Sunday, October 30, 2022

All Things Bright and Beautiful, and "We're All Going to Die Some Day"! (Photo-essay)

Two years ago, the folks at All Things Bright and Beautiful (i.e., Ah Li and Joanne) put on an exhibition entitled "How to Survive a Disaster" that also was a launch for their 2021 calendar.  If there was a follow-up exhibition last year, I missed it -- but I did manage to get one of their 2022 calendars, whose theme was "The Story Goes On".  And earlier this week, I went to this year's exhibition (and launch for next year's calendar).

I have to admit that I was a bit hesitant to do so, given that its title of  "We're All Going to Die Some Day" sounds rather, well, ominous!  But this being the All Things Bright and Beautiful crew, things did turn out to be beautiful -- and not super dark.  And yeah, I came away, like two years ago, with another of their calendars; it's become kind of a tradition to have one of theirs to look at... along with another featuring my hero, Funassyi (whose 2023 calendar I also got this week courtesy of a Japan-based friend)! 

The exhibition is a small but serene feeling one; ditto re its venue
Two images that appear in the 2023 calendar
Explanatory label for the upper image in the above photo 
(click on the image to view an enlarged version of it)
Explanatory label for the lower image in the above photo 
(click on the image to view an enlarged version of it)
I found this image calming...
...and was heartened by its accompanying 
explanatory note
You can buy copies of the 2023 calendar
and such as postcards too
The exhibition runs until tomorrow and is very much 
worth supporting (Joanne and Ah Li are good people

Friday, October 28, 2022

What passes for "normal" these days in "dynamic zero", national security law-era Hong Kong

People will be free to gather in barbecue sites 
again soon -- Woo hoo! :D
For those people thinking that Hong Kong is back to normal, consider this: There are individuals celebrating the announcements made yesterday by the Hong Kong government that "Bars and restaurants will be allowed to open all hours from next week while public barbecue pits will also reopen... The changes, which take effect in one week, will also see people attending functions such as weddings allowed to remove their masks when photographs are being taken."  For this is what passes for the relaxing of social distancing measures in this part of the world!
With regards to the barbecue pits: Would you believe that Hong Kongers have not been allowed to make use of public barbecue pits (which are found in country parks and scenic locales such as by public beaches -- and popular among young Hong Kongers, families and domestic helpers on their days off) since July 15th, 2020?  So this makes it so that since they only finally reopen this November 3rd, they will have been closed for 841 days?! 
As for bars and restaurants: "Under the present regulations, restaurants must close at midnight, while bars are allowed to serve no later than 2am. The removal of the opening hour restrictions will be welcomed by the hospitality industry ahead of next month's football World Cup, where many key games will kick off at 3am."
But as is pointed out in the RTHK article I've been quoting: "Other rules, such as the mask mandate, vaccine pass and limits on the number of customers at restaurant tables, will stay in place." And, of course, limits on public gatherings because many of these "social distancing" regulations are, of course, designed to make protesting (for democracy, against the incarceration of political prisoners -- of which Hong Kong now has thousands, ranging in age from those in their teens to 80 something year olds -- and such) well nigh impossible rather than truly science-based anti-Covid measures.
Also, as the trial of Chow Hang-tung continues, we have the following craziliy unjust situation: "The leader of Hong Kong's Tiananmen vigil group still can't see the actual materials she's being prosecuted over, as authorities cite national security".  A reminder: Chow, along with two other ex-standing committee members of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, Tang Ngok-kwan and Tsui Hon-kwong, stand accused of failing to comply with a national security police data request.
As a Hong Kong Free Press piece relates: "Under the national security law, the commissioner of police, upon approval from the security chief, can issue a notice requesting information such as financial records from foreign or Taiwanese political groups, and their agents.  Prior to the trial, the prosecution applied for Public Interest Immunity (PII) to conceal information of the materials concerning the case, claiming that the disclosure would “harm public interest.”
Chow, a trained lawyer who is defending herself in the trial, "has requested the prosecution to disclose more concealed materials during a national security trial on Friday after saying that the redaction of information prohibited her from having a fair trial."  This seems a fair request.  And, frankly, one would have thought that she wouldn't even have had to request to see those redacted and concealed information.
As barrister Edward Wong, who is representing Tang, argued: "The right to fair trial would require the opportunity to test or to testify against the evidence produced, or in this case, relied heavily upon by the prosecution".   In response, the presiding "magistrate ordered Chow, who has been remanded in custody since September last year, to draft and submit to the court and prosecution a list of materials that she would like the prosecution to disclose, and the reason to disclose them. The trial will continue on November 7."

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

A day of setbacks for those seeking better for Hong Kong (and China) but also one where resistance is shown to still exist

Photo taken in a very different Hong Kong from now
I read a beautifully written piece in The Guardian this morning about how Xi Jinping has purged China of hope -- but can't stamp out small acts of resistance.  Among other things, Yangyang Cheng wrote that: "Sorrow tears into my organs and gnaws at my bones. But what I fear more than pain is numbness: to give in to the powers that be, and give up on imagining otherwise."
And amidst it all, I took comfort from her concluding lines: "I hold no illusions about the long night ahead, but each refusal of injustice preserves an opening. Every act of rebellion, however spectacular or humble, is a reclamation of the self and a love letter to a stranger. Across the darkness, another searching gaze catches the flicker, and a sacred bond is cast: I see you. I feel you. We are still here."  
Which is just as well since this has been one of those days which has been full of pain and anger resulting from seeing Hong Kong effects at resistance encountering a number of setbacks.  First up: the announcement in The Big Lychee, Various Sectors' latest blog post that the USA-based Hong Kong Democracy Council's new report, “Business NOT As Usual: International Companies in the New Authoritarian Hong Kong”, which calls on global finance leaders to not attend the Hong Kong government's finance summit and documents 39 "corporate bad actors" in Hong Kong", is unavailable to many Hong Kong internet users; so they will just to make do with such as a Twitter thread by Samuel Bickett that summarizes its contents (starting here).    
Upon further investigation, the Hong Kong Democracy Council's Anna Kwok reported that it wasn't just the report that had been blocked but, in fact, the organization's entire website and, actually, for a while now.  This means that it has been given the same treatment as Hong Kong Watch back in February.  And who knows when many more websites will become unavailable to those in Hong Kong without a VPN (or on those internet service providers that haven't yet got the memo).       

Adding to the irony quotient: this same day saw a national security law judge state that he wanted what went on in his court to not be political and, instead, neutral.  Though he sure had/has a strange definition of what constitutes "neutral" for sure.  
More specifically, while presiding over the national security law trial against the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China (i.e., the group behind the candlelight vigils in Victoria Park on June 4th), Principal Magistrate Peter Law barred lawyer-defendant Chow Hang-tung from using the phrase “Tiananmen [Square] massacre", with prosecutor Ivan Cheung suggesting that Chow use the term “June 4th incident” instead.  In response to Law's suggestion that she use “proper terminology in [a] neutral form”, Chow was moved to state the following: “I do protest to the term Tiananmen incident, what is a massacre cannot be downgraded to an incident, this is not a neutral term”.  
And that's not all: "The prosecution also objected to Chow’s use of “the killing” when referring to June 4, 1989, saying that the police application for a notice requesting information from the Alliance did not mention any killing.  “Then how do I describe it? That some people died on that day?” Chow asked, after the magistrate agreed with Cheung and asked the barrister not to say “the killing.”"
Those people who are "glass half full" types might say: "Hey, at least they're not denying that people died in Beijing on June 4th, 1989.  So Hong Kong's not (completely) part of the People's Republic of Amnesia yet!"  But seeing these court antics one day after Jimmy Lai received a fifth conviction (for an act that usually is considered a civil rather than criminal matter) makes them all the more risible.  

It really can feel overwhelming at times, and one can easily be moved to despair.  As Yangyang Cheng put it in her piece in The Guardian: "I cannot recall when I entered a state of perpetual mourning."  And yet, it also is she who reminds us in the same article: "No control is absolute. Power at its most menacing and totalising is also insecure and unsustainable."  And yes, I do take some comfort from thinking -- no, knowing -- that this is so. 

Monday, October 24, 2022

Ying E Chi's Keep Rolling shows that Hong Kong filmmakers are determined to keep going and keep telling very Hong Kong stories (Film review)

Directors Lo Yan-chi and Jason Yiu at a
post-screening Q&A for Keep Rolling 

Keep Rolling (Hong Kong, 2022)
- Directors: Lo Yan-chi (Same Boat), Kingston Chow (Rubbish Bin), Erica Kwok (April's Interlude), Jason Yiu (A Letter from Prison)
Before anything else: No, this is a different Keep Rolling from Man Lim-chung's same-named documentary about Hong Kong filmmaker, Ann Hui On-wah.  A short film anthology produced by Ying E Chi with the support of the Goethe-Institut, this Keep Rolling -- at the time of writing -- has no IMDB or HKMDB page devoted to it.  So information on it is on the scarce side (so much so that, sorry, I can't supply the names of cast members here!)!  
But while it hasn't had a regular theatrical run (even in Hong Kong), this cinematic offering has screened a number of times in Hong Kong and also is scheduled to be screened at least once in the US (in California on October 29th).  And right off the bat, I'm going to say that those who have the chance to do so should consider viewing it; this especially so for those folks who really f**king love Hong Kong.  
Taken as a whole, Keep Rolling provides positive proof that Hong Kong filmmakers are determined to keep on going even in (these) tough times, and there's significant promise in the young generation (who, unlike with the other Keep Rolling, are at the heart of this offering).  To be sure, it is uneven in quality -- the way that's to be expected of anthologies -- as well as diverse in terms of its subject matter.  But even that which I reckon is the weakest cinematically of its four components still is, at the very least, of ethnographic interest and invaluable for helping show that Hong Kong is more linguistically and otherwise complex than many people realize.  
The short film that gets Keep Rolling going, Lo Yan-chi's Same Boat is documentary in style and possibly also in nature.  It looks at the relationship between Yin (a polyglot who switches effortlessly between Cantonese, Hokkien, etc.) and her (solely) Hokkien-speaking nonagenarian maternal grandmother, both of whom appear much closer to each other emotionally than either are to Yin's mother.  While Yin's mother has a full-time job, Yin doesn't; so Yin takes it upon herself to care for her beloved grandmother.  Because the elderly lady doesn't have all her faculties intact, their conversations involve a lot of repetition.  While this can feel wearying, this does hammer home the devotion Yin feels for her grandma along with the bond they have clearly established.
The segment that follows, Kingston Chow's Rubbish Bin, is a more story-based work with sections geared to make you smile and laugh out loud.  Its protagonist is a young man named Genius but can come across as a loser: who gets dumped by his girlfriend early on his tale and is tasked by his boss to take a box containing something a feng shui master has deemed to bring bad luck and dispose of it far away from the shop.  Along the way, the lack of rubbish bins in Hong Kong (in the wake of the government decided to hide away a number of them in direct response to their being used as obstacles by anti-extradition bill protestors) is highlighted in this tale.  So even while his short film largely plays out as a comedy/farce, Kingston Chow actually does have serious things to say about the state of Hong Kong!
The mood gets more serious in Erica Kwok's April's Interlude, which, interestingly, its director has opted to film in black and white rather than color.  So vivid is its story though that, in my mind's eye, I've added color to it.  Its protagonist is a cosmetologist named Shan, whose beauty salon cum spa has to temporarily close during the pandemic and who consequently spends far more time at home (where she lives with her mother and their Filipina helper) than she usually does.  Among the more interesting -- and affecting -- aspects of April's Interlude is the relationship Shan has/develops with the family helper.  And, quietly, it says much that Shan has more of an emotional connection with her than Shan does with an old male friend who she meets up with and realises that she no longer feels she can really relate to; this not least because, unlike her, he was away from Hong Kong for much of 2019.
Saving the best for last, Jason Yiu's A Letter from Prison tells the very touching story of a film director (named James) and his friend, Man.  When we first meet Man, he's an arts educator who James wants to star in a film he's making.  We later learn that Man is in prison after having been a protestor during the anti-extradition bill-turned-pro-democracy protestors that was largely peaceful but also did have its violent elements.  James writes to Man but, as is hinted at in the title of this section, it's Man's letter to James that contains the more important and affecting messages. Hearing Man's reading of the letter left lumps in this (re)viewer's throat; this not least because it got me thinking of the many political prisoners that Hong Kong currently has -- a few of whom I have been writing letters to, and one of whom I have got a letter from prison.         
My rating for the film: 6.5 (for Same Boat) + 7.5 (for Rubbish Bin) + 8 (for April's Interlude) + 9 (for A Letter from Prison) = (i.e., evens out to) 7.75 
N.B. Should you wish to support Ying E Chi, whose other productions include Taking Back the Legislature and Inside the Red Brick Wall, and government funding has been cut, you can buy Keep Rolling t-shirts (made by, and available at, Chickeeduck).  And yes, I've got one!

Friday, October 21, 2022

A Victoria Harbourfront walk that revealed Hong Kong's beauty but also some of its woes :S (Photo-essay)

This has been one of those weeks where a number of actions by the Hong Kong government have got me all hot and bothered.  (I don't want to go into detail, as I've already emoted quite a bit on (other) social media.  So will just name them here as John Lee's policy address on Wedneday and the Batman movie shenanigans today.)  And so angry did so many aspects of John Lee's policy address make me, in fact, that I felt an urgent need to get some fresh air and burn off some of my anger with some exercise.  
Fortunately, the weather gods made it so that the physical conditions were pretty ideal to do just that, with temperatures that got me thinking autumn's finally here and welcome breezes besides.  So off I went for an afternoon walk that took me from Fortress Hill to Central that was primarily along the Victoria Harbourfront, including "The Revitalised Typhoon Shelter Precinct" that I've been visiting long before it got "revitalised" and given that name!  
Along the way, I saw sights that reaffirmed my belief that Hong Kong really is beautiful but there also were some that revealed the bad things that have happened, and is happening, to this city that I've come to call home.  Regardless, the walk got me realizing that I continue to really f**king love Hong Kong and that even while the sun is setting over it, I remain loath to leave it still...
I enjoy spotting birds on my Victoria Harbourfront walks,
and often am rewarded when in the vicinity of the
Causeway Bay Typhoon Shelter :)
I can see this stepped section of the "revitalised precinct"
becoming popular place to hang out and take in the sights :)

The police going around and randomly checking people's IDs 
is something that has been happening way too often 
for my liking in Hong Kong these days :(
View of Central that's dominated by the building
that many people recognize from its appearance in
Hong Kong: home to both a People's Liberation Army 
garrison and Bank of America Tower, and where ads
for life insurance and events beloved by the Chinese
Communist Party adorn the landscape!

Okay, deep breath, try to see and appreciate 
the bright spots amidst the gloom!
Also, as this image from earlier in the walk seems to emphasize:
Life goes on, and we will continue to make our way through
it, with more than one way available to do so!

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Hong Kong's dearth of press freedom on display in the wake of recent protests and their aftermath in Beijing and Manchester, England

Alas, much of Hong Kong's press is no longer free :(
"We don't want nucleic acid tests, we want food. We want freedom, not lockdowns. We want dignity, not lies.  We want reform, not revolution.  We want votes, not a dictatorship.  We are citizens, not slaves.  Students, workers, people -- strike against the dictator and traitor, Xi Jinping"!  Thus read the messages (written in simplified Chinese) on banners unfurled from Beijing's Sitong Bridge last Thursday.
The courageous man who put up the banners was soon apprehended by the police and there are (justifiable) fears for his safety.  We're talking about a regime whose reaction to dissent tends towards the extreme.  Consider, if you will, that within a day of the Sitong Bridge protest, most references to the event had been scrubbed from China’s heavily censored internet; with restricted terms on the country’s major social media platforms not only including “Sitong Bridge” and “brave man” to also include words as vague as “bridge” and “courage”, the name of a person speculated to have put up the banners -- and even "Beijing", the name of China's capital city!       
In Hong Kong, the words "Beijing", "bridge" and even "Sitong Bridge" have not been censored by the authorities -- proof that the Great Firewall of China has not encircled it.  Yet.  But it is worth noting that this incident, which has had many people comparing "Bridge Man" to 1989's "Tank Man", has not been reported by the bulk of the local Hong Kong press.
For, as noted in the aforementioned Bloomberg syndicated piece:"Self-censorship has escalated dramatically [in Hong Kong].  A year ago, RTHK deleted coverage of the Peng Shuai scandal, whilst SCMP repeatedly failed to mention that a top official had been accused of sexual assault".
And we see self-censorship on display on the part of Hong Kong's media outlets once again in the wake of a shocking event which took place in Manchester, England, on Sunday; the news of which has dominated the Hong Kong Twitterverse in recent days and also been headlined in various British media (including the BBC) but has not been reported by Hong Kong's RTHK -- and, from what I've heard, any of Chinese language pro-Beijing outlets.
For those who have yet to learn what happened, here are a few paragraphs from the afore-mentioned BBC report: "A Hong Kong pro-democracy protester was pulled into Chinese consulate grounds in Manchester on Sunday and beaten up.  [Initially u]nidentified men [who have since been identified as including Consul General Zheng Xiyuan and Deputy Consul General Fan Yingjie] came out of the consulate and forced a man inside the compound before he escaped with the help of police and other demonstrators.  The protester told the BBC: "They dragged me inside, they beat me up."" And videos circulating online show precisely this.
The BBC's diplomatic correspondent, James Landale, stated the following: "Protests outside embassies and consulates in Britain often involve a few scuffles. Police are often on hand to keep the peace.  "But rarely do consular staff emerge on to the street to pull down banners and posters. And even more rarely are protesters dragged through the gates and apparently beaten up.  So it is not surprising there are growing calls for the [British[ Foreign Secretary, James Cleverly, to summon China's ambassador in Britain for an explanation."  

Something that's also not surprising to Hong Kongers will be the aggression of China's "diplomats" and officials who feel obliged to defend the regime's "honour".  As historian Jeppe Mulich (who I think qualifies as a honorary Hong Konger based on his knowledge and experience of Hong Kong) Tweeted today: "If you've just read the news about a Hong Kong protester getting beaten up by PRC consular staff in Manchester and are feeling outraged, do read up on what's been happening to HK protests on university campuses and in public streets. What's new here is the brazenness, not the act."  
And it having taken place in Britain rather than in some part of China -- or, for that matter, Asia that's been subject to China's aggression.  And in view of this happening in a part of the world which has a robust free press, I sincerely hope that attention will continue to be drawn to the event, and many thousands, if not millions, of eyes opened regarding China's bullying ways as a result. 

Sunday, October 16, 2022

The Sparring Partner is an intelligent work that provides much food for thought about legal deliberations and the dispensing of justice (Film review)

Glad to have caught a screening of The Sparring Partner
before it officially gets released in Hong Kong cinemas!
The Sparring Partner (Hong Kong, 2022)
- Ho Cheuk-tin, director
- Starring: Yeung Wai-lun, Mak Pui-tung, Louisa So, Jan Lamb, Michael Chow
This legal drama adapted from a sensational real-life case -- about a man who partners with a friend to murder and dismember his parents -- was among the local entries that I had wanted to view at this year's Hong Kong International Film Festival (where it had its world premiere) but was unable to do so as a result of tickets for its two HKIFF screenings selling out within hours, if not minutes.  This despite The Sparring Partner being helmed by a debutant director and featuring a cast without a single cinematic A-lister among them (though, as they show in this film, they are actually excel at their craft).     
It's my good fortune though that I've managed to view this thoughtful and thought-provoking work before it begins its local theatrical run.  And while I didn't end up doing so at the Hong Kong International Film Festival (unlike the case with veteran filmmaker Mabel Cheung's To My Nineteen-Year-Old Self -- which, at the time of writing, still has no announced local release date), I was fortunate to be able to meet and chat with The Sparring Partner's helmer after the screening I attended.
Over the course of the conversation, I found out that Ho Cheuk-tin has a theatre background; as does a number of the actors he cast in this involving, intelligent film (one of whom, Mak Pui-tung, won a Golden Firebird Award for acting at the recently concluded Hong Kong International Film Festival in what is only his second ever film role).  In retrospect, this makes a lot of sense -- as a number of The Sparring Partner's scenes are staged very creatively: with the movie not only featuring the kind of in-court, lawyer-client meeting and jury deliberation scenes that one would expect of a serious and conventional legal drama but, also, dramatic re-enactments of the crime that have the jurors in the picture, viewing and reacting to them.  And there also often is a theatrical feel to much of the movie (that helps make it feel like a "high brow" production even while its sensationalist subject is one that one might assume would have attracted more "low brow" interest).

Something else that arguably shows The Sparring Partner's roots in theater is that its lead actors don't have movie star looks.  Indeed, it would seem that Yeung Wai-lun (playing Henry Cheung, whose parents were the unfortunate murder victims) and Mak Pui-tung (who portrayed Angus Tong, the friend in whose apartment the couple were killed, and whose IQ is revealed to be on the low side) emphasised the less physically attractive aspects of their being to good effect for the film -- and made it so that Henry Cheung was easy to be looked upon as a loser who nonetheless was a major egomaniac, and Angus Tong could come across as sad and pitiable.
In comparison, the defence lawyers for the duo cannot help but come across as sophisticated as well as sleek.  Jan Lamb is a positive revelation as Henry Cheung's defence counsel, Wilson Ng, while Louisa So more than holds her own as Angus Tong's defence counsel, Carrie Yau.  And as chief prosecutor Allen Chu (whose first language is English and subsequently is liable to linguistic mistakes when speaking Cantonese), Canadian-Chinese actor Michael Chow gets to showcase both his comedic as well as dramatic acting abilities to good effect.  

And while the actors and actresses who play the case's jury members individually don't get as many lines as those who play the accused and the key lawyers in The Sparring Partner, they (who include an actor long-time Hong Kong movie fans will know as "the white haired guy" from many a Milkyway Image production) are to be commended for carving out individual identities that help get one understanding how and why they reached the conclusions that they did by the trial's and movie's end.  
Even more importantly, they -- along with the rest of the cast, director Ho Cheuk-tin, and co-scriptwriters Frankie Tam, Oliver Yip and Vincent Leung -- help viewers recognise and understand why trial by jury often dispenses justice and compensation in a way that a non-jury trial may not be able to; something worth noting in a Hong Kong which has had a long history and tradition of jury trials but where a number of trials (think the national security law ones, especially) no longer are so.

My rating for the film: 8.0

Thursday, October 13, 2022

The suspension and oppression of schoolboys dominates the news in Hong Kong on Joshua Wong's 26th birthday

Birthday boy Joshua Wong still looked pretty baby-faced
back on October 1st, 2018...
Joshua Wong turned 26 today.  A reminder: he's one of Hong Kong's many political prisoners -- and already has spent some 22 months behind bars this time around.  Something that was well nigh unthinkable just four years ago -- when Hong Kongers did not have genuine universal suffrage but did have a lot more rights and freedoms than is the case now. 
As a Nikkei Asia piece from a few days ago observed: "The once-freewheeling Hong Kong has undergone a jarring transformation in the past few years.  The unprecedented mass democracy protests of 2019 were followed by a relentless crackdown on civil liberties and dissent.  Many say these developments, coupled with restrictive and unpredictable COVID-19 policies, have eroded confidence and tarnished the city's appeal as a place to live and do business.
"Population figures released in August did nothing to dispel that belief, showing a record 1.6% decline over the past year, largely due to a net outflow of people.  Scores of foreign companies have also pulled their regional headquarters out, with Western business groups vacating roughly 3.1 million square feet of floor space between 2019 and 2021.
"Hong Kong officials seem aware there is a problem, even as they doggedly defend the political system.  "Even though we are noble people, there are many nasty people in the world," [Chief Executive John] Lee, a former security official, told patriotic lawmakers on July 6. "That's why we have to do our best to explain [ourselves]."
So far, the explaining has not gone well.  And actions continue to speak louder than words for many.  Actions like putting teenagers and speech therapists, never mind political opposition ranging in age from 20-something year olds (like Joshua Wong) to 70-something year olds (like Jimmy Lai), behind bars because they are considered national security threats. 
And the latest action that's been causing quite a stir around town: the suspension of schoolboys for disrespecting the Chinese national flag.  As in they were not present at a flag raising ceremony at their school due to their (still) eating their breakfast! (Shame on the school, more than by the way -- a Catholic one at that, as can be discerned from its name: St Francis Xavier's School, Tsuen Wan!)
The incident has turned into quite a saga -- with a report on it in today's The Standard being listed as "top news"!   The following are some quotes from the piece: "Many angry students at St Francis Xavier's College [sic.] are demanding the resignation of their vice principal after she suspended 14 students who failed to attend a flag-raising ceremony and "disrespected the national anthem.
"The Standard was told last night that a meeting was held on Tuesday between the teachers and vice principal Law Chui-lin" and that "[t]he vice principal broke down in tears at the meeting and she did not turn up in school yesterday morning, though she was spotted by students in the library in the afternoon."
A note: The Standard's not a particularly reputable newspaper -- as can be seen by it getting even the name of the school not exactly right.  But... let's continue reading away, shall we? Including about another strand in the tale -- this time involving the notoriously thin-skinned Hong Kong police.   As in: "Police, meanwhile, expressed "strong concerns" over a sarcastic cartoon in local Chinese newspaper Ming Pao, saying it could mislead readers and form a wrong impression of the force .
"The cartoon depicts a fully geared riot police at a school to help the principal who seems complaining about students speaking foul language and contradicting teachers. Some students are seen to have laser pens in their backpacks."  And Hong Kong being what it now is (i.e., a place where seemingly trivial matters can result in arrests and incarceration), the cartoonist concerned, known as Zunzi (but whose real name is commonly known to be Wong Kei-kwan) felt obliged to issue a denial that the cartoon was anti-police.  Instead, "It was an expression of how schools should teach students patience instead of high-handed method... [and] a "common" cartoon expressing his views on social affairs."
Creditably, "The Ming Pao editorial department said it would continue to professionally provide accurate and credible news content while supporting columnists."  And in a normal place, that would be case closed. But not in national security law-era Hong Kong. 
Instead, "Education veterans called on authorities to revise guidelines for students who fail to respect the national flag and anthem."  For example, "Tang Fei, Election Committee lawmaker and a secondary school principal, said according to the school's statement, it had followed the full procedures, including notifying parents and the Education Bureau.  He said that eating during morning assembly is a violation of school rules even if there is no flag-raising ceremony, since there is a schedule and students should be aware of it."
And "Priscilla Leung Mei-fun, Election Committee lawmaker and chairman of the Legislative Council panel on education, said students not attending the flag-raising ceremony are violating the National Flag and National Emblem Ordinance, but not the national security law."  Oooooo, thank goodness for small mercies, right? NOT!
Returning to the Nikkei Asia piece: ""I think the [international] perceptions [of Hong Kong] have gone from good to bad, and maybe even bad to worse," said Kenneth Chan, associate professor of political science at Hong Kong's Baptist University. "Of course, it has a lot to do with Hong Kong's political environment."  And in view of this kind of "incidents", surely it's understandable?
"Looking ahead," the good professor continued, "Very few people will have that kind of confidence or hopeful prospects with respect to the future of Hong Kong under the current state of affairs, under the current kind of government and leadership."  Hell, even some local, pro-Beijing politicians are finding it difficult to have good things to say about Hong Kong.  
""Praising Hong Kong? What is there to praise about when there's no substance," one lawmaker said, asking not to be named. "The government needs to actually do something so that we can champion the city.""  Indeed.

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

A place with lots of political prisoners is not an ideal tourism destination (duh!)!

Not that many visitors in the vicinity of the Peak Galleria
the last time I visited the Peak -- and sorry, but I don't
necessarily think that this is all that bad a thing!
Two pieces of welcome news greeted Hong Kongers at the beginning of this new week.  The first involved the release from prison of Figo Chan, the convenor of the now-disbanded Civil Human Rights Front which used to organize the annual July 1st protest marches and so much more.  Sadly, the human rights activist's father passed away while he was behind bars; on a positive note, the now 26 year old did appear to be in good spirits after he left prison yesterday.

The second involved the release from prison too of the five speech therapists who were found guilty of sedition just a little more than a month ago.  On the one hand, we should indeed be happy that they -- whose "crime" was to produce illustrated children's books about sheeps and wolves -- are out of jail.  But on the other hand, it should be realized that Lai Man-ling, Melody Yeung Yat-yee, Sidney Ng Hau-yi, Samuel Chan Yuen-sum and Marco Fong Tsz-ho were indeed given prison terms of 19 months and the reason why they are out so "soon" is because their remand time was so long!
Moving on: we are seeing evidence of the Hong Kong government's latest international charm offensive having gotten underway -- with such as (deceptive) tourism ads figuring Australian pop personality "Honey Badger" Cummings and Lonely Planet producing puff pieces that are meant to attract visitors to the Big Lychee.  Here's my question: how many people would come to Hong Kong if they knew that it's now got so many political prisoners and, also, many Covid restrictions and regulations still in place?
I don't know about you but I've long made it a point to not only visit war torn countries but also ones whose political oppression and repression is well known.  I've also sought to avoid holidaying in places where the majority of the populace are poor and don't stand to benefit from a tourist presence.  
I realize some people might think that I'm overthinking things.  But the fact of the matter is that I really would much rather spend my leisure time in places whose local populace might resent my presence and are (understandably) not feeling super happy.  Consequently, if I were a tourist with no ties to this fair city, I would think twice re spending a vacation in national security law-era Hong Kong!

Sunday, October 9, 2022

Hong Kong's national security law nets five teenagers and an online radio host! :(

Graffiti spotted enroute to M+ earlier this week 
"Five teenage members of a Hong Kong group advocating independence from Chinese rule were ordered by a judge on Saturday [i.e., yesterday] to serve up to three years in detention at a correctional facility for urging an "armed revolution" in a national security [law] case.  The five, some of whom were minors aged between 15 and 18 at the time of the alleged offence, had pleaded guilty to "inciting others to subvert state power" through a group named "Returning Valiant"."  Thus went the first couple of lines of a Reuters article that has appeared in news media all over the world, including Britain's The Guardian.
Before anything else, do me a favor and ask yourself this: can you remember when you were a teenager, specifically 15 years of age?  If so, do you think your 15 year old self -- or any 15 year old, for that matter, or even any 16, 17 or 18 year old -- could seriously be a national security risk?  Almost needless to say: my answer with regards to myself, etc. is a big fat emphatic "No". Heck, I don't even think a 15 year old Hitler, Mao or Putin could have been!  
So... how insecure is a state that considers the teenage members of "Returning Valiant" -- whose total members, by the way, number not more than 30 or even 25 -- to be such serious national security risks that they have already been behind bars for several months (after being arrested in May of last year and denied bail all this time) and could end up being so for up to three years?  Also, how seriously can one consider a judge who says such as the following to be a fair and, well, sane one?  
Speaking of "NSL bullshit": "Online radio host Edmund “Giggs” Wan [was] sentenced [on Friday] to two years and eight months in prison after he reached a plea agreement with the prosecution over his sedition and money laundering charges." (Note: sad but true, more and more, people are giving up on the Hong Kong courts being fair and just, and deciding to save time -- and money (think lawyer's fees, etc.) -- and plead guilty even though they don't actually believe they are, in fact, guilty of having committed any crimes.)  In return for his pleading guilty to those four charges, "a further six charges were kept on file", noted the Hong Kong Free Press article I'm quoting at length here.  
"The sedition charge related to 39 programmes hosted by Wan between February and November 2020 that contained “seditious” content, some of which “incited others to resist or overthrow the Chinese Communist Party” and “promote Hong Kong independence.”  In February 2020, Wan also called for donations via his website and on social media to support the living expenses of Hong Kong protesters who had travelled to seek refuge and study in Taiwan."  To make things clearer, consider the Hong Kong Democracy Council's summary of the matter: "He spoke out against the government & raised money for young protesters who fled to Taiwan."
"After taking into account the 20 months Wan has already spent in custody, a source told HKFP that he could be released in two to three months." (This because he was denied bail after being arrested.)  Thank goodness for small mercies?  But bear in mind the following too: "The court ordered Wan to hand over HK$4.87 million of his assets." So not only has the court deprived him of his freedoms, it's impoverished him.