Hong Kong Economic Journal
12th November 2013
“If you vote with your conscience in mind, you can hold your head high when walk out of the Legislative Council. If you vote without any conscience, you should wrap your head with tissue paper before walking out!” Chip Tsao is known for his sarcasm in speeches and articles. He showed his support to HKTV at the days long rally, and made fun of gossips about himself. Tsao’s sarcastic articles and radio shows have helped the people of Hong Kong to ease their frustrations, but recently he realised that he needs to do something else to wake Hong Kongers up, in order to unite them to fight for a chance for the survival of Hong Kong.
Last month, Chip Tsao attended a seminar about the current movie industry in Hong Kong, China and Taiwan. One of the speakers at the seminar actress Susan Shaw Yum-yum, swore multiple times when she talked about Hong Kong’s current situation. Tsao, on the other hand, was very clam and continued to talk about the history of Hong Kong’s movie industry humorously. After the seminar, Tsao poured his discontent with Hong Kong as a society, its movie industry, and the political environment.
He started the interview by talking about the first movie he directed, Love, Search, Bewildered – a Hong Kong produced movie about love and relationships.
“The economic problems in Hong Kong have twisted the relationship between men and women – lack of sexual harmony. To Hong Kong women, having a property is the first on the list when it comes to marriage. I think that love is sacred, but in a twisted society like Hong Kong, the sacredness of love is being tarnished,” Tsao said. His new movie is about three different relationships and it started from the 4th June 1989 Tiananmen massacre, all the way to 1997 sovereignty handover. The movie in fact addresses the hardship Hong Kong has endured over the past 25 years and the changes of Hong Kong people’s mentality.
Tsao’s sarcastic style has a lot of supporters “My style is largely due to my upbringing – a west meets east cultural environment, experience from authoritarian and freedom, old and young. Some relatives of mine are from the Republic of China era (Kuo Min Tang era). These all contribute to how I view things. I have witnessed Hong Kong gone through a civilised era, from an exquisite era to a rough one.”
So, is Hong Kong at its rock bottom? “I wouldn’t say that, but Hong Kong has definitely entered a stage of disintegration. That’s why I hope to detail reality of Hong Kong via a bunch of made up characters in a movie.” His view comes across pessimistic. He thinks that The Way We Dance is a good movie, but does not reflect the reality of Hong Kong. “How could the younger generation be happy in this environment?” He hopes that Hong Kongers can face the desperate situation at present before believing in dreams, “I think we all have to face the reality, as there is no use to pretend that we are happy. We have to admit that we are living in a miserable world. One must stop deceiving oneself before refusing to accept one’s destiny. If you are in fact living in a world of tragedy, how could you fool yourself that you’re living a life of a comedy? We have to admit that there is no more hope and then to understand why there isn’t any hope. I am not asking people to kill themselves after understanding the reality.”
“Pessimists do not need to commit suicide. We have to locate Hong Kong’s cancer cells! If you say there is no cure, then what is the positive way of resolving the situation? If everyone believes that there is a cure somewhere and try their very best to save it (Hong Kong), a fatal problem could still be resolved in the end. However, you must first admit that it is fatal and stop denying and deceiving yourself. Correct?”
Everyone talks about dreams, but dreams does not always come true, “Nowadays, the government (in China) tells you that there are reforms and the country will get better, whoever in power will be beneficial to the country, and there is no need to turn to democracy. They are creating a dream that is essentially a bubble, and you (Hong Kongers) deceive yourself and feel all positive about it? My movie aims at telling people that these are all illusions. I wanted to strip off all the disguise of this bubble and expose the reality to the people.” The people believed that Xi Jinping is different from other presidents of China, but he recently made a remark which goes “internet will destroy the party (CCP) and the country” – it this not enough a wake up call? There is a chance to find a cure, but one must realise that he is in a desperate situation and stop believing in the so call dreams (this could possibly be referring to Xi Jinping’s “China Dream” comment) blindly.
Commenting on the HKTV rally and Hong Kong people’s desire for more options in broadcasting channels, “for two months, everyone said that the government would definitely issue a license to Ricky Wong (founder of HKTV), but I said it is impossible. Simply think about the Communist Party’s mentality, and then think about Ricky Wong’s character and dream (a TV channel for the people of Hong Kong) and the number of followers he has got. Communist Party will definitely not issue a license to him. This is reality! We must stop fantasising. I’m not asking people to give up. All I’m asking is that people should understand the reality and think about what to do next.”
Taiwan went through all sorts of political reforms and unrest. Taiwanese thought they had hope, but found out eventually that it’s far from the truth, and they have now finally waken up. “Exactly, Hong Kongers’ optimism is similar to that of Americans, who believe that ‘tomorrow is another day’. However, Americans are optimistic in that sense because they live in a modern, free and civialised world. I grew up in England, and I think that British are not blindly optimistic – British always see things with a slight pessimistic view, in other words, they are optimists who are not blind.”
Hong Kong’s localism is booming, is Tsao’s movie riding on this trend? Tsao said, “I always am a localist. I am Hong Konger! If you have to say that I am Chinese, then I am a Chinese of Republic of China (China under Kuo Min Tang’s rule) – these two Chinas are very different. My parents came to Hong Kong during the Kuo Min Tang era, most of my relatives were the same. I moved to Britain when I was 16 or 17. I returned to Hong Kong after 16 to 17 years, and found out that all those Kuo Min Tang era people have passed away and I could no longer find the ‘old China’ in Hong Kong (it had become modern and relatively civialised).”
The worst thing is after 1997, many Hong Kongers have left. “That’s why I have to find the identification of Hong Kong culture. Why do I keep talking about Britain? Simply because this (culture) never changes in Britain, the subtle human touch and friendliness does not change in Britain. I am doubtful about this so called global village that we are living in. China is doomed! Look at those historic monuments have all been torn down, there is no belief left either. During the 30 years long economic reform and ‘open up’ in China, damages that have been done to historic monuments are far worse than that during the 10-year long Cultural Revolution. I find it terrifying. The largest loss is the loss of propriety, righteousness, integrity and honour – Chinese culture used to emphasise on the study and appreciation of literature and etiquette, this has gone too!”
“You call me Chinese? I cannot identify myself with those uncivialised Chinese who shout their buzz-cut-heads off at anyone. Those Chinese I can identify myself with are those who think freely, kind and good, but have all been arrested by the government! If you call this localism, so be it.”
The most worrying thing is the “New Hong Konger” theory. There are Hong Kongers only, if you immigrate to Hong Kong, you have to learn to become a Hong Konger. “There are people who are trying to polarise Hong Kong, but I am not one of them. What are New Hong Kongers and what are Old Hong Kongers? If these two terms really exist, will the next step be ‘getting rid of the old’? What are the reasons for creating these terms? Before Hong Kongers can reject the ‘New Hong Konger’ theory, those who created this term have already planned to force Hong Kongers out of the picture!”
Tsao said that he has never seen Hong Kongers being so angry, “the situation took a turn to the worst in the recent two to three years. I talked about Yellow Peril over a decade ago in an RTHK radio programme. I said that Chinese will be rejected by others, and then listeners faxed me comments saying that my view is too extreme and generalised Chinese. We can see now, can’t we?”
He remembers vividly the day he was at Kai Tak Airport when he was a teenager on his way to Britain, “when one reaches a certain age, there is a sudden moment of clarity. You see things differently when you are 50 years old, not the same as when you are 25. I feel that the clock is ticking, or that China is going to collapse, even Hong Kong and the world are withering. The western world with Obama and Cameron as leaders, there is no direction.”
In the past, Hong Kongers are optimistic, but now they are consumed by their worry over formula milk powder and school places for their children and become very angry, “have we ever seen Hong Kongers this angry? I dare say never. I have never seen such a wide and high degree of resentment against Mainland Chinese. This is not Hong Kongers’ problem, but Communist Party’s. They are the one that have to reflect of their behaviours. In their (Communist China’s) eyes, there are only ‘Hong Kong troubles’ and ‘Taiwan troubles’ but they would never admit any ‘China troubles’. The truth, however, those troubles did not raise in Hong Kong and Taiwan, not even the western world, but generated by China itself. If one still believes that China will be better and its GDP will continue to raise, he really is troubled!”
“I am so pessimistic that I do not think universal suffrage will save Hong Kong. It is too late! Sending those brainwashed individuals to Hong Kong guarantees that a leader who has the best interest of Hong Kong in heart will loss in any democratic election. You are confident that you can educate them? Maybe that’s possible ten years ago, but not anymore, simply because there are many Hong Kongers who proactively betray Hong Kong.”
The editor of this article edited the piece massively because of the cultural references and sarcasms used in the interview – to avoid any loss of translation. A lot of the references to Chip Tsao’s movie has been cut out as the article would not flow well at all in English with substantial references to the movie. The editor tried to keep the essences of this article with a focus on the general sentiments and core issues in Hong Kong.