Two things come to mind the second you mention Home Affairs Secretary Lau Kong-wah. First, the classic shot of the hapless buffoon/mediocrity peering out from a garbage bin. Second, the sight of him dumbly sitting out a debate between officials and students. And now there’s a third – in which he shoots himself in the foot and then promptly rams the injured appendage into his own mouth, on live TV for your viewing pleasure.
The scenario: a visiting troupe of Taiwanese performers accused Lau’s Leisure and Cultural Services underlings of petty and inept censorship; when questioned by the media, Lau humiliated himself by reading a vacuous statement that made everything worse. If the censorship had been serious and meaningful – silencing the Dalai Lama or banning mention of Mao’s famine – Lau’s embarrassing performance would have been semi-understandable. But to half-die on camera over such a lame excision (the word ‘national’ from a Taiwan university’s name) is unforgivable. You wouldn’t have thought anyone could further tarnish this government’s reputation so easily, but Lau has pulled it off.
Beijing’s hyper-sensitivity over things Taiwanese, combined with Hong Kong officials’ pre-emptive northward kowtowing, makes this sort of mess inevitable. We are supposed to see Taiwan as a province (as we would Guangdong or Fujian), yet its representative offices and sports teams have to use the title ‘Taipei’, highlighting the fact that it is not a plain everyday province. A Taiwanese academic was recently censored on the Mainland for referring to the island’s president as ‘the president’ rather than ‘leader’. Anyone who has visited Taiwan knows that the place has (without spelling it out) been independent for decades. Beijing insists on an elaborate linguistic charade to conform to its fantasy that this is not the case.
Any Hong Kong bureaucrat will be hopelessly out of his depth here. How does the word ‘National’ in ‘Taipei National University of Arts’ conflict with Beijing’s ‘One China’ official truth? Does it imply a Taiwan nation (forbidden) or a One China nation (surely acceptable)? Does Hong Kong, supposedly excused from the Mainland’s censorship and other Leninist constraints, even have to bother worrying about it? Or must we adopt clear guidelines on how to re-name Taiwanese educational institutions (which, as the Standard editorial points out, have many Hong Kong alumni)? If so, how to we explain that to the rest of the world? “Ah, well, in Hong Kong now we have to call it Taipei University of Arts because, you know, hah hah.”
On the bright side, the performers, inevitably called the Nonsensemakers, at least get some publicity out of this. Our friends in Taiwan get another reminder to steer well clear of Communist tyrants bearing offers of ‘two systems’. And we get another Lau Kong-wah farce. Otherwise, this is another small, depressing step in China’s perverse project, Operation Let’s Take Asia’s Greatest City and Screw it Up. With (among much else, like press freedom plunging) the Post Office covering colonial British insignia on old mailboxes, the police trying to make 1960s Communist terrorism disappear from its website story, and this sort of idiocy – just how stupid are these people trying to make themselves and Hong Kong look?
We ought to be happy about Lau. His predecessor, Jasper’s crazed brother, must have picked him to carry on the tradition of official knee-jerk idiocy. It’s Arthur Scargill, Neil Kinnock and Pinnochio combined. Hurrah.
By the way, Teletubbies are now very politically incorrect in view of the epidemic of childhood obesity. Just as the planned TV series Fanny Law became Female Paralegals, Teletubbies are now Telefitties, consuming whole grains and cereals, juice and yoghurt.
Winston Smith: How’s the Newspeak Committee?
Syme: Working overtime. Plusbig waste is in adjectives. Plusbig waste is timing the language to scientific advance.
Winston Smith: …yes.
Syme: It’s a beautiful thing, the destruction of words. You wouldn’t have seen the Dictionary 10th edition, would you Smith? It’s that thick. [illustrates thickness with fingers] The 11th Edition will be that thick. [narrows fingers]
Winston Smith: So, The Revolution will be complete when the language is perfect?
Syme: The secret is to move from translation, to direct thought, to automatic response. No need for self-discipline. Language coming from here, [points to larynx] not from here.[points to head]
Tillotson’s Friend: [leans over from another table] Excuse me for intruding. But what you’re saying is that we should be rid of the last vestiges of Goldsteinism when the language has been cleaned. I couldn’t be more in agreement with you, brother.
What always gets me is that the Taiwanese themselves often kowtow to such mindless name games (something to do with a cultural mindset?).
If they were going to establish the right to avoid being subsumed under the communist bandits, they should have done it by now, before landfill starts to be dumped on their doorsteps.
Taiwan at HK Sevens: Kwang Hua – Taipei. That was 1984.
No, actually in 1984. Hasn’t this name sensitivity been around a while?
[insert Donald Trump, Ken Ham, Ray Comfort, homeopathy enthusiasts, rhino horn/tiger penis addicts, and/or William Lane Craig who (dis)graced HKU last night] “insists on an elaborate linguistic charade to conform to its fantasy”
“Meanwhile, TVB is not accepting students from local journalism schools for summer internship positions in its news department this year, and has offered all eight vacancies to mainland counterparts instead.”
HK journalism students demonstrated rather too much enthusiasm for free thinking and straight reporting during the Umbrella Movement.
Their mainland counterparts are more reliable, tending to naturally dissociate from anything which might resemble picking quarrels and provoking troubles.
HK-schooled mainlanders are a mixed bag. Some are good eggs, most are mediocre and a few are feral, free-ranging little Xinhua bunnies.
Be glad that our government is so terrible at public relations. It is as though the entire (slimy) profession of political spin-doctoring does not exist in our city, leaving our officials to read out asinine boilerplate bureaucratese as though they thought it would actually help instead of embarrass them further.
If the one belt one road was a conveyor belt exporting the pollution generated together with all those consumer products straight to Europe, Japan and the USA; then I’d be happy to promote it.
Heck, I’d still back promoting it if we could only co-load both the HK Government HQ and the upturned whiskey bottle in Admiralty (and all those contained in them) to these same destinations.