Kong government] is right."
And yet, the consequences of the guilty pleas are devastating. If its impact on those who did so isn't already bade enough, consider this: they stand accused of conspiring with Apple Daily founder Jimmy Lai, and three companies linked with the defunct newspaper – Apple Daily Limited, Apple Daily Printing Limited, and AD Internet Limited. Which means that along with their pleading guilty to the charges against them, some of these former Apple Daily staffers will now be testifying in a separate -- and upcoming -- trial against Jimmy Lai which is set to begin next Thursday, presumably at the prosecutions' behest.
Something that could be read as possibly influencing their testimony: Mitigation submissions and sentencing of the six former Apple Daily and Next Digital senior staffers who pleaded guilty will only be handled after Lai’s trial. A reminder: "The group has been remanded in custody for over a year since they were first brought to court in June and July last year"; with five of them having been arrested back on June 17th, 2021. Two things that don't seem like ordinary procedure to me who, admittedly, is not all that familiar with legal proceedings. (So if someone knows better, they should feel free to correct me about this.)
Sunday, November 20, 2022
On the final day that entrance to M+ was free for Hong Kong residents, I spent a few hours at the museum of visual culture whose opening many people (including myself) had looked forward to for years, only to feel not so enthused about it when it finally did so -- thanks to China imposing a national security law on Hong Kong and censorship (of films and undoubtedly of other arts too) having become a thing in this territory where free speech used to be taken for granted. On my first visit to the museum a few weeks earlier, I had gone through the Hong Kong: Here and Beyond exhibition and the galleries devoted to the M+ Sigg Collection.
I also had quickly gone through rooms devoted to other exhibitions that made me realize that I needed another visit to better appreciated them. Thus it was that did so on this second visit -- during which I also enjoyed taking in the Golden Hour and after dark views from M+'s 3rd floor roof garden, and a (sneak) peek at sections of the Yayoi Kusama exhibition (which opened on November 12th and would cost one HK$240 to officially check out!).
More than incidentally, it seemed like the museum had more visitors on its final free day than when I previously visited. There also were a good number of people there taking selfies in its galleries and, also, a few people who looked to view the museum primarily as a setting for them to take photos of their companions, some of whom were posing away like professionals! Fortunately, it still wasn't TOO packed though; and I found that if I waited just a few seconds, most of the time, I'd end up with clear shots of the art work -- though, in some cases, it was actually amusing to have people in the frame of them too! ;b
Zhang Wang's Artificial Rock No. 31, with museum guard! :)
we've conveniently forgot (I hate you) -- which is
made up of 1 million pitch black business cards!
both Portland and Hangzhou), and two admirers
police riot shields that bear the scars of clashes with protestors
-- and evoked visceral reactions from more than one M+ visitor
anothermountainman's building hong kong 03/redwhiteblue
-- showing Deanie Ip as I've never seen her before!
but I'm still leaning against paying HK$240 to see any art exhibition! ;(
Friday, November 18, 2022
Twitter has been in tumult pretty much since Elon Musk's first day as its owner. But fears of a Twitter breakdown/shutdown reached new heights today, with tons of Twitter users Tweeting their goodbyes on the platform -- not because they are leaving it but because they genuinely believe that it will cease to exist within the next 24 hours!
Unlike the first wave of departures in the wake of Elon Musk's first day as the self-proclaimed "Chief Twit", the people saying their goodbyes today have a genuine love of Twitter and are mourning what they see as its inevitable death. At the same time, there are others who refuse to give up hope still. People like behavioral scientist Caroline Orr Bueno, who Tweeted that: "I’m not throwing in the towel yet. As long as I can tweet, I’ll be here. And I hope you guys will stick around, too. The best way to destroy this site is to start behaving as if it’s already dead. Clearly, it’s not. And until it flatlines, it’s still worth trying to save."
Incidentally, Dr Bueno joined Twitter in 2014 -- the same year that I got to realizing that the bird app was a place where I could get really good as well as up to date news pertaining to the Umbrella Movement, which began back on September 28th, 2014, after the Hong Kong police fired tear gas into a crowd of protestors. And in 2019, after the anti-extradition bill protests -- the first of which I took part in on April 28th -- got going, I returned to checking Twitter for unedited reports from trusted journalists and other sources who often were Tweeting right at the scene.
Even after the streets became quiet in 2020 (thanks in part to the Wuhan coronavirus along with China imposing a draconian national security law on Hong Kong), Twitter continued to be abuzz with pro-democracy chatter. And as social distancing became a thing thanks to the pandemic and I spent less and less time with other people and more and more time at home, Twitter helped me to feel less alone; this particularly after I finally stopped just reading Tweets and producing Tweets of my one from August of last year.
One of the reasons I decided to start Tweeting was that I had a question for somebody on Twitter, and figured that it'd be worth going on and seeing if I'd be able to directly get an answer from them there. That indeed turned out to be the case. And one of the great pleasures of the "bird app" has indeed been my able to interact with a number of people there that I don't have much chance of doing so anywhere else.
More than incidentally, thanks to Twitter, I'm now in contact with -- "Following" and also being "Followed", in a good number of cases! -- a number of the people whose Tweets had informed and educated me back in 2014 and again in 2019 (people like lawyer-activist Kevin Yam, history professor Jeppe Mulich and journalist Rachel Cheung). I'm also "Followed" by (as well as, of course, "Following") on Twitter by people whose work and deeds I respect: including pro-democracy politicians, human rights activists, and the likes of lawyer-activist Samuel Bickett, journalist-author Louisa Lim, journalist-author Karen Cheung, and the co-difrectors of Memories to Choke On, Drinks to Wash Them Down!
A second reason I had for finally decloaking on Twitter in August of last year was that a favourite voice on it (who went by the handle HK Wuliff) suddenly left it. Her action came in the wake of a number of other Hong Kongers who had been very active in 2019-2020 deciding to shut down their Twitter accounts for security and/or "burn out" reasons. As Hong Kong (pro-democracy) voices decreased on the platform, I got to thinking that I should give back to the movement by adding my voice on Twitter -- and also go ahead and thank those whose voices I had benefited from "hearing" there while I still could.
On a lighter note: a third reason for my using Twitter is that my hero, Funassyi, is on it too! For some time now, it's been a ritual of sorts for me to read its Tweet before I call it a night. (The Pear usually Tweets in the evenings, with it being a rare day indeed that it doesn't Tweet at least once!) And while Funassyi is not Following me, it's actually "liked" two of my Tweets already. And yes, of course I got a real thrill from this happening; and yes, of course I am one of its 1.3 million Twitter Followers!
Incidentally, unlike the more pessimistic Twitter users, the famously Pollyanna-ish Pear has been carrying on as usual on the bird app today -- sharing cute photos, making announcements of upcoming public appearances (which include yet another stint as a member of the Chiba Jets, its hometown professional basketball team), and posting good wishes for tomorrow. I'd like to share Funassyi's faith, and be able to keep seeing Funassyi Tweets for a long time to come. Ah well. As the saying -- one that I heard a lot back in 2019 -- goes: Expect the worst but hope for the best! This about Hong Kong, life in general and now, Twitter too!
Wednesday, November 16, 2022
I got my electricity bill for November a few days ago and was surprised to find that it was for 1/10th that of October! I guess one reason for this is that, even while the last few weeks still are warmer than is usual for this time of the year, the temperatures have actually been cool enough that I no longer feel a need to have the air conditioning on -- during the day as well as the night.
Another, related reason is that the weather's been pleasant enough for me to feel happy to spend time outdoors some more (rather than spend lots of time in my (air-conditioned) apartment). A measure of how warm it still is can be seen in my still not having felt inclined to go hiking yet. Still, I've been enjoying walking around in the city and doing such as taking in views of Victoria Harbour -- including a vantage point I only discovered last week: from which I had got glorious Golden Hour views and snaps -- and, as you'll see in this photo-essay, cool after dark ones too! :)
A view from M+'s 3rd floor roof garden (which, if I'm not mistaken,
can be freely accessed separately from the museum proper)
Star Ferry going across -- not the Mersey but Victoria Harbour
is to the east of the Tsim Sha Tsui Star Ferry Pier
my photos from West Kowloon
to sail about in Victoria Harbour
but it also was far from crowded, which was cool!
And yeah, at times like these, I couldn't help but feel
that I do really f**king love Hong Kong :)
Monday, November 14, 2022
The most recent time I've heard the Chinese national anthem
being played: at a football match between Hong Kong
A woman was sentenced in a Hong Kong court last Thursday to three months imprisonment for "insulting" the Chinese national anthem -- the first conviction under a law which came into effect on June 4th, 2020 in response to "The March of the Volunteers" having regularly attracted boos from attendees of such as football matches involving the Hong Kong national team. Citizen journalist Paula Leung was seen waving the British colonial-era Hong Kong flag while "The March of the Volunteers" was being played at a Tokyo Olympics medal ceremony being broadcast live at a mall after fencer Cheung Ka-long won a gold medal for Hong Kong. That's it.
And if you thought that the Hong Kong government had made a mountain out of a molehill in that case, you ain't seen nothing yet. For a major hoo-ha has erupted in the wake of "Glory to Hong Kong" being played in place of the Chinese national anthem at the final of a rugby sevens competition in Seoul, South Korea (which Hong Kong won, by the way)!
More specifically, the Hong Kong government appears besides itself with rage and pro-Beijingers appear to be frothing at the mouth while the rest of Hong Kong have been left in hysterics -- both at hearing the 2019 protest anthem being played at an international sporting event and seeing the stoic (blank?) expressions of the players representing Hong Kong at it on a widely disseminated video clip, and also at the Streisand effect that has once again been created by the authorities' irate protests!
Consider this: Executive Councillor Ronny Tong "refused to accept it’s a careless mistake, saying anyone involved may violate [the] sedition law or [national security law]." This despite it being entirely possible that the junior staffer tasked with getting a copy of the Hong Kong national anthem did not realise that: Hong Kong doesn't have its own national anthem (despite having such as its own national rugby team, Olympic teams, etc.); that the Chinese national anthem also serves as the Hong Kong (national) anthem; and that "Glory to Hong Kong" may be an anthem from Hong Kong but is not the official Hong Kong (national) anthem!
We've also got pro-Beijing legislative councillor Starry Lee laughably stating that the rugby tournament's organizers, Asian Rugby, " should apologise to the entire Chinese population and guarantee that it will absolutely never happen again"! And then we have her fellow pro-Beijing legislative councillor, Junius Ho, stating that "he has lost faith in players for showing no reaction when the protest song was played. “The only way out now is to disband the Hong Kong rugby team!” Ho wrote on his Facebook"!
I have to admit: Junius Ho's comments really did cause me to scoff because it was only two weekends ago that the Hong Kong rugby team played in the same Hong Kong Rugby Sevens that was a major exercise in sportswashing; thanks in no small part to it allowing John Lee and Co to prance around unmasked in Hong Kong Stadium and playing a role in delivering the government's "Hong Kong is back" message.
And in case people didn't realize it: Rugby isn't exactly a popular Hong Kong sport -- with the Rugby Sevens generally being associated more with foreigners and expatriates rather than locals, and the Hong Kong rugby team tending to be less ethnic Chinese than, say, the Hong Kong football, cycling, badminton and table tennis teams. So more than one person has been moved to wonder whether the majority of the Hong Kong rugby national team players actually recognized that "Glory to Hong Kong" was being played (rather than "The March of the Volunteers") in Seoul, never mind cared at the time!
On a personal note: I have to admit that it took me a while myself to realize that Hong Kong didn't have its own anthem (since there is a Hong Kong flag, a designated Hong Kong flower and such). And since I actually have only heard "The March of the Volunteers" played a handful of times in Hong Kong, it's not a song I'm all that super familiar with!
I still recall the time I was at a Hong Kong Philharmic Orchestra concert some years back when the orchestra started playing a piece that most definitely didn't sound like the kind of classical music work that I was expecting to hear from them. Even more bewildering to me was that some -- but not all -- members of the audience stood up when it was being played. Truly, it took me a while to realize that the orchestra had elected to play "The March of the Volunteers" on that occasion because the concert took place near October 1st. And yes, after that, I stopped attending any concerts that took place close to that date; hence my not hearing the national anthem being played at any concert since!