[chinese blood, irish heart] - DEFUNCT: Possibly my last post till September!

Monday, May 05, 2008

Possibly my last post till September!

I just barely managed to pack in the 20-kilo limit and *hopefully* I've got everything I need to survive for 4 months in Beijing. The excitement hasn't sunk in yet, I guess I'll feel a bit more of it when I touch down on Tuesday. I'm still apprehensive about the language barrier. I do appear as a Chinese person after all, so the locals may seem taken aback when I speak in broken mandarin or even English. My colleagues waiting for me in BJ may even feel a bit disappointed they'll have to help me translate!

I remember months ago when I yearned so much to get away from here. But that was for a different reason and now it seems so long ago. Of course thinking about it now makes me realise how foolish I was but I'm glad I was able to put down those feelings before it engulfed me as it had before. I guess I've lost that enthusiasm to 'get up and go' but nevertheless I'm still looking forward to work in a foreign environment and meeting new folks.

I may be a bit paranoid but this may be my last post before I return to HK. Bloggers have to register in China right? Anyway, I just want to comment on the recent commotion surrounding the Hong Kong-leg of the torch relay and get it off my chest.

First of all, it was a nightmare filming the event. I was stationed in Tsim Sha Tsui while my two other colleagues were in Shatin and Wan Chai/Central. I kept running into roadblocks and had no idea how to get across the road where the pro-Tibetan activists where. I had met Christina Chan a few days before the event to gauge her sentiments on the issue. She claims she supports 'self-autonomy' for Tibet while not advocating 'freeing' Tibet. Fair enough, but then why did she have a sticker on her shirt saying 'Free Tibet, free China?' I think she really fudged her message. Some comrades who were with her at the relay were fekkiw students she had just met a few days before at HKU. At first they weren't too sure about Christina's message but I guess in the end they got suckered in (yes, they were foreign students). Ah, I remember once being such an impressionable student, full of ideals and sympathy for so-called 'opressed' peoples. I still do care, but I'm not willing to fight for a cause unless I know 100% about the issue. Chrisinta openly admitted she'd never been to Tibet - fair enough, but that did hurt her credibility a bit.

Cudoes to her for waving the flag in front of thousands of pro-China supporters, though. I had no qualms they would've torn her apart had it not for the police. Still, I can't help but feel she was bit of a media hog. This arrogant German news crew practically directed her so they could get the best profile shot while she drew the Tibetan flag and she blissfully went along with it. Nothing wrong with spreading your message with the press and all that but I wonder if Ghandi would be so accomodating and image conscious if he was here today.

The patriotism or nationalism or whatever you want to call it being exhumed from HKers and mainlanders was both annoying and frightening. I encountered teenage HK girls shouting in mandarin yet their enthusiasm surprised me. It was only 10 years ago when HKers adamantly defied the whole 'Chinese' nationality and were quick to differentiate themselves from mainlanders. But when this Beijing Olympics started consuming the public sphere, I notice more and more people are openly embracing the Chinese identity. For one thing I definitely saw more China flags than Hong Kong ones at the relay. Yes, Hong Kongers are Chinese but doesn't that sort of contradict the 'self autonomous region' concept? HK is a sovereign state of China, yes, but if people here culturally accept China as their own, as in being the same with the mainland, then I'm sure those people won't care being dubbed 'mainlanders?' I think many expats here are quite sensitive about civil liberties while locals take it for granted.

The hostile treatment towards protesters was quite an eye-opener too. The June 4th guys were jeered and taunted. Christina was called a traitor and running dog before being loaded onto a police van for her 'safety'. Can't blame them really. Unionist Lee Cheuk-yan didn't receive well either. Mia Farrow was let in with a wagging finger from authorities. Danish artist Jens Galschiot was even denied entry. This does look bad for a so-called free and open society but I don't agree that civil liberties are under attack. There's always some limit to what the government can allow protesters do and Hong Kong has been pretty fair to demonstrations and rallies etc. I mean, compare it to China! Look at all those Falun Gong people marching down Nathan Road sometimes! So look at this way, if you go out and make a noise about something, you're bound to get media attention and that in a way furthers your message, even if you do look like a twat. It shows that at least Hong Kong gives people that opportunity. And what better way to impress your like-minded peers than getting loaded onto a police van?

On the funnier side of things: as I was speeding across the subway I spotted a dozen or so mainlanders wearing very noticeable Spanish hats that were red to go with their outfits. These were caps that printed 'Spain' on the back and the royal emblem on the front. I guess they just randomly bought red hats without noticing the horrible irony behind it. While I took video of them they waved their flags excitedly at me (and damn, I totally forgot to put it in the video, never mind here's the pic below). Man, did I have the last laugh or what...

Below's the hard work we all did for the excruciating day. At least I got decently pissed afterwards.