The Nobility of Failure

Hong Kong Apostasy

 

A journalist from Apple Daily 蘋果日報, a leading independent media outlet in Hong Kong and Taiwan, uses the ancient expression 英雄遲暮 yīng xióng chí mù ‘heroic twilight’ to describe the celebrated and prolific novelist, screen writer essayist and commentator Ni Kuang (倪匡, 1935-), who is also known as Ngai Hong.

Born in Shanghai Ni remained on the Mainland after 1949 to seek an education and to contribute to the building of New China. As a soldier in the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in Inner Mongolia he found himself under suspicion and persecuted. Following rejection by his fearful family in Shanghai, and after a torturous journey south, Ni snuck across the border to Hong Kong in 1957. In a city of refugees, he would become renowned as a prolific and commercially successful writer churning out science fiction, martial arts novels, romances, adventure stories, thrillers and newspaper columns at the astounding rate of more than 10,000 Chinese characters a day.

He emigrated to the United States in 1992 but returned to live in Hong Kong in 2006 as his wife found it difficult to adjust to life in North America. Ni has long been a trenchant critic of the Chinese Communist Party and its surrogate local rulers. At the age of eighty-four, and despite encroaching infirmity, he continues to be an enthusiastic, if sardonic, commentator on the political life of his adopted home.

The following interview was published on 13 August 2019 as the heroic protesters of the city — 遲暮英雄 — were nearing a tragic Götterdämmerung.

***

In 1988, Ni Kuang made an astute observation on the past of Tibet and the future of Hong Kong (see the box below). It is nearly thirty years since Linda Jaivin and I translated that material for New Ghosts, Old Dreams: Chinese Rebel Voices (New York: Times Books, 1992). It is heartbreaking, although not surprising, that his observations continue to resonate in 2019.

The title of this latest chapter in our series ‘Hong Kong Apostasy’ — ‘The Nobility of Failure’ — is inspired by Ivan Morris, The Nobility of Failure: Tragic Heroes in the History of Japan (Penguin, 1975). Morris’s book provides an enthralling record of what he calls a ‘spontaneous sympathy with the courageous loser’ and he depicts in it a culture that ‘since ancient times … recognised a special nobility in the sincere, unsuccessful sacrifice.’

A somewhat similar strain of tragic heroism also exists in the Chinese tradition. It is one that harks back to the righteous sacrifice of the hermit-martyrs Boyi 伯夷 and Shuqi 叔齊. (See, ‘Conflicting Loyalties’ in A New Sinology Reader.) Be it in acts of protest, gestures of resistance and in the language of dissent, or indeed in a myriad of cultural expressions, it is a tradition that thrives in a multiplicity of modern guises.

My thanks to Victor Fong 方金平 for going over the translation and identifying errors in my reading of Ni Kuang’s remarks. All remaining errors are mine.

— Geremie R. Barmé
Editor, China Heritage
14 August 2019

Note:

  • Explications and notes are marked by square brackets [], although amplifications have also been made to the text for readers who are unfamiliar with the political issues touched on by the author, or who might benefit from the highlighting of important cultural and historical references.
  • For more chapters in the series ‘Hong Kong Apostasy’, see The Best China section of China Heritage.

— The Translator

***

‘Tanks for the Memory’, by Morgan Chua (Chua Heng Soon 蔡興順, 1949-2018). Source: Chua, Tiananmen (1989), reprinted in Barmé and Jaivin, eds, New Ghosts, Old Dreams (1992), p.430

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Related Material:

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I’ve Seen the Future

 

We must harbor no illusions about this business of there being ‘no change for fifty years’ [after the Communist takeover of Hong Kong]. Anyone who can leave has to get out of here. Those who can’t have to prepare themselves psychologically for Communist rule. You can’t rebel, you can’t start a revolution, and you can’t be independent. The people of Hong Kong will pay the price for their apathy toward [the drafting of] the Basic Law.[1] No one even tried to make their feelings known to the British prime minister when she came here; it’s as though the great cause of national unity were more important than anything else. But it’s possible to oppose Communist rule; I don’t have much sympathy for those who won’t even try. What could Peking possibly do if just 500,000 of Hong Kong’s five million people took to the streets, boycotted classes, and called a general strike to oppose the return of Hong Kong to China? With the Basic Law, the Communists have already managed to negate the ‘Sino-British Joint Declaration’; they’re taking over step by step….

What’s happening to Hong Kong is exactly like what happened to Tibet when it signed the ‘Agreement on Measures for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet’ [under duress on 23 May 1951]. The Communists say the nicest possible things and then act in the most reprehensible manner. This has always been the way of the Communist Party.

Ni Kuang, September 1988, trans. G.Barmé and Linda Jaivin, eds
New Ghosts, Old Dreams: Chinese Rebel Voices
New York, 1992, pp.431-432

from 金鐘, ‘為什麼要統一? 莫名其妙!
——專訪香港作家協會會長倪匡’,
《解放月報》, 1988: 9, 第36頁

[1] The Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China, finalized in 1990, laid down the structure of law and government for Hong Kong after 1997. Deng Xiaoping acclaimed the law as a ‘creative masterpiece’, but many Hong Kong people believed it was an inadequate safeguard of their rights.

Click here for a video clip of Ni Kuang’s Apple Daily interview


Veteran Commentators on the Extradition Bill Protests

Ni Kuang on the Hong Kong Police —
A Tool of the Totalitarian State

But He Won’t Distance Himself from the Protesters:

‘I’ve been opposed to the Communists for decades, do you think I’d support their PoPo now of all times?’

智者反送中

倪匡批警淪極權工具
不與抗爭者割蓆:

反共幾廿年唔通撐警啊?

Interview by She Kam Hung 佘錦洪

Translated and Annotated by Geremie R. Barmé

 

It is as if the scenario in one of those ‘near future’ novels has actually come true. Ni Kuang depicted the inevitable decline of Hong Kong following the Communist takeover in his sci-fi novel Chasing the Dragon, published over thirty years ago. But he has always emphasised that such fictional creations were strictly in accord with common sense.

Today, as Anti-Extradition Bill Protests have swept Hong Kong, this astute veteran has been speaking out again. Below he lavishes praise on the extraordinary spectacle of millions of marchers demonstrating against the Hong Kong government and he criticises the police for only exercising their ‘fearless might’ on demonstrators — actions that only go to demonstrate that they have been reduced to acting as tools in the service of a totalitarian state.

Ni Kuang is an avant-garde anti-Communist. But here he notes that although Hong Kong people have been witness to the depredations of the party-state on Mainland China for many decades, even he has been taken aback by the virulence of the anti-Communist sentiment that they have evinced in the streets of the city during the protests.

He does, however, point out that if people really want to be free then they must be prepared for a real revolution; he warns that faced with violent state repression the present situation will inevitably escalate out of control and result in needless casualties. Ultimately, however, he remains steadfastly on the side of the underdog:

‘Having opposed the communists for decades, why would I support their PoPo now?’

She Kam Hung 

一部出色的科幻小說,就好比近未來(Near Future)的預言書。倪匡32年前曾以筆下《追龍》,準確道出香港移交中共後必定衰亡,強調不過是建基於常識的分析。在反送中運動席捲全港的今天,智慧老人再次出山,讚揚百萬人和平示威是世界奇蹟,批評香港警察只敢對示威者「勇武」已淪極權工具。身為反共先鋒,他坦言港人長期目睹中共種種醜態,但今次厭共情緒之烈仍在他意料之外,認為要翻身作主先要有革命的準備,但又憂慮在暴力鎮壓陰霾下抗爭持續升級恐造成無謂傷亡。不過說到底,他依舊站在弱勢一方:

「我反共反咗幾廿年唔通而家去撐警啊?」

— 佘錦洪

 

‘From the start the Extradition Bill was completely unnecessary. You lot [the Communist Party] only have to send a few agents into the territory and you can abduct anyone you want. You could nab someone like [the prominent businessman] Xiao Jianhua [蕭建華, 1972-] without a problem [in 2017]; that means you could take anyone you chose.’

Speaking in his trademark heavily accented Cantonese — what we are familiar with as the ‘Ni Twang’ — the author sums up things with withering precision. The way he speaks, as well as what he says, mean that you really need to engage both your left and right frontal lobes when in conversation with him. That’s because what he has to say is both a creative and an intellectual challenge.

Ni Kuang has seen it all but, from the outbreak of the Anti-Extradition Protest Movement in June 2019 his tone has also reflected a guarded respect for the unfolding events.

‘To see a demonstration of over one million people in the streets of Hong Kong [on 9 June] was, no matter how you think about it, to witness a world-class achievement. I’d guess that in historical terms this may be the first time that this many people have voluntarily gone into the streets to protest against something like that in that fashion.’

「其實送中條例根本係多餘㗎嘛,你(共產黨)喺香港派幾個特務落嚟,咩人都捉得返去,蕭建華都捉得返去仲有咩人捉唔返?」以半鹹淡廣東話說出一針見血的見解,要聽懂倪匡的「倪腔」,往往需要左右腦並用,創意與理智缺一不可。但這位看透世情的人物,說起6月至今的反送中運動,語氣中帶有一絲由衷佩服,「(超過)100萬人上街,呢啲係世界奇蹟嚟㗎嘛,自從有人類歷史以嚟未試過有人為咗反對一件事有咁多人遊行。」

Having lived under the extremes of authoritarianism [born in Shanghai in 1935, Ni remained on the Mainland after 1949 until making his escape to Hong Kong in 1957] and freedom, for Ni Kuang to be able to witness a demonstration like that — one that was both civil and entirely peaceful — felt like here, for once, was something that must have humbled even the crude autocrats of Beijing.

‘A Million Person Demonstration like that would not only have struck fear into their hearts, it took the whole world by surprise. “How can there be so many people out there?”, people must have been wondering. The scenes [as shown in the media] simply took your breath away.’

That and another one million plus person demonstration was among the factors that have forced the Hong Kong authorities into retreat after retreat. Such displays of mass unrest also sent shockwaves through the constabulary.

‘The police were so stunned they had no choice but to stand by and watch it all unfold: what could they have possibly done? Even if they sent out all 30,000 members of the force to face down the demonstrators they still would have been powerless.’

It’s true, during those two mass demonstrations [on the 9th and 17th of June], the Hong Kong police — once acclaimed for ‘restraint’ — simply absented themselves. More recently, however, they’ve repeatedly used teargas to disperse protesters, although time and again it has been under the cover of night as most demonstrators have been in the process of dispersing.

也許是經歷過專制與自由兩種極端生活,在倪匡眼中,香港人文明而和平的遊行,自有一種力量使暴政低頭,「你百幾萬人遊行非但佢恐懼,全世界都震驚,『點可以有咁多人』,你鏡頭望落去得人驚㗎嘛」,認為接連兩場百萬人級大遊行,是促成港府一再退讓的主要原因之一,亦會令警察畏懼,「你一兩百萬示威者差人冇動作啦,佢可能有咩動作?佢3萬警察全部出動都冇辦法。」誠然,在兩次大遊行期間,以「克制」著稱的香港警隊皆自動失蹤,而近日多次亂射催淚彈清場,亦每每發生在入夜後示威者陸續散去之時。

The mass protest movement has seen the image of the police all but completely tarnished — that’s because of their reckless use of teargas, their repeated decisions to shoot volleys into the crowds of demonstrators [using sand pellets, etc] without raising warning flags and due to the evidence that they have been in collusion with street thugs and triads [as in the case of the unprovoked violence at Yuen Long on the evening of 21 July].

As Ni Kuang has observed, in an open and civilised society the normal relationship between the police and citizens should be one of mutual reliance. Now, however, Hong Kong is well on the way to becoming a totalitarian-style society:

‘In such circumstances it’s impossible for there to be any kind of positive relationship between the people and the police. After all, according to V.I. Lenin himself, the police are primarily an arm of state power and repression. How could anyone expect them to get on with the citizenry?’

[Note: See Mark Harrison, ‘Seven Soviet-era tips for running a successful police state’, The Conversation, 6 April 2016]

He bluntly declares that henceforth it will be impossible to restore the kind of confidence and trust people had previously had in the police force. Although, he argues, if the police honestly feel that they are blameless in the way they have handled the protests, then they should acquiesce to the popular demand for the establishment of an independent commission of investigation [to look into police abuses].

‘If I didn’t do anything wrong, then I should welcome such a thing! If you’re concerned that an independent investigation will undermine police morale that’s only because you’re afraid of what will be revealed about your behaviour. Before a thorough investigation you can’t be sure the police are wrong. Maybe you’ll find they’ve done nothing untoward. Let’s get the truth out in the open!’

Before such investigation, how come you sure the police are wrong? Maybe you’ll find that they’ve done nothing untoward

催淚彈放題、無舉旗開槍、涉警黑合作等,警隊形象於這場政治運動中幾近徹底破產。倪匡指出,在文明自由社會中,警察與民眾本應是「自己人」,但現時香港正退化成一個極權統治社會,「警察同民眾冇可能關係好,因為根據列寧嘅講法,國家統治機器警察係主要力量,點可能同民眾有好關係呢?」他直言無方法重建市民對警察信心,但認為如果警察相信自己無錯,何不順應民意成立獨立調查委員會,「如果我無做壞事,我一定歡迎㗎嘛。話會打擊警察士氣,你未調查肯定查出嚟係差人唔啱啦咩?或者差人冇唔啱呢查咗,你還人哋一個真相吖嘛。」

When asked about whether he thought the police were acting lawlessly, Ni Kuang replied with simple clarity:

‘They are under service personnel performing according to particular guidelines; they’ve been trained. We don’t know specifically by whom, or, for that matter, how exactly they have been trained. Nor indeed do we know what kind of brainwashing they have been subjected to. We don’t know any of that.’

Nonetheless, he believes that it is still too early to support that online petition that has been launched calling for the Hong Kong police to be named as a terrorist organization:

‘There will be time enough for that when the Communist Party takes over complete control of the force.’

I press him about his view of the police force at the moment and he simply responds with the words ‘they are fearless and powerful’, adding with a laugh:

‘They put their fearless power on full display when repressing the protesters. It’s just that when their presence has really been needed — when you need police valour [as when triad gang members attacked protesters and others on the evening of 21 July at Yuen Long] there’s no sign of them. But that’s exactly when you need to hear from them. However, at least according to the news reports I’ve seen on TV, they come charging out in valorous formation when there is hardly anyone around. Who are they putting the show on for?’

問到是否認同警察已經失控,他回答簡單而直接,「紀律部隊嚟喎,佢一定有訓練,問題係訓練佢係邊啲人、用咩方法訓練、灌輸啲咩觀念,我哋完全唔知」,但認為有網民發起聯署要求定義香港警察為恐怖組織是言之過早,「我諗要共產黨全面接管改組警察部門之後,咁就可以定義啦。」再厚面皮問倪匡對警隊的評價,得到的竟是「勇武」二字,他笑言:「勇武咪對付示威者幾勇武啊,需要佢嗰時唔見㗎,唔需要佢嗰時嗱嗱聲衝出嚟。佢衝出嚟我喺電視見到,冇乜示威者啦,唔使咁大陣仗。」

For Ni Kuang the core issue that ignited the demonstrations is a simple one: the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ framework [agreed to in the ‘Sino-British Joint Agreement’ of 1984] is simply non-existent:

‘At the time I pointed out that [the Agreement] was merely a copy of the “Seventeen-point Agreement” made between Beijing and the Tibetan government [of 1951].’

[Note: See the 1988 quotation from Ni Kuang above. ‘The Seventeen Point Agreement’ is short for the ‘Agreement of the Central People’s Government and the Local Government of Tibet on Measures for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet’ 中央人民政府和西藏地方政府關於和平解放西藏辦法的協議 / བོད་ཞི་བས་བཅིངས་འགྲོལ་འབྱུང་ཐབས་སྐོར་གྱི་གྲོས་མཐུན་དོན་ཚན་བཅུ་བདུན་. One account relates the chain of events in the following way:

‘The People’s Liberation Army crossed the Jinsha River on 6 or 7 October 1950 and defeated the Tibetan army by 19 October. Instead of continuing with the military campaign, China asked Tibet to send representatives to Beijing to negotiate an agreement. The Dalai Lama believes the draft agreement was written by China, and Tibetan representatives were not allowed to suggest any alterations. China did not allow the Tibetan representatives to communicate with the Tibetan government in Lhasa. The Tibetan delegation was not authorized by Lhasa to sign, but ultimately submitted to pressure from the Chinese to sign anyway, using seals which had been specifically made for the purpose.’]

‘It’s like an adolescent girl being tricked by a relative who flatters her into agreeing to one thing and then, over time, discovering that she’s been sold off into prostitution.’

The Legalisation of Rape

 

They say that in a certain civilized country there was an unwritten law that stated that a person who was raped could not cry out, offer any resistance, or go to the police for help. The victim was obliged to lie back and bear the assault in silence.

Later it was realized that this unwritten law was an offense against decency, and instead of enhancing the reputation of this civilized country, it brought disapprobation upon it. At this point, someone challenged the law. They claimed, in the first instance, that rape is a savage and barbarous act that should be outlawed; secondly, that all rapists should be punished, gang rapists most severely of all; thirdly, that victims of rape should be permitted to scream; and, finally, in cases where there is an obvious disparity between the physical strength of the victim and the rapist, making it impossible for the victim to resist without further risk, that a discussion should be held afterward in order to ascertain the precise cause and effect of the rape. For example, was the victim young and beautiful? Was her behavior in any way provocative or lewd? Did she incite the rapist in any way? Was the rapist psychologically disturbed? Should the victim receive hush money from the rapist, or should she demand a free operation to mend her damaged hymen?

  • (Hah Gong’s Note: This is my translation of an ancient Greek text dating from the New Stone Age. If there are any discrepancies in interpretation, the Greek text should be taken as the standard.)

I recently heard that the unwritten law quoted above now applies to Hong Kong: The Sino-British negotiations [over Hong Kong’s future] have resembled a gang rape of Hong Kong by two men, with the victim being denied the right either to scream or protest. After the event, a member of a certain legislative body appeared on the scene and demanded a detailed inquiry into the background of the rape. But a number of staunch advocates of rapists’ rights came forth and called for the legalization of rape, decrying the victims for being shameless. Naturally, this upset a large number of former rape victims, who have expressed support for their fellow victims.

It is said that the pro-rapists have their reasons for lobbying for the legalization of rape. They believe that the legislator mentioned above speaks only for himself and has no right to represent all rape victims, and therefore has no right to scream or protest during the act. But the opposition states that even though the legislator could speak only for himself, he too is a victim of rape and has the right to demand a discussion of and an investigation into the precise cause and effect of the rape.

Now everybody is shouting: ‘Rape victims of Hong Kong, unite!’ As a result, the pro-rapist lobby is completely isolated, and the only course left for them is to get support from a few pseudo-scholars with near-zero IQs. Having just polished off a Patriotic Chinese New Year’s Eve Banquet and Patriotic Spring Festival Tea, these ‘scholars’ can naturally be depended upon to say a few kind words and cite a few precedents to suit the occasion in support of the legalization of rape. Most curious is the fact that among them are a number of people who still have not had their political appendixes removed. Yet they make grandiose statements suggesting that everyone should simply lie back quietly and allow the rapists to get on with it, claiming that any protest would be ‘negative, unconstructive and in no way beneficial.’

Hah Gong, 2 March 1984
trans. Don J. Cohn, reprinted in
G.Barmé and Linda Jaivin, eds

New Ghosts, Old Dreams, 1992
New York, pp.429-431

from 哈公 (許子賓, d.1987), ‘“強姦合法化”論’
《明報日報》, 1984年3月2日

As for Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, she’s nothing more than a puppet and the Communist Party has, over the past twenty-two years. incrementally exerted its control over Hong Kong:

‘Forget all that stuff about “there will be no change [to the status quo of Hong Kong being able to enjoy a high-level of political autonomy] for fifty years”. In just over two decades things have become completely fuzzy.’

But Hong Kong borders Mainland China and people here have been witness to all of the vile absurdities that have engulfed people there for seventy years. There is simply no way anyone would want to fall into the embrace of the totalitarian state unless they were willing to sell out their conscience for the sake of personal gain.

‘You tell me: do you honestly believe that Hong Kong people would rather believe all that propaganda instead of trusting their own personal experiences and understanding?’

觸發整場運動最核心的問題,倪匡認為是香港根本不存在「一國兩制」,「當年我就話呢個完全係西藏17條翻版嚟㗎嘛,即係姑爺仔氹女仔,氹嗰時好話講盡,氹咗之後賣咗你去南洋做雞」,現時特首林鄭月娥不過是傀儡,中國共產黨已逐步掌控香港,「唔好50年不變啦,過去廿幾年都已經變到唔清唔楚」,但偏偏香港臨近中國,見證中共建國70年以來種種醜態,除非主動出賣良知換取利益,否則斷然無法接受香港投入極權之中,「你叫香港人相信自己經歷嘅嘢,定係相信你嘅宣傳吖?」

Over the past two months, the Five Demands of the protesters have remained unanswered leading to a constant tussle and escalation in the clashes between the protesters and the police. Ni Kuang is impressed by the fact that, despite the absence of any defined leadership, the protesters have been able to maintain a standoff with the authorities.

‘Even I have been taken aback by the level of animosity that Hong Kong people have shown for the Communists. Who would have thought that they are showing themselves to be just as much of an anti-Commie as I am, even more so!’

By the same token, it is because theirs is a leaderless movement, so the standoff has also become a stalemate. Or, as Ni Kuang puts it:

‘Feats of daring-do are one thing; the lack of forward planning is another.’

The mindless upping of the ante that has seen the movement go from peaceful protest to ever more violent confrontation will inevitably affect the overall situation:

‘Everyone has forgotten all about the mass demonstrations about which people could say one to two million people took to the streets. Now it’s more about violence and this gives the power-holders a perfect pretext by which they can dissemble and distract people’s attention. Or, as the ancient Chinese expression puts it, they have: 授人以柄 [shòu rén yǐ bǐng] — “surrendered the advantage that they previously enjoyed”.’

但兩個月以來民間五大訴求遲遲未得到回應,警方與示威者行動亦在多次糾纏中不斷升級。倪匡感嘆示威者無集中領導仍可與政權堅持對抗,「香港人厭共嘅情緒出乎我意料之外,個個都似我咁厭共,仲厭過我」,但運動陷入僵持亦是因為無集中領導,是「勇武有餘,考慮不足」,貿貿然從和平升級到衝擊,可惜了大好局面,「100萬人200萬人大家都冇人提啦,反而大家喺處提暴力,畀呢個當政者一個好好轉移視線機會,呢個係中國古語叫 『授人以柄』」。

Ni Kuang used the Gilets Jaunes protests in France and the Palestinian intifada in reference to the Hong Kong clashes. In his opinion, the Hong Kong protesters have merely been employing ‘kindergarten-level’ armed resistance:

‘Bamboo switches and expandable batons are no match for teargas and guns.’

The assault on the LegCo Building and the splattering of black ink on the national emblem of the People’s Republic at the Central Liaison Office [which became an early focus of mock-outrage among Beijing propagandists] on a practical level didn’t really get at the Communist power-holders:

‘Though it was thrilling to see the national emblem [of the People’s Republic] splattered [with black ink], that achieved very little. Didn’t they just go and replace it with another one?’

He also mocks the timidity of the Party cadres working in the Liaison Office building:

‘Where were you when your precious national dignity and sovereignty were being challenged directly? Why didn’t any of you make an appearance or attempt to mount a defence? If you are true patriots you should be ready to face down machine-gun fire, let alone a little paint bomb.’

倪匡引用法國及巴基斯坦等地示威衝突作例子,認為現時香港示威者所使用的武力僅屬「小兒科」級數,「你竹枝啊、出棍啊,點都打唔過催淚彈同埋子彈槍」,無論是衝擊立法會或是中聯辦塗污國徽,對中共政權都是不痛不癢,「塗污國徽雖然痛快,但係作用唔大,佢咪即刻換過一隻囉」,同時又不忘嘲諷中聯辦內的共產黨員辦事不力,「呢個國家尊嚴國家主權,點解你唔出嚟保護啊?唔好話油漆彈,機關槍你都要擋住啦。」

He went on to observe that, given the bigger picture and the long time frame involved, it is inevitable that the anti-Communist opposition in Hong Kong will eventually be worn down and eliminated. Although, in the process, people in the territory may well share the fate of the Uyghurs in Xinjiang:

‘The Communists may well decide to employ the Xinjiang Model and create a Hong Kong concentration camp. But where would you put it? Maybe they’ll build it on Lantau Island! Couldn’t they just reclaim some more land around Lantau and build a camp there’

Ni Kuang offers this with a shake of the head and a bitter laugh.

He also makes a point of saying that people should not hold out any hopes that the American-China trade war would come to their assistance. The Chinese are inured to their autocracy, after all, they have lived with it for millennia. Even if people have to put up with some new, unbearable misery there is no reason to think their discomfort will fundamentally threaten the political system.

‘If they have to 1.3 billion Chinese will be expected to survive eating grass. How long are those Americans gonna be able to hold out?

‘People lived through the deprivations of the Great Famine as well as the Cultural Revolution. They’re pretty fearless. How long is Trump going to be in office? Even with another four-year term, or say six years, they’ll be done for.’

他續指在現行局勢中,香港反共力量終有一天會消亡,或會與新疆同一下場,「用對付新疆人嘅辦法,整個集中營,整去邊度呢?整去大嶼山,大嶼山填海唔知係唔係會整個集中營?」說着搖頭苦笑。他又提醒不要期望中美貿易戰會是助力,皆因中國人千年來已習慣專制統治,百姓再苦也難以動搖政權,「中國人13億食草都可以生存落去,你美國人得唔得啊?文化大革命嗰陣時咁苦都捱過,大饑荒咁苦都捱過嚟啦,唔怕㗎嘛。你特朗普有幾多年啫?畀你再連任4年,至多6年,捱過6年容乜易啫,你都玩完啦。」

Ni Kuang can only discern three paths by which Hong Kong can move on from the present stalemate:

  • The first is for Hong Kong people to resign themselves to being pliant subjects of Beijing:

‘If Hong Kong people were to just give in they would have done so long before now, and the present situation would have never eventuated.’

  • Second is the most passive form of resistance — to leave; and,
  • The third is the most positive choice of all, although the possibility of its success is nebulous:

‘Fight on, fear no sacrifice and overcome all obstacles’.

[Note: This last option is Ni Kuang’s reworking of Mao Zedong’s 1945 slogan:

下定決心,不怕犧牲,排除萬難,去爭取勝利,
Be resolute, fear no sacrifice, overcome all obstacles and difficulties and fight on to victory.]

要擺脫困局,倪匡指前面有三條路。其一是學會順從做奴民,「香港人如果要乖乖聽話早就聽咗啦,唔會有呢次事啦」,最消極的是離開香港,剩下一條是最積極、但亦是最渺茫:「就係勇武抗爭不怕犧牲排除萬難囉。」

Ni Kuang says that although the idea of ‘Hong Kong Independence’ is all well and good, given the present on-the-ground realities it is nothing more than a dream. That is particularly so because of the immense incommensurability between the two forces that are pitted against each other.

‘It’s like playing a hand of poker: you’ve got your Jack or Queen — Bamboo Sticks and Helmets — but I’ve got all the Aces — my machine-guns. Once they line up all the piece that they have on their side, it’s game over! After all, the pieces they are playing with include atom bombs, nukes and rockets. How are you going to contest that winning hand? There’s simply no competition.’

He then talks about the end of the Qing dynasty [in the late-nineteenth and early twentieth centuries]. That was a time of autocratic political decline and military weakness. Yet, even then, Sun Yat-sen, the founding father of the Republic of China, and his forces had to engage in more than a decade of struggle and sacrifice until they could achieve success.

‘There’s simply no way you can launch something like the French Revolution [which overthrew autocracy]. Then millions of people revolted. Now, if you are talking about having millions on your side now then we’re talking, but there simply aren’t the numbers of people in Hong Kong who are going to rebel like that.’

倪匡指「香港獨立」雖好,但現在情況下只能停留在夢想裏,因為雙方武力差距太大,「你玩唔玩啤(牌)㗎?你初初用竹竿,你係二一對。而家你有頭盔啦,三一對。就算你有機關槍啦,你都係Q一對、J一對,你始終打唔過ACE一對㗎嘛。佢有原子彈、有核武器、有火箭部隊,你點同佢鬥呢?無可能㗎鬥唔過佢。」他舉例清末政治腐敗、軍隊武力薄弱,國父孫中山搞革命亦要流血犧性、歷時十多年才成功,「你又冇辦法好似法國大革命咁進一步,百幾萬人攻入去,如果百幾萬人一齊去作反,共產黨都冇行啊,殺晒你百幾萬人咩,問題係香港冇可能有百幾萬出嚟作反。」

As things unfold in these see-saw protests, the central issue remains that of the military, or the People’s Liberation Army to be precise. In Ni Kuang’s opinion, given the present situation, even if Beijing decides to deploy troops to crush the protest movement it most probably won’t do it in an overt manner. That’s because Hong Kong is still of use to the Communists.

‘[On 5 August there was a report that] Swiss banks hold over 780 billion RMB [over US$11,000,000,000] in accounts held by 100 Chinese nationals. Do you think those people made those transfers directly from Beijing? No way! All the money goes through Hong Kong.’

兜兜轉轉,矛頭還是指向到底會否出動解放軍的問題。從現在的形勢考慮,倪匡認為即使共產黨決定出解放軍鎮壓,也不會光明正大,皆因香港尚有僅餘的利用價值,「瑞士銀行公佈100個中國人780億(人民幣)存款啊。從北京匯出去啊?匯唔出㗎嘛,梗係通過香港出去。」

In a conversation lasting over an hour Ni Kuang offers no particular strategies for how the present conflict may be resolved. No matter how wise one may be, there are always things that are simply beyond one’s grasp. As for Hong Kong’s future he doesn’t hesitate:

‘The place is already nine tenths gone.’

He points out, however, that it was in the legal sphere and in education that Hong Kong can still maintain some bulwark that can protect its freedoms and civilisation.

In online discussions protesters and locals have sworn that ‘even a nuke won’t make us abandon each other’. So, before drawing our conversation to an end, I ask Ni Guang whether he too is still on the side of the protesters. Without a moment’s hesitation he replies:

‘Of course I am! I’ve been opposed to the Communists for decades, do you think I’d support their PoPo now of all times?’

個多小時訪談,倪匡未有總結出一個拆局對策,但智者千慮或者終有一失,他對香港未來亦只說是「死咗九成」,尤其指在法律及教育兩個界別,依然是香港自由與文明的堡壘。

網上有所謂「核爆都不割席」,最後問到他是否還站在抗爭者一方,他回答得毫不猶豫:「當然啦,我反共反咗幾廿年唔通而家去撐警啊?」

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