Mainlandization spreads to fonts

NatSec panic as ‘Liberate Hong Kong’ slogans are found on the sidewalk in Wong Tai Sin. Police conclude they were left over from 2019, and the paint covering them had worn off. Phew!

A theatrical group is barred from holding performances at the Hong Kong Institute of Contemporary Culture Lee Shau Kee School of Creativity after the Education Bureau accuses its founder of ‘inappropriate remarks linked to controversial and sensitive issues’. 

Poor octogenarian property tycoon SK ‘Henderson’ Lee. After over half a century of minting money playing the utterly non-innovative Hong Kong property scam, his attempt at encouraging imagination and originality comes to this. (There was a time when encouraging ‘creative’ arts and culture – like ‘critical thinking’ – was official policy. Lee’s donation was probably in line with this. Nowadays it would be a Xi Jinping Thought institute.)

The government did not include the HK Journalists Association in preliminary consultations on the Article 23 NatSec Law…

“[HKJA] believes anyone can be a reporter. It has counted 13-year-old children, or even those foul-mouthed individuals who made derogatory comments while filming our female officers, as professional reporters. We found it to be unrepresentative, therefore we didn’t reach out to it,” [Security Secretary Chris] Tang said in Cantonese after meeting with representatives from the media industry.

Bloomberg op-ed on Hong Kong’s forthcoming NatSec Law-Plus…

Watching Chief Executive John Lee deliver his press briefing on the public consultation of Article 23 was an exercise in surrealism. He consistently put forward the idea that the city needs this on top of the National Security Law, which was passed in 2020… At the time, Beijing said the measures were intended to bring calm back to Hong Kong’s streets, which had been rocked by pro-democracy protests. In reality, it was about control. The Hong Kong government is making similar arguments for its new law, saying it is intended to keep the financial hub safe and attract investors. It is yet another poor attempt at justifying even further restraints.

By any measure, Hong Kong is a shadow of its former self, both in terms of economic vibrancy and political activity. With this new plan, the Chinese transformation of the city is now almost complete, and Article 23 is just the latest piece of the jigsaw. The government says this will attract foreign interest and funds, but the strategy is at best disingenuous, and at worst, a charade that officials are hoping the international business community will buy.

The Young Post – which seems to employ the SCMP‘’s only investigative journalists – has a good piece on those ugly new street signs…

“The font aims to infuse a rich cultural ambience into the landscape and atmosphere of the community. It is well-proportioned, and its overall design is consistent with existing nameplates, effectively providing street information to the public,” said the Highways Department in an email response to Young Post last Thursday.

…According to the official website of Wen Yue Type – the mainland Chinese company that introduced the font – the typeface showcases rich calligraphic features, conveys a sense of rhythm, and creates a strong, humanistic atmosphere. Alibaba, which is the owner of the South China Morning Post, is an investor in this company.

…Another concern regarding the new font is its lack of adequate traditional Chinese characters for the city’s intricate street names.

Some weekend reading…

ArtNet looks at Hong Kong artists in exile in the UK…

[Artist Justin Wong] … spoke of feeling “liberated” in his art practice. Rather than focusing on the day-to-day socio-political issues of his hometown, life as a member of the Hong Kong diaspora has become the inspiration for his new projects. He has returned to woodblock printing, his main practice during his art school days. While experimenting with his newfound freedom, he has created the “Little Pink Man” series, which taps into the emotional struggle experienced by many Hong Kong migrants. “Indeed, we need time to reflect on this,” he noted. “This is an era of diaspora, so there should be art of the diaspora.”

The Journal of Democracy does a comparison of pro-dem movements in Thailand and Hong Kong…

Bangkok progressives have more reason for hope than their Hong Kong counterparts. This is a dramatic reversal from the mid-2010s, when Bangkok’s young progressives could only dream of being able to stand up and fight the way the Umbrella Movement had. In May 2023, Rangsiman, along with many other candidates from his Move Forward party, was elected to the Thai parliament in the second national election since the 2014 coup. Hong Kong activists, in contrast, have little obvious cause for optimism today, and must now find subtle ways to keep a spirit of resistance alive. Those who remain in the city are either fearfully awaiting the dreaded knock at the door or already languishing in prison. The remainder, like Nathan Law, live in exile. All are lamenting the loss of the freedoms they once had.

From Bloomberg – Greater Bay Area in action: Mainland-born professional Emma Leng moves from Hong Kong to Shenzhen – commuting in the opposite direction…

The 29-year-old is among a growing number of young white-collar professionals trading expensive, cramped quarters in Hong Kong for less pricey and roomier digs in Shenzhen … Additional perks include cheaper, round-the-clock food delivery options and cleaner air.

…driving the trend is the sharp increase in Hong Kong rents. That’s caused, in part, by an influx of mainland nationals, a result of new visa policies aimed at attracting talent. The government last year issued some 44,000 visas to mainland nationals under its Top Talent Pass scheme, which grants entry visas to graduates of the world’s top 100 universities.

Leng pays about 6,000 yuan ($836) a month for her 65-square-meter (700-square-foot) two-bedroom apartment in Shenzhen, $700 less than what she paid for the one-bedroom, 29-square-meter place she had in Hong Kong. Rents in Shenzhen run at about 108 yuan a square meter per month, less than a third of Hong Kong’s prices.

In the Diplomat – China’s inability to do ‘soft power’ 

[The old ‘friendly’ image] has fractured amid China’s increasing willingness to use its material power to pursue its own interests – to the detriment of both individual states and the international order.

…a more assertive “wolf warrior” foreign policy and diplomatic language, which has been materially and rhetorically committed to opposing liberal values and democratic institutions in favor of a more robust defense of Chinese values, China’s territorial claims, and the extension of Chinese material power. Concens deepened with the use of China’s trade and investment prominence to “punish” states, such as Australia and Lithuania, that pursue policies or hold viewpoints that China considers unacceptable. 

In some instances, this has generated a dangerous cycle of mutual recriminations as politicians in other states have focused on Beijing’s actions and rhetoric to sustain their own power based on insular nationalist tropes and appeals. As such, China has been more and more confronted by the United States, the European Union, United Kingdom, and other states across a range of areas. China has had border clashes with India and is the target of re-calibrations in the defense policies of Australia, Japan, and the Philippines. Still other states are openly attempting to lessen their dependence on Chinese trade and investment. 

…The Taiwanese election is an example of such a problem. Since the changes in Hong Kong, Taiwanese people have felt less and less attraction to China. This is hardly surprising, as Beijing insists on the same “One Country, Two Systems” formula used in Hong Kong as its overarching goal for Taiwan. At the same time, the DPP, as a governing party, has softened its independence rhetoric to embrace the “status quo.” 

Yet Chinese policymakers have been unable to adjust to these new changes, leaving them unable to harness the cultural affinities that exist between Taiwan and the mainland. Instead, Chinese leaders have doubled down on the rhetoric and policy frameworks that undermine any effective application of soft power or seek compromise. This has enflamed nationalism, both in China and across the region, and raises the potential that Chinese policymakers may be “trapped” by their own rhetoric into actions that may lead to violence. 

Nothing new. The real question would be ‘why can’t Leninists do ‘soft power’?’ Clue: soft power is mostly not government-controlled.

From New Scientistevidence that modern humans reached what is now Shanxi, northern China at least several thousand years earlier than previously thought. Hints that the first homo sapiens got to the region via central Asia and Siberia, rather than from the south.

Some less rigorous work in a laborious Global Times piece intended to back claims that Taiwan is historically Chinese, starting ‘more than 30,000 years ago, during the same period as Peking Man’ and on through the Kingdom of Wu and Sui, Tang and Song dynasties before getting anywhere near modern times. And no mention of the Austronesian aboriginal tribes whose languages – related to Philippine and Malay tongues – are still spoken today. 

Nothing much to do with any of this – Wikipedia entry on one of those eccentric (as in ‘nuts’) Victorian/Edwardian-era women explorers. They don’t make them like this any more.

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11 Responses to Mainlandization spreads to fonts

  1. Chinese Netizen says:

    Hong Kong Institute of Contemporary Culture Lee Shau Kee School of Pre Approved Creativity

    There, fixed it for you.

  2. Reactor #4 says:

    Why am I not surprised that the featured olden-day female eccentric is part Belgian? They are a very odd race. Actually, the middle-aged one I know on Lantau has got the ass of a 17-year-old. However, I don’t think such splendour is a natural characteristic – her, as well as her husband, just got lucky.

  3. Knownot says:

    Today’s Clothes
    Thursday 1 February
    23˚ C

    Today it’s rather strange
    To see the range
    Of clothes that people wear.
    Some in T-shirts partly bare,
    And athletic sorts
    Even wearing shorts.

    While others, Hongkongese perhaps,
    Are still in winter’s wraps:
    Jacket, scarf, synthetic woolly,
    Covered fully.

    Some people, being rather old,
    Just feel cold.

    Group 1: Hongkongese: when hot, complain;
    When cold, long for heat again.
    Group 2: whose cold hands and feet
    Just crave heat.

    In which group do I fit?
    I won’t admit.

  4. asiaseen says:

    Me, definitely group 2.

    I am always intrigued by what seems to be a particularly Cantonese sartorial trait, puffy winter jacket, maybe also hat and scarf, shorts, no socks and flip-flops.

  5. Mjrelje says:

    Knownot: so enjoyable to read as always. Me? Group 1 without doubt and love the asiaseen view so prevalent of Lamma shopkeepers along with aircons on at full blast and constant comments of so much the cold.

  6. Wang Jingwei says:

    Re: street signs

    FFS. Is it the policy of the CCP to make worse everything it touches?

  7. Young Winston says:

    All Quiet on the Western Font.

  8. Mark Bradley says:

    “FFS. Is it the policy of the CCP to make worse everything it touches?”

    Yes. They are unsophisticated thugs.

  9. Low Profile says:

    @Wang Jingwei – be careful what you ask. It may be a state secret.

  10. Edward Johnstone is disappointed says:

    Re street sign fonts

    To be fair, there is cultural ambiance in the new font — it accurately conveys the current HKSARG zeitgeist: a desperately unpopular, weak, ugly graft of mainland culture that nobody wanted or asked for and isn’t actually fit for purpose.

  11. wmjp says:

    Another Article 23 national security law fiasco would shatter Hong Kong government’s credibility SCMP

    Says the mainstay of the previous debacle. That apart, what credibility?

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