Apr 15, 2010|
I had not been particularly fussed about the idea of enacting a racial equality bill in Hong Kong. I thought it would only end in judicial squabbles of questionable utility, say if, for example, a locally born Indian HongKonger were turned down for a date with a Cantonese woman. Or it would result in a mildly more boring Chinese media, which would only report the skin color of those busted in a police crackdown on drug traffickers at Chungking Mansion while withholding their nationalities as required by law.
I realized just how biased I was after hearing what Condoleezza Rice, former US Secretary of State, got while delivering a speech at the Chinese University during her private trip to Hong Kong last month. A Chinese student, apparently a local “liberal,” shouted “shame” at the female African-American politician, in an attempt to rub her nose in the dirt over the unpopular Iraq War.
Used to such embarrassment, Rice reacted gracefully by underlining the point that being able to raise a dissident voice in front of a political authority is the very essence of democracy.
It’s the fashion for western college students to shout abuse or throw shoes at visiting politicians. But is cloning that kind of sensational newsflash drama in Hong Kong barking up the wrong tree and inadvertently taking the mickey out of Hong Kong people? Thanks to the US invasion of Iraq, in which Rice was one of the main culprits, the Iraqi people are now able to elect their president and government through universal franchise. For denigrating this accomplishment, it is the people of the host city, rather than the guest, who should feel more shameful. The student could have at least taken the time to search for and employ a more inventive word than the overused “shame.”
Consider Lee Wing-tat, a legislator who turned up in 1984 at an official banquet hosted by then-Governor Ted Youde for then-Foreign Secretary of Britain, Geoffrey Howe. Pissed off at the British “betrayal” of Hong Kong, Lee startled everyone in the room by yelling a frank “bullshit!” at a bewildered Howe, who was speaking of taking up responsibility for the people of the colony.
Three years ago, Bill Clinton gave a speech at the University of Hong Kong. Even though he was legally
responsible for the murder of three Chinese diplomats by ordering the bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade in 1996, the former head of American imperialism never got an angry shame-shouting reception from the fawningly enchanted academic audience, who lifted the roof of Loke Yew Hall.
The difference in the degree of hospitality invited to these visiting American politicians is slightly intriguing. Either the Chinese University of Hong Kong needs a party commissar to see to some political correction, or Hong Kong badly needs its racial equality law in order to learn the actual meaning of the word “shame.”