Sunday, June 21, 2015

Dragon Boats Ain't Enough to Scare off the Dragon

June 20 is Duan Wu Jie, or Dragon Boat Festival, in commemoration of Chinese poet and minister Qu Yuan, who drowned himself in Miluo River in 278 BC after being exiled by his King of the Chu Kingdom in the Warring States period. King Chuhuai had believed in other ministers' slandering of Qu who loved him and was very loyal and dutiful to the royal family . Locals loved Qu so much and were so worried his corpse would be eaten up by fish that they invented Zong Zi - sticky rice wrapped in bamboo leaves, and dropped them in the river to feed the fish. The theory was, if the fish was stuffed with sticky rice, they wouldn't eat the corpse. And the locals raced dragon boats and beat drums to scare off ghosts and, eh, more fish.  (Qu Yuan on Wikipedia)

More than 2,000 years later, zong zis are still eaten at every Duan Wu and dragon boats raced. Well, not quite -- on June 15, hundreds of riot police arrested five villagers and beat up numerous people when villagers were practicing for a dragon boat race in Tonghu village in Xiaogang town, Jiangxi province, for no apparent reason. Thousands of villagers and their supporters fought back with oars and rocks. The police retreated. ( Photos and news report: Arrests at Dragon Boat Race )

Today's China is worse, with many prisoners of conscience and more on their way. On June 19, as the trial of lawyer Tang Jingling and his colleagues Wang Qingying and Yuan Xinting went under way in Guangzhou city, police arrested Tang's wife and Wang's wife, as well as their lawyers and supporters who were gathering outside the courtroom.  Interesting: how can any trial go on without the entire defense lawyer team? 

And the police also drove away journalists while bystanders chanted: "Press freedom!". The trio on trial, known as the Three Gentlemen of Guangzhou,  are charged with "incite to subvert state power". They've been detained since May, 2014, ahead of the 25th anniversary of Tiananmen Massacre. What had they been doing? Advocating non-violent resistance by taking peaceful actions such as wearing T-shirts with messages about democracy and meditating on anniversaries of the Massacre. (News report on the court kerfuffle: Chinese Court Pulls Plug on Activists' Subversion Trial Amid Procedural Dispute With Defense )

There's a Chinese saying: "Worry about ancient people" which means a useless act because ancient people are all dead. Oh yeah, I'm not worried about Qu the ancient poet. I'm truly worried about today's people. Now is the Cultural Revolution deja vou all over again. I think of those who committed suicide in the 1960's such as renowned writer Lao She who drowned himself in a lake and one of my uncles who jumped into a river outside a highschool he taught and my great grandfather founded in Guiyang, Guizhou province.

Eating sticky rice, racing dragon boats, committing suicide or advocating non-violent resistance don't seem to be enough -- we're dealing with demons that don't have any conscience, neither do they follow any logic. The worst of all, is that this Communist regime drugs more than 1.3 billion Chinese to believe eating sticky rice and racing dragon boats are all part of the so-called "Chinese culture and tradition". Yes, it's a culture of forgetting. It's a tradition of death and destruction.

Worse still, is that such "tradition" and "culture" have spread to the world, i.e., people who speak up are persecuted. The photo here is of the zong zis made by my friend Su Yutong, who's appealing Bonn Labor Court's decision on June 18 to dismiss her case suing German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle for sacking her last August because of her criticism of DW's appeasement to Beijing and hiring German businessman Frank Sieren who wrote a column whitewashing Tiananmen Massacre and praising the Chinese Communist Party regime.

Su Tweeted on June 20: "I forgot it's Duan Wu, here I make it up by posting this photo of zong zi I made last year. Many thanks to my friends who sent greetings and support. My family said: Su Yutong, we won't do what Qu Yuan did. Live beautifully and play with DW. Don't look at the present. The price to pay for justice is the smallest cost for a human being. (都忘了是端午节了,拿个去年包的粽子图片凑数。谢谢两天来问候和支持的朋友们。家人说:苏雨桐,屈原那事咱可不干,活得漂漂亮的和DW玩下去。别看眼前,正直最后付出的才是最小人生成本!" ( news in Chinese on Su Yutong's case, scroll down for her statement in English )

So, live well, eat zong zi, race dragon boat... My biggest hope is that one day people will start thinking about how sick this is all about and will speak up about it, then rise up and fight with the dragon, just like those dragon boat racing villagers in Jiangxi who fought off the police...

This watercolor (29" x 22") I did in 2011 using myself as a model is a tribute to Qu's poem "Mountain Ghost" as part of his series "Nine Songs" about gods and goddesses of cloud, river, etc, and martyrs, based on sharmans' ceremonial chants and folklores of his time. The poem has been debated for millennia as to what it portrays. To me, it's all about unrequited love -- be it the love for a man, the love for a king, or the love for that long-lost freedom...

Here's my translation of the poem
Mountain Ghost
Qu Yuan (English translated by Rose Tang)
Someone, deep in the mountains
Clad in a canopy of ivy and vines
Her eyes full of spirits and smiles
You admire me for being slender and seductive?
She rides a red leopard, followed by striped lynxes
Her chariot of magnolia arrayed with banners of cassia,
Her cloak made of orchids and adorned with azalea,
Picking fragrant flowers and lost in thoughts.
Live among bamboo groves, I can't see the sky
The road is steep and treacherous
I arrive late and alone
Alone I stand on the mountain top
Clouds gather beneath me
Gloomy and dark is the day
East wind drifts, the rain drips with spirits and souls.
Waiting for the divine one, I forget to go home.
Years go by. Who will now want me?
I pluck the larkspur among the mountains
Rocks piled up high; Vines tangled up everywhere
Lamenting my man, I forget to return home
You, miss me; but you have no leisurely time
Me, on the mountain, amid the aromas of sweet herbs
Drinking from the spring, shaded by pines and cedars
You, think of me, then you hesitate to act
Thunder rumbles, rain darkens
Monkeys cry, apes howl, all night
Wind whistles, trees rattle
I miss my beau
But all I can do is to live in sorrow
And separation.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Sprouts from the Umbrella Revolution

Thousands of people are rallying outside Hong Kong's Legislative Council (LegCo) right now. Most are protesting against a crucial political reform bill that the city's legislators are currently debating and will vote on. If the Beijing-backed bill is passed, the Chinese Communist Party will have the power to choose candidates for Hong Kong residents to vote for chief executive, the top leader. It's a practice dubbed by protesters as "fake democracy" or "fake universal suffrage" and was the key to spark the ‪#‎UmbrellaRevolution‬ last autumn.

While a few groups are showing their support to the bill, many more outside the LegCo complex are saying no to the bill, with placards saying "I want genuine universal suffrage".

Unlike last year's Umbrella Revolution when student groups were major players, the main organizers of today's protest are 12 civil groups formed by professionals from legal, medical, financial and arts sectors. These groups were formed during or after the Umbrella Revolution and it's so nice to watch from afar in cyberspace my friends in the rally. I'm showing off here: I met some of the founders when I camped with protesters at Umbrella Square around the corner from the LegCo complex.

The Umbrella Revolution was never folded. When the police marched in with batons and cranes to bulldoze the tents and arrest unarmed students and civilians on December 11, retired teacher James Hon said to me: "They can clear the site, but they can never clear our hearts!" And I overheard this quote very often in the square: "They don't know what they're burying are the seeds..."

A new leadership, a new direction and a new revolution have been sprouting since then. 2015 is very different.

I met the young dashing lawyer Wilson Leung in the audience as we listened to student leader Joshua Wong gave a speech after wrapping up a hunger strike. Wilson recognized me from Twitter. He had been coming to the Umbrella Square after work almost every evening to listen and mingle. Barely a month after the police cleared the protest site, he and some 60 lawyer friends formed Progressive Lawyers Group 法政匯思 in January.

Wilson puts it nicely in a newly published article "Hong Kong Braces for Fresh Protests" on Vice News, one of the world's largest online news sites:
"One major effect of the Umbrella Movement is that there have been an abundance of civil groups sprouting up to carry on the democracy fight," he said. "Most of the members of these groups were not active in the political scene before the 'Umbrella Movement' but the movement really changed the way we look at Hong Kong, and how we see our own role in its struggle for democracy."

I met Edward Chin when I was standing with a group of journalists to watch and record how student leaders, writers, businessmen, pop stars and legislators were arrested by the police one by one, some were carried in all fours to a prison van.

By then, Edward, a financier and a radio host, had already formed his group, , 2047 Hong Kong Monitor (2047香港監察)​ . He's been very busy since then, from raising funds and organizing Christmas trees for protesters who returned to occupy the sidewalks outside the LegCo and government headquarters, to touring the world telling the Hong Kong story.

Among the camping brigade in the new protest site that protesters named "Tim Mei Village" are a famous trio, I call them the Three Musketeers of Umbrella: the three Uncle Wongs, all surnamed Wong. The Big Wong is 91, the Middle Wong is 78, the Small Wong is 71. All escaped China when the Communist troops took over and they're determined to keep Hong Kong away from the red terror. I've been chatting online with Small Wong黄伯 since I left Hong Kong last December and he has been my secrete correspondent, sending me photos and greetings. Most of the photos here were sent by him just now from the protests.

The Uncle Wong Trio are there right now, receiving media interviews and drumming up support through social meda. Small Wong just wrote on his Facebook: "Those who are finished with work and school, please come here now!" He told me now the crowd of 5,000 is growing and will be many more soon.
In one of my speeches at Umbrella Square two days before the police marched in, I said that I was witnessing a battle between the Beauty and the Beast. And Edward sums it up in the Vice News story: the ongoing battle is "really a matter of Hong Kong versus Beijing."

Though Hong Kong looks severely outnumbered by Beijing, I'm confident the Pearl of the Orient will beat the ugly clumsy monstor from the north, because of these amazing beautiful people, jewels of this majestic city. They are on the right side of history. And humbly, I'm standing with them, from afar.

An interview this morning with Kevin Yam, one of the conveners of the Progressive Lawyers Group (he speaks English at 1:40 mark):

A declaration (in Cantonese) earlier today by the 12 civil groups: