Hong Kong Goes Grey for a Day

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The Best China

 

This is the latest chapter in ‘Hong Kong Apostasy’, a feature of ‘The Best China’ section of China Heritage devoted to the 2019 Anti-Extradition Bill Protest Movement. Its author, the veteran journalist Lee Yee 李怡 (李秉堯), was the founding editor of The Seventies Monthly 七十年代月刊 and he has been a prominent commentator on Chinese, Hong Kong and Taiwan politics, as well as the global scene, for over half a century.

This essay is translated from ‘Ways of the World’ 世道人生, the column Lee Yee writes for Apple Daily 蘋果日報.

— Geremie R. Barmé
Editor, China Heritage
20 July 2019

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Further Reading:


Grey-haired protesters march on the seat of the Hong Kong government on 17 July 2019. Source: Anthony Wallace / AFP

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The Responsibilities of Grey Power
銀髮族的光榮職責

Lee Yee 李怡

Translated by Geremie R. Barmé

 

The ‘Protest of the Grey-hairs’ [or the ‘Silver Protest’ of 17 July 2019 in which some 9,000 people participated] — that is members of the older generation — against the Extradition Law, is, quite literally, an embodied expression of support for the months-long ‘struggle in extremis’ of Young Hong Kong. Its broad significance lies in the fact that it symbolises an end to the generational conflicts we have seen for over a decade. The essence of those conflicts revolved around democratic aspirations, that is, in relation to the direction of and the methods to be employed in the struggle for democracy. It reflected the differing generational approaches and understanding of the vast majority of Hong Kong people.

今天下午的銀髮族反送中遊行,是香港老一輩對個多月來年輕人絕地抗爭的身體力行支持,也意味十多年來香港人的世代之爭宣告終結。世代之爭具體反映在爭取民主的意識、方向和手段之爭,也涵括了絕大多數市民的世代意識之爭。

Public opinion surveys have repeatedly indicated that, in terms of self-identification, the majority of older people think of themselves as ‘Chinese’, ‘Hong Kong Chinese’ or ‘Chinese Hong Kong People’. At the same time, ever-increasing numbers of young people identify solely as ‘Hong Kong People’, and not as Chinese in any way. In terms of political proclivities, older people have, for the most part, supported the Hong Kong government and reliably cast their votes for the Pro-Beijing Camp [in elections]. Generally, they support the idea of a re-united China [that is, the absorption of Taiwan/ the Republic of China into the People’s Republic], and express patriotic zeal for Greater China, something repeatedly demonstrated by the scale of their donations to Mainland disaster relief efforts as well as their support for recent Mainland immigrants to Hong Kong.

The generations that represent Young Hong Kong, however, predominantly think of themselves in terms of a local identity and are in an ‘Anti-Beijing Camp’, one that is concerned about preserving the particular rights that they have previously enjoyed. The ‘bread and circuses’ vote-buying tactics [蛇齋餅糭, literally, ‘snake soup, vegetarian meals, give-away biscuits and “Chinese hallaca”, or zongzi’] of the Pro-Beijing Camp appeal to Older People; while, previously, the Young supported the Democrats. However, Pan-Democracy politicians gradually lost their popular political advantage over the Pro-Beijingers as they pursued a strategy to isolate and decrying Young Hong Kong over-all — that is, they ‘refused to sit on the same mat’. This was particular evident in the wake of the Mong Kok Incident [of February 2016, also know as the ‘Fishball Revolution’ 魚蛋革命] and the subsequent contention over the question of Hong Kong Independence and during mass demonstrations demanding that Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying be ‘disqualified from office’.

民調歷來顯示,在身份認同上,老一輩大都認同自己是中國人,或香港中國人、中國香港人,而年輕一輩則越來越多認同自己是香港人,拒絕任何中國人的身份。反映在政治取態上,老一輩較多支持政府,是建制派的票倉;傾向統一,大中華大愛,具體表現在捐款大陸賑災,支持來港新移民即獲綜援;而年輕一代較多反建制,傾向本土意識,維護本地人權益。建制派的蛇齋餅糭在老一輩身上有效;年輕人過去是民主派的支持者,但在旺角事件、港獨問題、DQ梁游等事態之後,由於民主派的割席、譴責,而造成民主派選票流失,逐漸失去對建制派的優勢。

Since the explosion of the Anti-Extradition Bill Protest Movement [from March 2019], the government has repeatedly tried to sow the seeds of generational conflict and attempted to engineer divisions in its favour. This was particularly evident in ‘A Message to the Young People of Hong Kong’ [posted anonymously on FaceBook on 21 June 2019] — a short video whose message received underhand support from the Pro-Beijing Camp. It shows a young man calling out the fact that his parents were not with him nor did they support him during the Anti-Extradition Bill protests, let alone when he was involved in the 1 July assault on the LegCo Chamber. Addressing Young Hong Kong as a whole he says: ‘By failing to join in the street protests your parents demonstrate that they don’t really love you!’

Immediately thereafter, many young people responded to that message of Hate with one of Love in their own short videos. They declared that even though one’s parents might not be joining in the demonstrations, or even if they opposed you participating in them, it was not because the didn’t love you, it was due to their profound Concern. Those parents who let you express yourself in a manner that you think is the most suitable and right for you are, in fact, giving expression to Profound Love. [For an example of these audio-visual ripostes, see here.] When, on 12 June, demonstrators launched an assault on the Legislative Council Chambers so as to prevent a Second Reading of her Extradition Bill, something that led the police to respond with excessive force, the Chief Executive Carrie Lam immediately decried the demonstrators for being ‘violent’. This time around, however, the Pan-Democracy members of LegCo did not disown the demonstrators or attempt to isolate their behaviour; instead they expressed their support.

On 1 July, demonstrators broke into and trashed the inside of the LegCo Chambers, Carrie Lum made another appearance — this time at 4.00am in the morning! — to censure the violence. However, although the demonstrators were purposefully destructive, both Pan-Democrats and popular opinion, as gauged in opinion polls, regarded their actions in a positive light. During the clashes between protesters and police just this last Sunday [on 13 July] between protesters and demonstrators at Sha Tin in the New Territories, Claudia Mo [Mo Man Ching] of the Pan-Democracy Camp and member of LegCo reiterated at a press conference that the Pan-Democrats would not disavow the demonstrators.

送中爆發以來,政府多次在香港人世代之間散播仇恨,企圖製造分裂,從中取利。由建制勢力暗中支持的影片「致年輕人」,以一個90後青年的身份,指摘父母在反送中遊行、衝擊立法會行動中沒有在他身邊,他對年輕人說,「你哋無上街嘅父母根本冇愛過你」。但隨即有許多年輕人拍片以愛來回應恨,指父母不上街,哪怕阻止你上街,都不表示不愛你,可能是太「緊張」你;而如果父母放手讓你去追求自己認為是對的事情,就是最愛你的表現。6.12年輕示威者為阻止二讀送中條例而衝往立法會,引發警察使用過度武力,林鄭立即發聲譴責是示威者暴力。但這次民主派議員沒有對示威者割席,反而表態支持。7.1示威者闖進立法會,破壞設施,林鄭凌晨4時譴責暴力,對這次明顯的破壞行動,無論民主派和社會民調均顯示反應正面。星期日在沙田的警民大衝突,前天毛孟靜在記者會上,再一次明確表示「不割席」。

Throughout the Anti-Extradition Bill Protests this month [July 2019], as well as in demonstrations both on Hong Kong Island and in various other districts, when protesters have taken extreme measures that have provoked clashes with the police, many Pan-Democrats have sided with the demonstrators against the police. On [the main online platform for organising protests] LIHKG, the oft-repeated mantra is: ‘No Rejection, No Betrayal’.

連續整個月的反送中由港島進至各區的示威,示威者的出格行動,及引發與警察衝突,許多民主派議員都站在現場的示威者一方,與警方對峙。在連登網上,連登仔也一再展示「不割席、不篤灰」。

The Lam Government hopes to provoke generational conflict in Hong Kong; it has achieved the opposite: Lam has inspired unity and collective action, at least in regard to those who identify themselves as the People of Hong Kong. The result is that the People of Hong Kong are at a stand off against a Brutal Regime.

林鄭政權想要在香港人的世代之間製造分裂,結果適得其反,她造就了香港人的大團結和大聯合。這裏所指是一切自認是香港人的人。香港已經形成所有香港人與強暴政權對立對抗的態勢。

The generation gap within the People of Hong Kong is closing. Initially, this was inspired by Young Hong Kong for, during the Anti-Extradition Protests, our young people have repeatedly affirmed an ethos of inclusivity, their ability to mobilise support for and participation in mass popular demonstrations. The most crucial difference, however, is that the older People of Hong Kong have been touched and inspired by the Young and this has led many of them to change long-held views. In my own case, for example, even though I have throughout thought of myself as being on the side of Young Hong Kong, many of the ideas and actions of our young people have made me think again.

香港人的世代隔閡趨於消除。先是年輕人在反送中的大前提下,對不同想法的包容,積極動員和參與民陣大遊行。但最重要的改變,還是老一輩被年輕人的行為所感動,並因此改變了自己的許多觀念。我儘管一向被認為是站在年輕人一邊,但這次年輕人的許多想法和行動,也使我有不少自省。

Most older people like me are retired; we enjoy the benefits of an accumulation built up during Hong Kong’s glory days. Many of us can live out our day in relative comfort; most just want a quiet life and have no enthusiasm for daily protests and constant resistance. In some cases, they will be thinking: Why should we care? No matter what happens to Hong Kong in the future, we won’t be around to see it.

Indeed, why should people like us who are in the last stage of life get stirred up over a Young Hong Kong that is struggling for the future; one that, in some cases, is willing to sacrifice their lives to protests? It is at this juncture, however, that history has given us a glorious and unexpected task: to take a stand and support this amazing generation, to support Young Hong Kong.

In their selfless and fearless behaviour what Young Hong Kong needs more than anything else is the support of their parents and grandparents, even if amounts to nothing more than an encouraging look in the eye.

我們老一輩的人,大都退休了,靠過往香港輝煌時期的積累,許多人的晚年或者還過得去,大家都想安靜,都不想天天發生抗爭,或許還有人會想:香港再怎麼改變,我們可能也看不到了。但是,眼看我們的下一代不惜犧牲生命也要為香港的未來抗爭,對於我們這些已走向生命最後階段的人來說,還有甚麼要顧惜呢?歷史在這時刻給我們老人的最光榮職責,就是站出來力挺這一代最了不起的香港年輕人。在無私無懼的抗爭中,他們最需要的是父母或祖父母的哪怕一個眼神的支持。

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