Latest target of HK crackdown: children’s books

Source: NYT (7/22/21)
The Latest Target of Hong Kong’s Crackdown: Children’s Books
A story that portrayed the police as wolves helped lead to the arrests of five leaders of a speech therapists’ union.
By Austin Ramzy and Tiffany May

A hooded suspect led by a police officer during the arrests of five leaders of a speech therapists’ union in Hong Kong on Thursday. Credit…Vincent Yu/Associated Press

HONG KONG — The fluffy white sheep were constantly harassed by wolves, who tore down their houses, ate their food and even sprayed poison gas. It became too much, and 12 sheep who had tried to defend their village were forced to flee by boat. But they were captured and sent to prison.

That story was told in a children’s book published last year in Hong Kong. The sheep represented 12 activists arrested at sea while trying to escape to Taiwan. The wolves were the Hong Kong police.

On Thursday, the police arrested five leaders of the group behind the book, a speech therapists’ union, accusing them of instilling hatred of the government in children.

With the arrests, the authorities expanded, to the most elementary level of printed materials, a crackdown on political speech aimed at stamping out the dissent expressed during mass protests in 2019. Continue reading

Teaching Hong Kong–cfp


Teaching Hong Kong, Hong Kong Teaching: A Hong Kong Studies Symposium (Saturday 4 December 2021)

The late Hong Kong writer Leung Ping-kwan famously asked, “Why is the story of Hong Kong so difficult to tell?” The enduring nature of the question and its unanswerability is partly due to the city’s constantly changing identity and the various factors that influence how its story can be told, or can be told at all. In this symposium, we try to look at another facet of Hong Kong and its local and global representation—in terms of teaching. How do we teach Hong Kong in Hong Kong, and how do we teach Hong Kong in the world? What considerations are taken? Which Hong Kong? What aspects of Hong Kong can be taught? Can Hong Kong teach the world something? Can Hong Kong be taught something from elsewhere in the world?

Interested scholars are encouraged to submit an abstract of 300-500 words along with a third-person biography of around 150 words in one WORD document for consideration.

Submissions should be sent to before Friday 15 October 2021. Fully developed articles post-symposium (6,000-8,000 words) will be considered for publication in forthcoming issues of Hong Kong Studies.

HK film Revolution of Our Times

Source: SCMP (7/16/21)
Hong Kong director has sold rights to protest documentary screened at Cannes, but says he won’t leave city in spite of risks
Hong Kong director Kiwi Chow says he does not want to be ruled by fear of the Beijing-imposed security law. His film, Revolution of Our Times, was screened at the Cannes Film Festival on Friday after being kept secret until the last minute.

Filmmaker Kiwi Chow says he will not leave Hong Kong in spite of security law risks after his film was screened at Cannes. Photo: Reuters

Filmmaker Kiwi Chow says he will not leave Hong Kong in spite of security law risks after his film was screened at Cannes. Photo: Reuters

The Hong Kong director of a protest documentary screened at the Cannes Film Festival on Friday has sold the copyright of the film to protect himself from legal repercussions, but has decided to stay in the city, saying he does not want to be ruled by fear of the national security law.

Kiwi Chow Kwun-wai, an award-winning local director, surprised the Hong Kong film industry on Friday by having Revolution of Our Times, a 2½-hour documentary about the city’s anti-government protests in 2019, featured at the internationally renowned cinema showcase in France.

But Chow, 42, told the Post he no longer legally owned the film after handing it off to a distributor in Europe, noting he had also taken the step of deleting all the footage in his possession.

“I sold my copyright too,” he said. “You can say it’s a kind of risk assessment. In Hong Kong, I did not do any distribution of the film and I don’t have any clips with me.” Continue reading

HK philospher taught life’s meaning, now he visits students in jail

Source: NYT (6/30/21)
Hong Kong Philosopher Taught Life’s Meaning. Now He Visits Students in Jail.
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Chow Po Chung pushed his students to participate in public affairs — idealism that he worries could cost them their freedom.
By Li Yuan

Chow Po Chung, who teaches at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, has been deeply involved in Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement. Credit…Lam Yik Fei for The New York Times

When taking a group photo with college students from mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan in 2012, Chow Po Chung, a prominent political philosopher, joked that he hoped none of them would end up in jail in 10 years.

The group erupted in laughter.

Mr. Chow, who teaches at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, had the mainland students in mind. He never expected that it would be two from Hong Kong who would end up in jail nearly a decade later.

A year after Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law on the territory to crush opposition to the ruling Communist Party, visiting friends and former students in prison has become part of his routine.

A best-selling author and a public intellectual whose passionate books and speeches have influenced many young Hong Kong pro-democracy activists, Mr. Chow said the security law had turned his life upside down. Continue reading

China remakes HK

Source: NYT (6/29/21)
‘A Form of Brainwashing’: China Remakes Hong Kong
Neighbors are urged to report on one another. Children are taught to look for traitors. Officials are pressed to pledge their loyalty.
By Vivian Wang and Alexandra Stevenson; Photographs by Lam Yik Fei

One year after it imposed a national security law on Hong Kong, Beijing is pushing to make Hong Kong more like a mainland city.

One year after it imposed a national security law on Hong Kong, Beijing is pushing to make Hong Kong more like a mainland city.

HONG KONG — With each passing day, the boundary between Hong Kong and the rest of China fades faster.

The Chinese Communist Party is remaking this city, permeating its once vibrant, irreverent character with ever more overt signs of its authoritarian will. The very texture of daily life is under assault as Beijing molds Hong Kong into something more familiar, more docile.

Residents now swarm police hotlines with reports about disloyal neighbors or colleagues. Teachers have been told to imbue students with patriotic fervor through 48-volume book sets called “My Home Is in China.” Public libraries have removed dozens of books from circulation, including one about the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela. Continue reading

Apple Daily, ‘the four noes’ and the end of media independence

Source: China Heritage (June 24, 2021)
Apple Daily, ‘The Four Noes’ & the End of Chinese Media Independence
By Lee Yee; introduced, translated, and annotated by Geremie R. Barmé

Hong Kong Apostasy

This is the second part of an envoi written for Apple Daily, until this day, 24 April 2021, the leading independent media outlet in Hong Kong, by Lee Yee, a renowned essayist, editor and journalist. In the conclusion to the first part of his farewell, published in China Heritage under the title ‘Lee Yee on the Demise of Jimmy Lai’s Apple Daily, Lee wrote:

Regardless of how it has all ended up, there is no doubt that the advent of Apple Daily in Hong Kong represented something significant in the history of Chinese newspaper publishing. It showed that a businessman could actually run a news enterprise more successfully than the usual kind of literati figure. Perhaps, I dare say, its success could be compared to the glory days enjoyed by L’Impartial [aka, Ta Kung Pao] under the editorship of Zhang Jiluan [張季鸞, 1888-1941] from 1926. ‘The Four Noes’ editorial principle that Zhang championed — no to giving in to unquestioning political bias; no to accepting government money or patronage; no to serving narrow vested interests instead of the broader society; and, no to giving in to fashion, conspiracies, mass sentiment and popular prejudice  — became a model and guide for Chinese media.


Below, in part two of Lee Yee’s memoir the writer elaborates on what he meant when he said:

‘The owner of Apple Daily might not have known about the “Four Noes” but, then again, he only ever managed to put some of them into practice.’


The second part of Lee Yee’s essay on Jimmy Lai and Apple Daily was published in the print and electronic versions of the last edition of Apple Daily, one million copies of which were printed in the early hours of 24 June 2021. Copies of the paper were soon snapped up by readers in one of the city’s final acts of collective civil protest against Beijing and its Hong Kong puppet regime.

I am, as ever, grateful to Lao Lee for permission to translate his work. Continue reading

Apple Daily to close

Source: NYT (6/23/21)
Apple Daily, Pro-Democracy Newspaper in Hong Kong, Says It Will Close
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The police also arrested an editorial writer as part of an expanding national security investigation into the newspaper that has triggered concerns about free speech.
By Austin Ramzy and Tiffany May

Employees preparing stacks of freshly printed editions of the Apple Daily in Hong Kong last Friday, a day after police arrested the editor in chief and other executives of the newspaper. Credit…Anthony Wallace/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

HONG KONG — Apple Daily, a defiantly pro-democracy newspaper in Hong Kong, said on Wednesday that it would cease operations, in the face of a pressure campaign by authorities that has eroded media freedoms in the city.

The newspaper said it would stop publishing in print and online by Thursday, less than a week after the police froze its accounts, raided its offices and arrested top editors.

The closure will silence one of the biggest and most aggressive media outlets in the city, reinforcing the vast reach of the national security law imposed on Hong Kong by Beijing. Since its passage nearly a year ago, the law has sent a chill through Hong Kong’s once freewheeling news media as they navigate a treacherous environment where speech can be a potential crime.

In recent months, the authorities have moved to overhaul RTHK, a public broadcaster with a history of hard-hitting journalism. Police officials have warned against media outlets spreading “fake news.” And in April, a court convicted a journalist, who was critical of the police, for making false statements. Continue reading

HK booksellers walk a fine line

Source: NYT (6/20/21)
In the New Hong Kong, Booksellers Walk a Fine Line
Some independent shops flout the new limits on free expression. Others try to come to terms with them. For readers, they offer a sense of connection in a changed city.
By Tiffany May

Mount Zero, an independent bookstore in the Sheung Wan district of Hong Kong. Over the front door, a message is spelled out in tiles: “Ideas are bulletproof.” Credit…Lam Yik Fei for The New York Times

HONG KONG — When Hong Kong public libraries pulled books about dissent from circulation last month, Pong Yat Ming made an offer to his customers: They could read some of the same books, free, at his store.

Mr. Pong, 47, founded the shop, Book Punch, in 2020, after Beijing imposed a national security law in response to the antigovernment protests that rocked Hong Kong in 2019. The law broadly defined acts of subversion and secession against China, making much political speech potentially illegal, and it threatened severe punishment, including life imprisonment, for offenders.

Mr. Pong said he had opened Book Punch precisely because he did not want the city to fall silent under the pressure, and because he felt it was important to build a more empathetic, tightknit community as the law cast its shadow over Hong Kong.

“The social movement has changed the way people read and the value they place on books,” he said. “I want to bring out that kind of energy, that desire for change through reading.” He added, “Books are powerful, like forceful punches responding to the social environment.”

Continue reading

HK cracks down on pro-democracy newspaper

Source: NYT (6/16/21)
Hong Kong Cracks Down on a Pro-Democracy Newspaper
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Police arrested the top editors of Apple Daily, froze its assets and raided its newsroom, in a sharp escalation of the government’s campaign against dissent.
By Austin Ramzy and 

Hong Kong police officers entering the headquarters of Apple Daily’s parent company, Next Digital, on Thursday. Credit…Apple Daily, via Associated Press

HONG KONG — When the Hong Kong police last year arrested Jimmy Lai, a pugnacious newspaper publisher, they seemed to be going after a longtime government critic. On Thursday, the city’s authorities sent a message to the rest of the media industry: Be careful what you write.

Hundreds of police officers raided the newsroom of Mr. Lai’s defiantly pro-democracy newspaper, Apple Daily; scrutinized journalists’ computers; arrested top editors; froze company accounts; and warned readers not to repost some of its articles online.

The raid and new restrictions were the most aggressive use yet of Hong Kong’s sweeping national security law, imposed last year by Beijing, against a media outlet, and could put the newspaper’s survival in question. The operation was a sharp escalation in the authorities’ intensifying frontal assault on media outlets in Hong Kong, a former British colony once known for its vibrant media scene and broad free-speech protections. Continue reading

HK Tiananmen museum forced to close

Source: CNN (6/2/21)
Hong Kong’s Tiananmen Square museum forced to close two days ahead of memorial
By Lilit Marcus, CNN

June 4 Museum Hong Kong flowers

Some supporters have left flowers outside the museum’s closed door ahead of June 4. Courtesy June 4 Museum/Twitter

Hong Kong (CNN) — Hong Kong‘s most controversial destination has been forced to close just two days before a hugely significant date in the global pro-democracy calendar.

Located inside a nondescript high-rise building wedged between a gas station and a highway overpass in Kowloon, the June 4 Museum is the only museum in Greater China — which includes the mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan — that commemorates the Beijing government’s crackdown against student protesters in Tiananmen Square in 1989.

On June 1, Hong Kong officials from the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) visited the museum in the working-class area of Mong Kok and accused the organizers of operating a “place of public entertainment” illegally.

“Our department recently received a complaints that someone in a unit in a commercial building on Mong Kok Road was operating an entertainment venue without the required license,” the FEHD told CNN in a statement. Continue reading

Organiser of HK’s Tiananmen vigil opens museum to visitors

Source: SCMP (5/30/21)
Organiser of Hong Kong’s Tiananmen vigil opens museum to visitors wishing to leave flowers to mark crackdown’s anniversary
Alliance announces new exhibit documenting Hongkongers’ support of Tiananmen protesters where visitors can leave tributes to those killed in 1989 crackdown. The alternative was announced after an appeal board upheld the police force’s decision to ban the annual June 4 candlelight vigil for the second year in a row
By Chris Lau

A volunteer prepares for the opening of a new exhibit at the June 4 museum in Mong Kok on Sunday. Photo: May Tse

A volunteer prepares for the opening of a new exhibit at the June 4 museum in Mong Kok on Sunday. Photo: May Tse

The organiser behind the city’s annual Tiananmen Square vigil is opening its museum to people wishing to lay floral tributes to those killed in the 1989 crackdown after authorities banned its large-scale gathering for the second year in a row.

Leaders of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China announced the alternative way of marking the June 4 anniversary on Sunday, as they unveiled a new exhibition at their Kowloon museum.

“We are very sad that we are not able to hold a peaceful and orderly candlelight vigil this year,” said Richard Tsoi Yiu-cheong, a long-time member of the group who is now its secretary. “But that doesn’t mean the alliance and Hong Kong citizens will not be able to carry on with their commemoration of June 4.” Continue reading

HK’s electoral changes will reshape the political landscape

Source: SCMP (5/27/21)
What you need to know about Hong Kong’s electoral changes and how they will reshape the political landscape
The legislature on Thursday passed amendments to local laws to implement the Beijing-imposed overhaul. As part of the shake-up, the Election Committee now wields wider powers, with a chief convenor holding ‘transcendent’ status
By Chis Lau

Beijing’s top legislature the National People’s Congress approved the resolution for major political surgery of Hong Kong on March 11. Photo: EPA-EFE

Beijing’s top legislature the National People’s Congress approved the resolution for major political surgery of Hong Kong on March 11. Photo: EPA-EFE

Barely a year after introducing a national security law in Hong Kong as a response to the social unrest of 2019, Beijing’s top legislature passed a sweeping resolution in March to overhaul the city’s electoral system.

Both sets of changes have been deemed necessary to ensure Hong Kong upholds the country’s national sovereignty and security, and that only patriots can govern the city, even as critics have accused Beijing of wanting to completely control the city’s affairs.

In April, the Hong Kong government then introduced the Electoral System (Consolidated Amendments) Bill 2021 to implement the electoral overhaul. The bill was passed on Thursday.

In the first of a two-part explainer series, we look at the changes and how they will reshape the city’s political landscape. Continue reading

How HK is stifling dissent

Source: NYT (5/28/21)
From Protester to Prisoner: How Hong Kong Is Stifling Dissent
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Many of the city’s democracy activists face jail terms amid a broad campaign to subdue opposition.
By Jennifer Jett and Austin Ramzy

Leung Kwok-hung, center left, and Lee Cheuk-yan, center right, being escorted to a prison van in Hong Kong on Friday for their sentencing. Credit…Anthony Wallace/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

HONG KONG — Ten pro-democracy activists were sentenced in Hong Kong on Friday to prison terms ranging from 14 months to 18 months over a 2019 protest, the latest in a series of tough punishments that have put much of the Chinese territory’s opposition camp behind bars, with many more awaiting trial.

All of them pleaded guilty this month to organizing the protest, which had been banned by the police and took place on Oct. 1, China’s National Day. As they led a march on Hong Kong Island, clashes broke out across the city in some of the worst protest violence that year.

Some of those sentenced on Friday, including the media tycoon Jimmy Lai, the labor leader Lee Cheuk-yan and the activist Leung Kwok-hung, who is better known as Long Hair, had already been imprisoned after earlier protest convictions. Two of the sentences, given to the politicians Sin Chung-kai and Richard Tsoi, were suspended for two years. Continue reading

Expansive thinking sustains HK’s galleries

Source: NYT (5/21/21)
Expansive Thinking Sustains Hong Kong’s Independent Galleries
These experimental art spaces are offering mentorship programs, residencies and even health and dental insurance.
By Andrew Russeth

The exhibition space Précédée, on a busy stretch of the Yau Ma Tei neighborhood in Hong Kong .Credit…Précédée

One recent afternoon, the curator Cosmin Costinas was discussing the challenging past year from Para Site, the nonprofit gallery he leads on the 22nd floor of a building in the Quarry Point area of Hong Kong.

“When everything that we took for granted was upended,” he said in a video interview, his team asked: “Why should we survive as an institution? What are art institutions for in the first place?”

They thought about how Para Site could respond directly to the urgent moment. For art organizations “to really justify their presence,” said Mr. Costinas, the gallery’s curator and executive director, “they need to be embedded in the community.” Continue reading

Women Like Us opera

Source: HK Arts Festival
Jockey Club Local Creative Talents Series
Journey to the West Rewind/Women Like Us Opera
14 May; 31 May
[Register at the link above]

The Jockey Club Local Creative Talents Series’ Journey to the West Rewind / Women Like Us provides two bold subversions of the “happily-ever-after”. These separate adaptations inspired by the Ming dynasty classic and two of Hong Kong author Xi Xi’s short stories are presented in Chinese and Western operatic formats, respectively. Innovatively filmed versions of the two contemporary operas bring two inspired adaptations to life on the screen without losing any of the immediacy of the original productions.

Online Music Theatre Journey to the West Rewind

Journey to the West Rewind online music theatre is an audacious reinvestigation of the Cantonese opera art form and the eponymous literary classic. Having traversed thousands of miles of dangerous terrain, Tang Sanzang and his disciples at last complete their perilous pilgrimage to obtain the sacred Buddhist texts. But at journey’s end, they find the Book of Heaven is blank. By taking us back to the saga’s climactic moment of enlightenment, Journey to the West Rewind asks us how we can carry on when things don’t turn out as we expected and we find ourselves right back at the start.

Online Chamber Opera Women Like Us

The Cantonese-language online chamber opera Women Like Us is a singing tribute to the literary grand dame Xi Xi and the two protagonists of her beloved short stories A Girl Like Me and The Cold. One is a mortuary cosmetologist living in the bleak world of the dead; the other, a social worker trapped in a lifeless marriage to appease her family. Soprano Kenix Tsang and mezzo-soprano Samantha Chong take the libretto to soaring heights, spinning a tale of two women finding the courage to not only face the cold shadows of loneliness, but walk towards the radiance of solitude, embracing the unknown.

Performed in Cantonese with Chinese and English subtitles
This production was originally scheduled to premiere at the 48th HKAF in 2020
Special thanks to Shaw Studios for supporting the filming and sound recording for Women Like Us and Journey to the West Rewind