Monday, November 29, 2021

Hong Kong has more pressing concerns, worries and woes than the Omicron variant!

Hong Kong in light and shadow
This has been one of those days that I expected to be a bad news day.  And it's not just that the weekend came with its share of bad news -- on the pandemic but also political fronts.  Re the former: the world has a new Wuhan coronavirus variant (known as Omicron rather than Nu or Xi) to deal with.  And while it hasn't broken Hong Kong's current streak of 52 days since the last locally transmitted coronavirus infection (yet -- touch wood!), Hong Kong has detected three cases of people entering its borders who have been infected with the Omicron variant

At the same time, even while some countries (like Switzerland and Indonesia) have imposed a travel ban on Hong Kongers, I think it's fair and safe to say that most Hong Kongers have other, more pressing matters to worry about -- like political persecution.  And a good measure of how much political persecution has been going on can be seen by way of over 50 organizations -- some decades old, others established in the wake of the 2019 anti-extradition bill protests -- having been disbanded in the past 11 months

A look of the list compiled by the Hong Kong Free Press should prove instructive in terms of how widely as well as greatly Hong Kong's civil society has been affected by China's imposition of a national security law on Hong Kong.  We're talking, after all, of organizations established and comprised of such as civil servants, finance workers, doctors, pharmaceuticial and medical devices industry employees, IT workers, actuarists, marine transport services workers and Christian pastors rather than just students, teachers, lawyers and human rights activists having felt obliged to fold.  So, yes, the dissolution of the likes of the 6.12 Humanitarian Relief Fund, the Civil Human Rights Front and the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China has just been the tip of the large iceberg.

The reason why I knew today would bring more bad news was that we saw the resumption of the national security law trial of the 47 politicians and political activists arrested back on February 28th for their involvement in the democratic primaries of July 2020; the vast majority of whom have been denied bail and thus held in custody since then.  And so it proved when presiding magistrate Peter Law announced another adjournment of the trial -- this time to March 4th of next year.  

Some reminders courtesy of the Reuters article on this development: "The security law sets a high threshold for defendants seeking bail to demonstrate they would not break the law, a departure from common law practice, which puts the onus on prosecutors to make their case for detention"; "[r]easons for denying bail included unanswered emails from the U.S. Consulate and WhatsApp messages with foreign journalists, which were taken as proof there was a risk that defendants could endanger national security if released on bail"; and "[t]he protracted hearings and the reasons for rejecting bail have stunned diplomats and rights groups, who see it as a dramatic display of the city's authoritarian turn."
By the way, that Legislative Council election those democratic primaries were held in preparation for?  It's now far more "election" rather than election.  And so worried are the authorities about it that they announced today that the police will deploy over 10,000 officers on December 19th ("election day") to ensure its smooth running.
Of great concern to the authorities is that the turnout will be low and/or many of the votes cast will be blank or spoilt.  Already, you can see "reasons" being offered by "establishment types" about why this would happen that are as dubious as the "election" itself. (I mean, "foreign influence" -- really?)  Surely it makes more sense to think along the lines of what history professor Jeppe Mulich Tweeted: i.e.,  "When the majority of voters cannot vote for the candidates they want to represent them, why do you expect them to turn up at all?" 
I leave it to Bloomberg's Matthew Brooker to sum today up: "Broken promises, meaningless elections - or, as followers of the news here in Hong Kong like to call it, “Monday”"!  Adding to the farcicial nature of Hong Kong politics in 2021: check out this Tweet by Lok. about a pro-government election candidate deciding to "cosplay" as an anime character (who he may not have realized has died).  Truly, you don't have to make things up to show how hard it is to take this upcoming "election" seriously -- and yes, there are times when we have to laugh, otherwise we'd cry! 

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Ann Hui's Love After Love feels more strange than outright bad (Film review)

The director of Love After Love answering questions at its 
post-screening Q&A at the Hong Kong Film Festival 
Love After Love (Mainland China, 2020)
- Ann Hui, director
- Starring: Sandra Ma Sichun, Eddie Peng, Faye Yu
Hong Kong's Ann Hui On-wah was honored with a Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at the Venice International Film Festival last year.  That same fest also saw the world premiere of Love Afer Love, her third adaptation of an Eileen Chang literary work.  Specifically, this period piece is based on Chang's novella, Aloeswood Incense: The First Brazier; whose story take place in 1940s Hong Kong but revolves around a young woman from Shanghai and her father's estranged sister, who moved to Hong Kong years before her.

Ge Weilong (Sandra Ma Sichun) had come to Hong Kong as a student.  Requiring financial assistance, she decides to seek the help of her wealthy aunt, Mrs. Liang (Faye Yu).  Although they are blood relatives, the two females appear to have little in common -- at least initially.  But after Weilong is taken into Mrs. Liang's fold at the urging of a man they both come to call "Uncle" (Fan Wei) and groomed to fit into their rarified world (which, visually, at least, resembles a living museum, filled with expensive and/or antique ornaments and ornamentation), they end up having a number of commonalities -- including a physical attraction to George (Eddie Peng), a hunky ne'er-do-well who few women seem able to resist.
A confession: even before the often negative -- or, at best, lukewarm -- reviews came trickling in soon after its Venice screening, I already worried about whether I'd like Love After Love.  One big reason is that, despite Ann Hui being my favorite female Hong Kong filmmaker (in an actually pretty crowded field) thanks to works like The Secret (1979), The Way We Are (2008) and A Simple Life (2011), I'm not generally a fan of her historical dramas -- and, in fact, really disliked her previous adaptation of an Eileen Chang work before this: Eighteen Springs (1997).  
Fast foward to just a few days before I was going to finally view Love After Love and a Mainland Chinese friend told me about this period drama having been the subject of much criticism in Mainland China, where it had opened weeks before doing so in the filmmaker's home city.  I imagine that this must have upset the people behind this Mandarin-language movie even more than the negative comments of Western film critics since it's actually officially billed as a (Mainland) Chinese work, was entirely funded with Mainland Chinese money and looks to have been primarily made with the Mainland Chinese audience in mind.  
Maybe thanks in part to having felt forewarned about it being a flawed film, I actually didn't dislike Love After Love as much as I worried that I would.  Actually, viewing it as I did in Hong Kong, I found it to be more strange than bad; thanks in no small part to the Hong Kong I saw depicted in it seeming to be so foreign to me -- and not just because I don't think there was single piece of Cantonese dialogue in the entire movie either!     
To be sure, there have been a number of Mandarin language Hong Kong movies in the past, including the Shaw Brothers productions helmed by Chang Cheh and a number of MP&GI/Cathay's 1950s and 1960s works.  But Love After Love also was largely shot outside of Hong Kong: on Xiamen's Gulang Island and Mainland Chinese film lots -- and it shows in such as the faces of a number of the extras in crowd scenes looking far more northern Chinese than would be ones set in Hong Kong ought to be, and the color and energy often associated with Hong Kong being noticeably missing from the movie.  
Continuing on the language theme: an ethnic Shanghainese Hong Konger friend complained also of there not being any Shanghainese in this film whose two female characters are Shanghainese.  In addition, both she and I agreed that it didn't seem right that Love After Love didn't contain much English dialogue too; especially given that much is made in the movie about its main male character being Eurasian (as in, having had a British mother and ethnic Chinese -- Cantonese?  Shanghainese? -- father).  Still, in view of how stilted what little English dialogue there was in the film sounded like, perhaps it was just as well!
Perhaps it's the Hong Kong chauvinist in me speaking but not only did I find myself ruing that the Hong Kong in the movie felt more like one re-created by a non-Hong Konger than native Hong Konger but I also thought that the best performances actually came from two Hong Kongers!  Playing George's similarly "mixed blood" sister, Kitty, the felinesque Isabella Leong steals every one of the too few scenes that she's in while Paul Chan Pui adds surprising gravitas to his role as George and Kitty's often exasperated father. 
Although I wouldn't necessarily say that they did much wrong, Sandra Ma and Eddie Peng nonetheless appear often overshadowed by their cast members and even the costumes (by the late Emi Wada) and set design (by Zhao Hai).  At the very least, it can seem like cinematographer Christopher Doyle often trained his camera more on inanimate objects than the animate actors in the frames. 

On a more positive note, Faye Yu held her own in her scenes.  And even while the character of Weilong was hard to understand and that of George too one dimensional, Mrs Liang felt more well drawn and actually three dimensional.  At the very least, I thought it noteworthy that while some of Weilong and George's dialogue got members of the audience laughing in derision on occasion (probably, I suspect, more due to the lines that Wang Anyi wrote rather than Sandra Ma or Eddie Peng's delivery of them), that of Mrs Liang's never did.
My rating for this film: 6.0 

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

We remember the democratic triumph of two years ago, and also commit to memory injustices that continue to be perpetuated to this day

 Banners for two of the candidates for the
 District Council elections held two years ago today
Fast forward two years and the mood is far less happy.  Many of the individuals elected to District Council seats on November 24th, 2019, are now in jail (what with a good number of the 47 politicians and activists arrested for taking part in last year's democratic primaries having been district councillors) or have gone into exile -- and even many of those who haven't suffered this fate have been stripped of their positions or felt forced to resign from them.   
There's also the not insignificant matter of China having imposed a national security law on Hong Kong and sweeping electoral changes to make a system that already wasn't all that democratic and representative even less so.  Which is why it's very unlikely that voter numbers in the upcoming Legislative Council "election" will approach, never mind, equal the 71% participation rate and 2.94 million raw voter numbers of the 2019 District Council elections. 
Adding to the dark mood of many Hong Kongers these days is the continued political persecution and prosecutions evidenced this week.  As an example, yesterday saw 20-year-old student activist Tony Chung become the youngest person to be jailed under the national security law. After pleading guilty to charges of “secession” and “money-laundering” (in a deal that saw charges of "sedition" and a second one for "money-laundering" against him dropped), he was sentenced to three years and seven months imprisonment. 
Should it not be clear, a Hong Kong Watch statement regarding his sentencing points out that "Tony Chung’s charges relate to a series of social media posts and the financial management of his student localist group".  It also includes the following comments by the NGO's Policy Director, Johnny Patterson, Hong Kong Watch’s Policy Director: 

Tony Chung’s sentencing is disproportionate, draconian, and sets a dangerous precedent for other young Hong Kongers whose only crime is using social media to protest the dismantling of Hong Kong’s freedoms.

At twenty years old, Tony Chung is the youngest person to be sentenced under this draconian law. He will not be the last.

And this past Monday saw a 29-year-old man sentenced to 28 months imprisonment for having thrown "a plastic water bottle in the direction of the police" on the evening of July 14th, 2019, at Shatin's New Town Plaza mall. It's well worth noting the following: his attempt to hit the police was unsuccessful; the bottle he hurled was made of plastic (rather than glass); and the bottle was in all likelihood not going to hurt the cops if it actually had hit them since they were wearing protective gear (unlike the convicted man, whohis lawyer pointed out was wearing a T-shirt and a pair of slippers).

Lai Chun-lok also had not planned his action, the lawyer said. As to why he threw the bottle: do note that July 14th, 2019, marked the very first time that riot police entered a shopping mall in Hong Kong: one which is physically linked to a number of residential complexes. 
I remember how people were so very upset then at what they perceived to be their space having been invaded by the police, and determined to clear away what they perceived to be elements disturbing the peace. (And yes, the police really are often seen in Hong Kong as disturbing the peace rather than there to restore or preserve it.) 
On a not unrelated note: many of the events that took place in the latter part of 2019 remain fresh in my memory.  Two years may seem like a long time ago for some people, and Hong Kong circa 2019 can indeed seem like another world as well as time from Hong Kong 2021.  Nevertheless, I still remember.  And I know many other Hong Kongers do too.  

Monday, November 22, 2021

Anita is reverential, mainly plays safe, and is bittersweet (Film review)

Publicity for Anita, the movie
Anita (Hong Kong-Mainland China, 2021)
- Longmond Leung, dir. & co-scriptwriter (with Jack Ng)
- Starring: Louise Wong, Louis Koo, Fish Liew, Terrance Lau, Gordon Lam Ka-tung
This blockbuster biopic about the late Anita Mui Yim-fong (1963-2003) may well the most long awaited Hong Kong film of 2021.  At the very least, it looks to have been the most promoted local production for quite some time and most widely released, opening on the same day (November 12th) in cinemas in Australia, Canada, Mainland China, Taiwan, the U.K. and the U.S.A. as in Hong Kong (and also getting releases in cinemas this month in Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand).    

A reverential production geared towards fans of the superstar entertainer (and those nostalgic for the glory days of Canto-pop plus Hong Kong cinema), Anita stars debutant actress Louise Wong in the title role.  After a short mood-setting prelude, the movie properly begins in the grounds of the Lai Chi Kok Amusement Park, where the young Mui Yim-fong sang as a double act with her elder sister, Mui Oi-fong.  Early on, the woman who would come to be known to her fans as "Mui Chea" (Elder Sister Mui)'s impulse to do good is established as well as her singing talent and love for her elder sister (the only family member physically represented in this movie).  
Fast forward to the 1980s and, before signing up for a singing contest, the now young adult siblings acquire English names: Ann (played by Malaysia's Fish Liew) and Anita.  After winning the contest, Anita's star quickly rises -- thanks, in no small part, to recording producer So Hau-leung (played by Gordon Lam Ka-tung) and the designer-stylist Eddie Lau (essayed by Louis Koo) as well as, of course, her own undoubted talent. 
Rather surprisingly, given the early emphasis on the strong bond between the two sisters, Anita ends up being a film in which Anita Mui is shown interacting more with men than fellow females.  Although singer-actress Miriam Yeung also features in Anita as her manager, hers is more of a cameo role than anything significant.  Given more screen time are Nakajima Ayumu and Tony Yang, playing two very different romantic interests of Anita Mui; and Terrance Lau, playing her best friend and fellow superstar, Leslie Cheung. 
Those who didn't know that he was gay would have looked at the way Leslie and Anita Mui are portrayed in the movie and wonder why they didn't end up being a romantic couple.  This is one of the many aspects of Anita that could be said to be underplayed in such a way that if you know, you'd get the picture/message but if you didn't, it'd completely fly over you.  

An argument also could be made that its filmmakers have generally clearly played safe and sought to paint as uncontroversial -- and, thus, to their minds, palatable -- a portrait as they can of a woman whose description as the Madonna of Asia points to her having been known to court controversy and shock as well as awe.  This can result in Anita the movie and its eponymous character being less fiery and impassioned than some of us would like even while also omitting details of her life that would have struck certain parties as too unsavory or politically problematic as well as negative.     
We're talking, after all, about Anita Mui having been someone who never knew her father, whose mother (and brothers) have often been described as "bloodsucking" -- not least for having put her and her elder sister Ann to work when they were children (Anita Mui began her showbiz career at the age of 4 years) -- and who did such as fight triad involvement in the Hong Kong film industry and help Chinese dissidents being hunted down after the Tiananmen Square Massacre to flee into exile.  In addition, there's the Bad Girl persona that she cultivated, with "Bad Girl" being the title of a 1985 hit of hers with pretty sexually suggestive lyrics, and her pushing gender barriers and becoming a gay icon thanks to her androgynous costumes and image.   
With film censorship laws now in place in Hong Kong (as well as a national security law), any coverage in the film of Anita Mui's political activism would have been cut, at "best", or got the whole film banned from being screened in Hong Kong, never mind Mainland China.  So we knew better than to expect to see mention of it in Anita.  (This also explains Anita Mui's protege, Denise Ho's relegation to the shadows in favor of other talents nurtured by Anita Mui, such as the members of Grasshopper.)  As for the other aspects of the lives discussed in the previous paragraph: they're not entirely omitted from the film but often more implied rather than explicitly addressed.
To be fair, Anita Mui's life really was so colorful and chequered than even a movie that's lengthier than the Hong Kong norm could never really do its justice.  Also, Anita is not a documentary.  And in view of its leading actress being an acting neophyte, its helmer far more well known for crime actioners than biographical dramas and it having been necessary to recreate a good part of the Hong Kong that was around in Anita Mui's lifetime, it could be said to be already quite the triumph that so much of her life was able to be put on screen via this 137-minute-length movie.
Lest there be any doubt, a good number of Anita Mui's songs also make it into Anita.  And, for the record, I think it significant indeed that great prominence is given to the theme song of A Better Tomorrow 3Entitled the Song of Sunset, it's a bittersweet ballad at the best of times.  Listening to it in Hong Kong, 2021, it's heartbreaking.  Consider, after all, that its lyrics include lines such as the following: "The road is so long ahead, but the light is getting dimmer";  "Joy lasts so short and will never return"; and  "I think of returning, but [it's] already too late".  Anita, we miss (as well as remember) you -- and your Hong Kong too!
My rating for this film: 7.0

Saturday, November 20, 2021

Hong Kong -- where danger continues to lurk and the difficult times are far from over, for wild boar and humans alike

Who's more dangerous -- wild boars or humans?
At the beginning of this week, an Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) official disclosed that the authorities were contemplating relaunch a license scheme to allow members of the public to hunt wild pigs in a bid to control the boar population in urban areas.  He also stated that staff from that department with the word "Conservation" in it were set to operate five times a month to "humanely" euthanise wild boars which entered urban areas.  
In the wake of this tragedy has emerged art work from Hong Kongers that give a good sense of what they feel about this government action.  Among them are Ah To's "New Hong Kong" (inspired by a famous Tiananmen Square Massacre photograph) and those that draw clear associations between wild boar and human Hong Kongers, and both their lives and voices being taken lightly by the authorities.
And days after he was obliged to remove a statue of the late Nobel Peace Laureate, Liu Xiaobo, from the space by one of his stores, Chickeeduck owner Herbert Chow announced that his 31-year-old pro-democracy retail chain will leave the Hong Kong market in the second half of next year citing “disturbances from unknown evil forces”.  A reminder: last week was by no means the first time that Chow and Chickeeduck had had a run in with the authorities.  For example, "in June last year, Chickeeduck was told to remove a statue of pro-democracy Lady Liberty at a branch at D Park in Tsuen Wan. It later moved out of the store after failing to renew its lease."
As per the Hong Kong Free Press report: "Chow said that the brand’s departure from the Hong Kong market did not mean the company would shut down. He said that he would “take a rest” after an “orderly withdrawing” from Hong Kong, and that he had “no intention to leave” the city."  Even so, the decision is a shocking as well as major one, and made after having had to endure no small amount of harassment -- presumably since he openly came out in support of the pro-democracy movement.

As Chow explained, "This decision was not made for me, this decision was made for the company’s staff… considering the daily torture they endured.  [More specifically, Chickeeduck] received hundreds of nuisance calls per month during peak hours, he said, while some employees reported “being followed."
At the same time though, Chow maintains that his professional decision is not related to his personal safety. "I took this step not because I was worried that I might get arrested, I never thought that I had violated the law", he insists.  The Chickeeduck owner does admit though that "his wife had had told him to “tone [things] down.  Still, he said, he "could not stand injustice" and "when it comes to Hong Kong, our home, how can [I] shut up?"

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Lee Cheuk-yan delivers a lesson on standing up for what one believes and not giving up on International Students Day

Information for those wishing to write to Lee Cheuk-yan
On International Students Day two years ago, the siege of PolyU (AKA Hong Kong Polytechnic University) began.  Like the battles waged on the Chinese University of Hong Kong campus that preceded it, this event (which has been captured on film and documented for posterity in such as the critically acclaimed Inside the Red Brick Wall) has left deep scars in the psyche of many Hong Kongers.  
One measure I had of this occured a few months ago one evening when a friend I was walking with in the vicinity of the PolyU campus broke down and started crying at the sight of the red brick walls (that had been stained blue by the blast of water cannons back in November 2019).  Especially since he's usually on the stoic side, his reaction was pretty shocking to me.  I guess still waters run deep and all that.  And what tore further at my heart was when, even as the tears rolled down his cheeks, he expressed his fear that all our efforts (at attempting to make our voice heard and the government listen to us, etc.) had been in vain.  
Instinctively, I rushed to assure him that it hadn't all been in vain, that the "war" was not yet over, that things are not yet written in stone.  When he looked at me sceptically, I pointed out that these kind of things take time and, also, that a whole bunch of other people had not yet given up.  
That evening I didn't cite those seeking vindication for the June 4th, 1989, massacre were still determined to do so some 32 years on -- even if it means, in some cases, going to jail for their beliefs.  But, yeah, I was thinking of them as exemplars, along with Nelson Mandela, who spent 27 years of his life in prison (including on Robben Island) but did eventually emerge from it not only as a free man but also one who would see his dream and goal of ending apartheid realized.
On the subject of those determined to remember the Tiananmen Square massacre and honor its victims, five key members of the now-defunct Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China appeared in court today at a trial involving their involvement in last year’s banned June 4th vigilElecting to plead guilty to the charges, today was their opportunity to have mitigation speeches heard.  

While Richard Choi, Leung Yiu-ching, Simon Leung and Wu Chi-wai opted to have their lawyer deliver the pleas, former Hong Kong Alliance chair Lee Cheuk-yan dismissed his legal representative ahead of the court session and gave his own submission.  The following are excerpts from his emotional speech (and is very much worth reading in full):  
To begin, I want to thank the people of Hong Kong who kept the promise of 1989, all 31 years ago. In the face of suppression, they persisted, honouring the memory of the June Fourth Massacre in Victoria Park with their candlelight. Your Honour, the people of Hong Kong who took part needed no person or organisation to incite them. If there was a provocateur, it is the regime that fired at its own people.
For 31 years, our unyielding memory and unrelenting conscience drove us to keep the promise, persisted in honouring their memory, demand truth and accountability, and carry on the pursuit of freedom and democracy of the Chinese people...
Influenced by localist ideas, some question the principles of the Hong Kong Alliance, but we all recognise the necessity to uncover the truth of and demand accountability for the June Fourth Massacre. The participation of the youth explains why the attendance of the vigil rose to the hundred thousand in the past decade...
For 30 odd years, the candlelight of the June Fourth vigil symbolised the practice of peaceful, non-violent resistance. Why should the Police prohibit the assembly and prosecute its participants? We are all followers of Gandhi’s idea of non-violent struggle, hoping to bring democratic reforms to Hong Kong. Now that I am imprisoned as Gandhi was, I will learn to be as fearless as Gandhi was...
Despite setbacks, we are steadfast in our belief that the universal values of freedom, the rule of law, human rights and democracy that we have been struggling for will one day take root in Hong Kong and China. And on that day, we will be able to console the souls who came before us. (My emphasis)

Monday, November 15, 2021

Updates regarding the case of Samuel Bickett, and the League of Social Democrats' statue of Liu Xiaobo

The protest art's still on the shutter but the Liu Xiaobo statue's 
that had been placed near it is there no longer
Remember Samuel Bickett?  Yesterday afternoon, the Hong Kong-based American lawyer (whose Twitter account is very much worth following) Tweeted a reminder that he'd be appearing in a court this morning for his appeal hearing.  Yesterday also saw the publication of a Vox piece about his case and what it will say about the future of Hong Kong's courts, a few choice lines of which I'm sharing below:
Bickett wants justice for himself. But his case is not just his own — it intersects with Hong Kong’s own turmoil, driven by Beijing’s ever-tightening crackdown on the city’s democratic freedoms. It has become another marker of the lack of accountability for the police and of the deep concern around the deterioration of the rule of law...
“I don’t think rule of law can be said to exist in Hong Kong in a meaningful way at this point,” Bickett said this month. That, though, is something he’s fighting for, even if one of the only ways he can do it is through a legal system that is being hollowed out...
Bickett was not a protester, just a guy going holiday shopping with a friend [back on December 7th, 2019]. But the case has resonated because it may be less of an isolated incident than a glimpse into a police force able to operate with impunity...          
Bickett’s case... might not offer a clear-cut conclusion [regarding how truly impartial and just the Hong Kong judicial system remains]. If he is remanded to prison, will that be because the judge who hears his case fully believed he was in the wrong? Or because he embarrassed the police? If he is exonerated, maybe that will be a last gasp for Hong Kong’s judicial system. Or maybe there are cynical reasons: Bickett has been outspoken, and he is an American; maybe it isn’t worth it to send him back to prison. 
At the time of writing, Bickett remains out free.  As the man himself Tweeted this afternoon: "My High Court appeal has been adjourned until a later date for the ruling."  He also stated that: "In these circumstances I am not going to make any substantive comments on the hearing".  So thank goodness we have Xinqi Su to recap the high -- or should I say low? -- points of it as well as report on the reception Bickett received when he arrived in court today.   

In any case, it doesn't seem like Esther Toh is inclined to view the defence's case impartially, let alone kindly.  So it's hard to disagree with the assessment made by Goofrider over on Twitter that: "It'd be short of a miracle he wins at the appellate court level. The only real chance of winning appeal is going all the way to the [Court of Final Appeal]."
Incidentally, a few weeks back, I chatted with an Independent Commission Against Corruption officer who maintained that the Hong Kong judiciary was still in working order -- or, at the very least, the Court of Final Appeal was still okay.  But he did accept my point that it takes quite a bit of time and a whole lot of money for a case to end up being heard by Hong Kong's top court -- and that most defendants, be they political or non-political ones, won't be able to afford the legal fees that this entails; this particularly in the wake of such as the 6.12 Humanitarian Relief Fund having ceased operations.
Let's hope that Samuel Bickett won't have to take his case all the way to the Court of Final Appeal.  And, really, he shouldn't have to.  (Just watch the video showing the actions that led to his arrest!)  Also, of course, we must hope that the outcome of his appeal will be in not just his favor but also that of justice itself. 
Speaking of outcomes and updates: With regards to the statue of Liu Xiaobo which had been placed outside the Tin Hau branch of Chickeeduck, it's as we had feared but also pretty much knew would be the case.  In short: the statue was indeed removed from that location yesterday -- one day before the deadline stipulated by the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department.  
Since it was removed by a member of the League of Social Democrats (which owns the statue) and Chickeeduck owner Herbert Chow -- rather than the authorities -- though, there is a chance that it will reappear in another location at some point.  Where exactly we don't know yet but, at the very least, we can be very sure that it won't be M+ -- which, I'm sorry, but I just can't work up much enthusiasm about.  Pretty sad, really, as I had so looked forward to checking out (more) of its collection not that long ago

Saturday, November 13, 2021

A Friday that turned out to be eventful and a weekend that's already tinged with sadness for Hong Kong

The statue of Liu Xiaobo outside the
Tin Hau branch of Herbert Chow's Chickeeduck  
Up until the evening, yesterday was shaping up to be a less eventful day than the day before.  Indeed, I was thinking that the biggest uproar-causing development of the day would be the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department's announcement that it will hereby euthanise wild boars which enter urban areas in the wake of a wild boar having injured a police officer in Tin Hau earlier in the week; with a number of people coming out in defence of the wild animals on social media (both Twitter and Facebook -- the latter via the Hong Kong Wild Boar Concern Group).     
Something else that had the Hong Kong Twitterverse buzzing last night was the discovery of the numbers 8964 (which is a code used for the June 4th, 1989, massacre) having appeared in the Chinese-accented Marvel superhero blockbuster, Shang Chi and the Legend of the 10 Rings.  Which is quite the bonus easter egg for a movie already mega popular in Hong Kong thanks, in no small part, because it marks the first English language film appearance of Hong Kong cinema megastar Tony Leung Chiu-wai!
Somewhat overlooked in the hubbub was the reportage of the defiantly pro-democracy Chickeeduck store in Tin Hau having been told to remove "obstructive objects" from the section of the street adjacent to it, with the "obstructive objects" including a statue of Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Liu Xiaobo which I'd previously seen at such as the June 4th vigil at Victoria Park a few years back.  While the statue's still there when I went to check this afternoon, it's due to be removed on Monday.  
If this is indeed effected, this would mean that its removal will have come before that of the Pillar of Shame -- which, almost unbelievably, is still standing on the campus of the University of Hong Kong (HKU) one month after the official deadline given for its removal.  An update: the university authorities appear to have been shamed into not doing such as going about destroying it -- and its sculptor, Danish artist Jens Galschiot, disclosed yesterday that he has written an open letter to HKU outlining his plans to retrieve and move the statue.  
In order to do that though, certain complications need to be resolved -- including the lifting of a ban barring him from entry into Hong Kong.  Galschiot, understandably, also wants to make sure that he has immunity from the National Security Law.  "I can understand from the press that the introduction of the new security legislation in Hong Kong means that there is a legal basis for arresting foreign nationals who engage in activities that criticise China [and the statue’s removal] will lead to activities and media coverage that could be perceived as criticism of China. Therefore, I will have to get a guarantee that my employees and I will not be prosecuted," he wrote.        
Still, all this ended up being eclipsed by the shock waves that reverberated from a late night Tweet by The Economist's Sue-Lin Wong disclosing that she -- who is currently out of the city -- will not be returning to Hong Kong.  "Very sad I won’t be able to continue reporting from Hong Kong. I loved getting to know the city and its people. I will miss you all", she wrote.
With her employers's confirmation that the Hong Kong authorities have refused to renew Wong's work visa, this makes the Australian journalist the fourth and latest international journalist to have been ousted from the city after the Hong Kong Free Press’s incoming editor Aaron Mc Nicholas was inexplicably denied a visa last year, Chris Buckley of the New York Times was forced to leave weeks earlier, and Victor Mallet of the Financial Times was ousted from the city in similar circumstances in 2018.  And yes, no explanation has been given by the authorities for their work visa denials.
And should you have thought that this being the weekend would have temporarily paused further persecutions and prosecutions, it will be pointed out that courts were in session this morning.  And at one of them, a judge found 20 people guilty of rioting during a 2019 anti-extradition bill protest in Sheung Wan (and just three of the defendants innocent).  Among the heartbreaking details of this case is that the average age of the people standing trial was 23.  So, there are many reasons why, "bidding farewell [to those who have lost their freedom] is getting harder and harder".  And so it goes in Hong Kong in 2021. :(