Forced Into a Corner

Ever since I learned about the heinous cleaver attack on Ming Pao ex-Editor Kevin Lau, there’s been this tight knot weighing down on my heart. Prior to this incident, I had been trying to detach myself little by little from engaging in writing or speaking about current affairs in Hong Kong due to a daily-deepening feeling of powerlessness about my hometown’s fast deterioration from a sophisticated international metropolis into a crass, soulless, xenophobic and parochial Chinese city. What’s more troubling is the fact that the sea change has come by involuntarily from Hong Kongers’ standpoint. It has come in the form of more and more oppressive tactics, either overtly or deviously, being thrust down Hong Kong’s throat by the Central Government and the submissive puppet-like Leung Chun Ying administration.

In recent days, the noose-tightening seems to be reaching an apex.

First there was the HKTV licensing controversy. Up to now, the Leung government still hasn’t come up with a shred of logical reason behind its decision not to grant HKTV, whose boss Ricky Wong is known for his liberal views, the free-to-air TV license. Meanwhile, the managing director of government’s consultant firm lost her job for shining a not-so-friendly light on Leung Chun Ying’s public statement. Was it a coincidence or was it a high-handed maneuver behind the scene? It’s anyone’s guess.

Then there came news of Ming Pao replacing its Chief Editor Kevin Lau with a more docile counterpart from Malaysia, apparently under some kind of political pressure. [This seems to foreshadow Lau’s unfortunate tragedy and the two incidents might be linked by a common motive. As for speculation on the motive behind the vicious attack, please refer to Asia Sentinel’s story on the front page.]

Then we heard that a popular, sharp and inquisitive radio talk show host Lee Wai Ling got abruptly fired from Commercial Radio at a time when the station’s license is up for renewal.

These three events were enough to create a sensitive perception within the Hong Kong media that freedom of the press, as professional journalists understand it, is teetering on the brink of collapse.

Some time in between the above incidents, the Leung government, with either support or order from the Central Government, chose obtusely to pander to the tourism industry with promises to do anything that would please Mainland tourists and/or shoppers and to obstinately refuse to control the number of individual-scheme incoming tourists, despite thundering protests by the Hong Kong public. The Mainland assumes the stance that it is doing Hong Kong’s economy a big favor and thus Hong Kongers, instead of whining about congestion, should really be thankful for such a benevolent act. In other words, Hong Kongers should bend over backwards to welcome bigger and bigger hordes of Mainland tourists even if the city is already bursting at the seams in terms of capacity and their normal lives have been callously disrupted.

When a spirited few tried to vent their anger over government’s dismissive attitude by calling Mainlanders names (like “locusts”), it was considered a sacrilegious sin and even troubled Mr. Chow from EOC to investigate whether racism is involved (LOL!). Some people have obviously forgotten that Mainlanders were equally capable of name-calling (like who called whom “dogs”?). So, what’s the big deal? Why has this innocuous little incident incensed the Central Government so much that its mouthpiece had to carry on with its tongue-lashing for several days in a row? The key problem here seems to be that the Mainland is getting more and more arrogant and condescending towards Hong Kong (because China is now an economic superpower?), exhibiting a total lack of regard or respect, and a deliberate misunderstanding, towards Hong Kongers’ feelings, opinions and views.

Against such a backdrop, news broke that the mild-mannered and respected media professional Kevin Lau was viciously attacked in broad daylight with life-threatening wounds. Any fair-minded person would be disgusted with such pre-meditated atrocious crime. I, who have kept silent for a while, was enraged to the point that I had to thrash out my anger on (I was going to say paper, but then realized I would be posting the text in cyberspace) my blog. There is no doubt in my mind that there is a “master” behind the perpetrators, whose motive I would speculate is to gag Lau or to punish him or both. Even putting aside the issue of press freedom and freedom of expression, this is a blatantly barbaric act that can’t be tolerated in a civilized and law-abiding society like Hong Kong (although it is inclining towards its northern neighbor). All Hong Kongers should unite in sending this message across and in pressing the Hong Kong Police to find and bring the real culprits to justice.

If evidence does point to our freedom of expression and of the press being the epicenter of the wicked crime, I would say to Hong Kongers: “Please don’t pretend to be asleep any longer. It’s time to wake up voluntarily and defend your own rights. No one else can do it for you.”

My thoughts go out to Mr. Lau and his family members and I wish Mr. Lau a full and speedy recovery.

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