Hong Kong Outsiders

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The Best China XVIII

The following essay was inspired by Ying Liang’s 應亮 recently released film A Family Tour 自由行. It appeared on 21 December 2018 in ‘Ways of the World’ 世道人生, the regular column Lee Yee 李怡 writes for Apple Daily 蘋果日報.

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In The Best China we introduced readers to essays, literary works and art predominantly produced in Hong Kong. The veteran journalist Lee Yee 李怡 (李秉堯) was the founding editor of The Seventies Monthly 七十年代月刊 (later renamed The Nineties Monthly). He has been a prominent commentator on Chinese, Hong Kong and Taiwan politics, as well as the global scene, for over forty-five years. His position has gone from that of being a sympathetic interlocutor with the People’s Republic in the late 1970s to that of outspoken rebel and man of conscience from the early 1980s. For decades Lee has analysed Hong Kong politics and society with a clarity of vision, and in a clarion voice, rare among the territory’s writers.

— The Editor
China Heritage
26 December 2018


Outsiders
異鄉人

Lee Yee
李怡

Translated by Geremie R. Barmé

 

Towards the end of the film A Family Tour, a Taiwanese journalists asks the protagonist, Yang Shu — a mainland film director living in self-imposed exile in Hong Kong:

You’ve said that Hong Kong is now your home. Does that mean you think of yourself as a Mainlander or as a Hong Kong person?

電影《自由行》的結尾,一個流亡香港的大陸導演——主人公楊樞,被台灣記者追問:你曾說香港是你的家,那麼你認為自己是中國人還是香港人?

The journalist is expecting Yang to say that she thinks of herself as a ‘Hong Konger’, but instead she replies:

I’m an Outsider.

我預期她會說是香港人,但她的回答卻是「異鄉人」。

This gave me pause to consider broader issues. The scenario of the film, as well as the character Yang Shu, lead the viewer to assume that she is a Hong Kong person. In fact, since moving to Hong Kong five years earlier her mother — who still lives on the Mainland — has often said that she’s ‘increasingly like a Hong Kong person’. But what, precisely, is a Hong Kong person? I would say that it’s the kind of person who has not been assimilated to think and act within the Mainland system. Then why does Yang Shu declared that she is an Outsider?

沉思良久。從電影前面的鋪排,和楊樞的個性表現來看,她都像香港人;來港五年,她在大陸生活的媽媽說她「越來越像香港人」。甚麼是香港人?就是沒有被體制規範了自己的行為模式的一種人。然而,為甚麼她最後說自己是異鄉人呢?

A Family Tour is a feature film by Ying Liang, a mainland director who has himself been living in self-exile in Hong Kong. He can’t return to the Mainland for fear being arrested for having made When Darkness Falls 我還有話要說, a film about the 2008 Yang Jia case in Shanghai. In the wake of the Umbrella Movement of 2014 Ying made a short work titled A Sunny Day [2016]. It reflected a range of social and personal concerns felt by Hong Kong people at the time of the movement; it was, for all intents and purposes, a film about Hong Kong made by a Hong Kong person.

In A Family Tour Ying Liang embodies his own experience in the character of a female film director who takes advantage of her participation in a Taiwanese film festival to travel with her husband and son to meet up with her mother, who visits the island as a member in a mainland tour group. The backdrop and mis-en-scène is Taiwan, but from the dialogue and characters it is evident that the Mainland looms behind the Mother, while Hong Kong is the home of the small family of the director. It is a powerful evocation of three completely different places whose cultures, no, whose very civilisation, are at odds.

《自由行》是流亡香港多年的導演應亮的劇情長片。應亮因在大陸拍了取材楊佳殺警案的電影,而回不了中國。傘運後,他拍了《九月二十八日•晴》這部短片,側寫傘運卻融貫香港社會人情,顯出這是香港人拍的香港電影。在《自由行》他把自身經歷化身為女性導演,藉這位女導演參加台灣一個電影節之行,帶着丈夫、兒子,與跟團去台灣旅遊的母親團聚。電影演出的背景是台灣,但從人物的言談表現中,媽媽背後的中國,導演小家庭背後的香港,以及會面地台灣,都油然顯出是三個全然不同的地區,有三種不同的文化和文明。

Prior to the 1997 Handover, people I met from the Mainland, Taiwan, Singapore, and even from Europe and the USA, found themselves readily enthralled  by the general atmosphere of Hong Kong: its kind of rule of law, freedom, efficiency, convenience and overall ambience. Many remarked that Hong Kong was the best city they had experienced; many who moved there for work soon regarded themselves as belonging, including people in official or quasi-official jobs from the Mainland, Taiwan or other places.

97前,我遇到的外來人士,無論是大陸來的、台灣來的、新加坡來的,甚至歐美國家來的,幾乎都對香港的法治、自由、效率、方便、文明以致社會風氣,深深喜愛,許多人說,香港是他們到過的最好的城市,大部份人很快認同自己的香港人身份,包括為中國、台灣或其他國家工作的官方半官方人士。

During the late 1980s, there was a wave of hysteria in response to the signing of the Sino-British Joint Declaration; the political fate of the place was sealed and people started immigrating. At the time, I remarked in the media that if, as a journalist, I could continue to report factually after 1997, or if as a teacher one could impart one’s knowledge to students unhindered, or people could pursue business according to their own wishes as before, without having to think about being politically correct, or being embroiled in politics, then I was willing to be a Chinese. However, if by being Chinese I was no longer able to act according to my understanding of the world or in keeping with my personal inclinations, I’d rather just be an individual, and not Chinese.

在80年代中英簽署《聯合聲明》、政治前景已成定局之後,香港掀起恐慌性的移民潮。我那時在電子媒體說,如果97後我當記者仍然可以如實報道新聞,當教師仍然可以按我所知教導學生,做生意仍然可以按市場需求和自己的意志去應對,而不需要考慮政治正確,或被政治裹挾,那麼我願意做中國人;但如果做中國人就意味不能按個人的認識、個人意志去說話和行事的話,那麼我寧可不做中國人而至少做一個人了。

At the time, like so many others, I did not envisage a future for Hong Kong in which these things didn’t change, so I decided to preserve my sense of self worth and relocate. After 1997, even thought I could see that the temper of Hong Kong was undergoing constant change, the legal system still provided a solid grounding for the place, and there proved to be enough room for self-expression, so I decided to return. I remain mindful of US president Thomas Jefferson’s line that ‘Eternal Vigilance is the Price of Liberty’. I believed that since Hong Kong had made me, so I felt obliged to do whatever I could, and regardless of the cost, to give expression to my sense of Vigilance

和許多香港人一樣,我看不到香港可以不變的前景,於是決定到另一個地方做一個人。97後,觀察到香港儘管不斷變味,但在司法制度不變的基石下,還有言論空間,於是我又回來了。我念念不忘傑佛遜總統的話:自由的代價是永恆的警覺。我想,既然香港的自由塑造了我,那麼我也應該盡我畢生之力,付出代價,去不斷提出我的警覺。

Hong Kong is in the flux of change; conditions are deteriorating, evolving in a way that someone who has lived here for seventy years like me finds alienating. The Outsider experiences alienation. The female protagonist of Ying Liang’s film starts out saying that Hong Kong is her home, but later she remarks that she is an Outsider, or a Stranger in a Familiar Land. This succinctly captures just how Hong Kong has changed. For someone who has regarded themselves as a Hong Kong person for many decades, the sense I now have of being an Outsider is overwhelming, it is also heart-rending.

但香港一直在變,在向下沉淪,變得在這裏生活了70年的我,都常常感到陌生了。陌生的感覺,就是異鄉人的感覺。應亮讓他化身的影片女主人公,先說香港是她的家,而最後說她是異鄉人,那種變化就代表香港的變化,對於幾十年都自認是香港人的我來說,這種異鄉人的感覺特別真實,也特別傷情。

A Family Tour is made by someone who is not from Hong Kong and it is not even set in Hong Kong, but this film reflects the muted despondency and grief that exemplifies Hong Kong today.

這是一部由原非香港人,在非香港之地,演繹出具香港感的淡淡哀愁的電影。

— Lee Yee 李怡, 世道人生:異鄉人
蘋果日報, 2018年12月21日

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