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  • Dec 29, 2014
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My Take
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 27 November, 2013, 4:19am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 27 November, 2013, 4:19am

Cultural Revolution label oft misused

It's fascinating how cultural references define us and how we in turn define them. If you mention the '60s, I automatically think Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison and Jimmy Page. So I felt like "a banana" when "an egg" pointed out to me how Western I was when I compared Hong Kong's democratic movement, in a recent column, to the '60s ethos of youthful rebellion, participatory democracy and idealistic flower children howling against the corruption and illegitimacy of "the establishment".

As my British friend, who is in many ways more "Chinese" than me, points out, for the vast majority of Chinese, the '60s would have meant the dreaded Cultural Revolution, Mao's Red Guards and a decade of chaos and destruction. But he observed that the comparison still holds in ways I did not intend it. Since the handover, the pan-democrats have been repeatedly compared by pro-government lawmakers and Beijing's media mouthpieces to Red Guards and their demand for full suffrage to the Cultural Revolution. It seems that while in the West, "Munich" is often cited to tar and feather your opponent; in Hong Kong, the Cultural Revolution serves a similar function.

Dr Jennifer Eagleton, a specialist in Hong Kong political development, has extensively documented how such references were used to denounce the pan-dems. When "Long Hair" Leung Kwok-hung was sworn in at the Legislative Council in 2004, he was accused of "taking the oath, Red Guard style". The four founder-barristers of the Civic Party - Margaret Ng, Ronny Tong, Alan Leong and Audrey Eu - have been called the "Gang of Four".

"Basically, fast democratisation = chaos and a CR-like situation," said Eagleton, who is firmly in the pan-democratic camp.

Not always, though. Earlier this year, Canning Fok Kin-ning, the boss of Hutchison Whampoa, compared the strike by cargo dockers fighting for their livelihood and working conditions to the Cultural Revolution. It has also been used by former chief secretary Anson Chan, who once accused Beijing of using cultural-revolutionary tactics. Like those Westerners who have misappropriated "Munich" as a historical warning, we are in danger of doing the same with the Cultural Revolution.


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I had to help my aunt to bring basic living necessities like oil, salt & sugar to my uncle in Dongguan (a 24 hour trip) during the Great Leap Forward. A couple of years later came the Cultural Revolution. The Red Guards waited at the train station in Guanzhou. They were screaming at the western poisoned visitors from Hong Kong. One girl probably my age, 15 then, came to me with a pair of scissors and cut the front of my shoes off claiming it was too bourgeois.
The Cultural Revolution was a vicious act. It blows my mind that the pro-establishment camp would label the pan-democrats with the same act that was instilled the very party they slave to.
The lively use of history, misappropriate as it may, by the masses are fine with me. Historians may disagree but the collective effort has the power to distill the spirit of a moment in history in matching the present allegorically.
It is clear that the Cultural Revolution has become synonymous to anything described as undesirable which could be applied and used by even people of opposite in ideology to each other. If often enough, it may become ideology free. CR as a term will survive without splitting hair of its historical origin, So, much to the dismay to the historians.
A very nice picture showing happy faces dotting here and there. Was the framed Mao's portrait a cover from the TIME? But Timeless.
I reckon this topic deserves a longer treatment as a feature article, if Alex/SCMP or anyone else is game.
Let's have this discussion across the border (or Frontier, as the neo-Maoist HKSAR government prefers to refer to it)...Alex, find a newspaper in China to raise your concerns.....
Such mushy thinking and use of language results in zero communication. Perhaps that is what is desired. Perhaps that is how the opponents of democracy wish to destroy the movement.
Here is a summary profile from a very reliable source and supported by articles appearing in the SCMP during the past 12 months: “1968 and The People’s Republic of China features The Cultural Revolution, staring Mao Zedong and his worshipful mob of hate-infused teenagers wearing red armbands. These officially sanctioned and encouraged Red Guards terrorize, torture, and murder millions of Chinese citizens suspected of undesirable family backgrounds: landlords, rich peasants, counterrevolutionaries, bad elements, rightists, and capitalists.”
We saw quite a bit of CR tactics at the Star Ferry terminal in TST with the anti-Falong Gong terrorists --- and this "government" did nothing to enforce the law about putting up wonton posters on the streets and severe obstruction of the passage ways around the Star Ferry terminal...
The pot always calls the kettle black.
HKSAR government Maoist? This is a very interesting lable to pin on the HK establishment. I'd love to see government-sponsored communes set up in HK and 80% of the richest 1%'s wealth confiscated, so that the HK will become a more egalitarian society. But would it? I think even Bo Xilai would not dare it on the mainland. And he is labled a Maoist. True Maoism is a rare ideological calling these days. I for one would be happy to meet and befriend such a beast.
At least 20-30% of HKers really should sign up for communism. Otherwise, they will forever live as slaves to HK's monied classes.


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