Annie Tse of the Mid-Levels writes to the South China Morning Post to accuse UK Prime Minister David Cameron of being “intentionally affronting” towards his hosts during his recent visit to China. The reason is that Cameron wore a paper poppy flower in his lapel – a widespread tradition in Britain and some other countries in the week up to Remembrance Sunday (tomorrow) to honour the war dead. This follows reports that Beijing officials asked the British leaders to remove the items, which they felt evoked memories of the Opium Wars.
That could have been a cultural misunderstanding; or it could have been a calculated attempt – if one that would strike outsiders as childish – to symbolically assert authority. Then again, it could have been someone’s idea of playing the victim card. China, like several assertive communities with a growing sense of entitlement, never lets an opportunity to be hurt or offended go to waste. Maybe this goes for Tse.
I seem to recall letters to the editor from her bitterly finding fault on some sort of nationalistic grounds with aspects of Hong Kong’s English legal system. According to her logic here, the poppy is a “chauvinistic symbol of Britain’s disgrace in China.” The fact that it is red, the colour of blood, makes it all the more unacceptable. No other symbolic use for the flower, it seems, can be permitted – though she implies it is OK to wear one on Remembrance Day itself.
After reading the letter, I take a stroll through Central. And what do I find? Hundreds of people buying and wearing the very same articles that Tse finds so disagreeable to the Chinese. As in the UK, they are sold by volunteers on the street to raise money for local ex-servicemen…
(I check Tse on webb-site.com and find no trace. But I do notice that today would have been the 698th birthday of Edward III. After clicking on the link and scrolling down the list of descendents, I find the offspring of… David Cameron. Cosmic or what?)