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  • Dec 20, 2014
  • Updated: 12:04pm
NewsHong Kong

Documentary director Matthew Torne says Hong Kong is 'still a colony'

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 06 April, 2014, 5:46am
UPDATED : Sunday, 06 April, 2014, 5:46am

The director of a fly-on-the-wall documentary film that follows a year of protest by two young Hong Kong activists said last night that the city it depicted was as much a colony today as it was under British rule.

British filmmaker Matthew Torne's Lessons in Dissent charts a tumultuous year of protest by Joshua Wong Chi-fung and Ma Jai two student activists who rose to prominence in 2012.

Speaking after a screening at Metroplex Cinema in Kowloon Bay, Torne offered some insight into his motivation for making the HK$3 million film, which casts its two main subjects in a positive light: "I'd argue that Hong Kong is still now a colony. Sovereign rule has simply moved from London to Beijing.

"It's as if Hong Kong people are children that need to be looked after and can't make decisions themselves. That's what colonialism does,'' Torne said at a post-screening question-and-answer session.

Wong, the outspoken leader of the Scholarism movement against national education, and Ma, a more understated social activist, were both 15 when the film was made. They are former classmates from Ap Lei Chau. Their contrasting styles drive the film's narrative.

The film features original footage Torne and his team filmed of Wong and Ma during key demonstrations and events in 2012. They include the June 4 candlelight vigil, the July 1 pro-democracy march, and major protests against the introduction of national education such as the nine-day occupation of the government headquarters .

"The response has been overwhelmingly positive," Torne said outside the cinema last night.

Wong was 14 years old when he started Scholarism, the student-led movement against the proposed introduction of national education, while Ma dropped out of school at the same age to fight for social justice.

The year 2012 was a particularly tumultuous one in Hong Kong, with the election of a new chief executive and legislative councillors as well as the once-in-a-decade leadership change on the mainland.

After the screening, Torne said he had edited the film with a Hong Kong audience in mind, not an international one.

"At the end of the day, this film is for you," he said. "We wanted to make a film that was a genuine Hong Kong movie about Hong Kong for Hongkongers."

Torne made the 97-minute film from 200 hours of raw footage. He makes no bones about his opinion.

"I believe in democracy and it is a continuing, developing thing," Torne said.

"It doesn't matter if you're Li Ka Shing or a guy sleeping rough in Sham Shui Po, your voice is equal and should be heard."

Torne says his next project will focus on the infamous case of corrupt police chief Peter Fitzroy Godber, which was the catalyst for the establishment of the Independent Commission Against Corruption in 1974.


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Excuse me, how is HK different from say Beijing, Shanghai or London and Paris? They are cities within their own countries, are they not? Or is Moscow a colony of Russia?
Yeah, the only thing that has changed in HK's colonial status is that there are new colonial masters now.
With all due respect to Mr Torne, a quick Google search reveals that he looks like he could have barely finished secondary school by the time colonialism ended in Hong Kong.

Furthermore, he is but an amateur self-declared film maker with no other films to his name than the project mentioned here. Hardly an opinion worth paying attention to.

A cynic would say that Mr Torne is taking a page out the good old book of How To Promote Your Book/Film/Product For Free By Making Controversial Statements.
Eh, it is totally different. HK is not a city within its own country. I have to take an international flight from China to get there, pass customs and immigration, use different money, and deal with a totally different legal and taxation system. Some countries on this planet are less different from each other than HK is from its colonial master from the mainland.
Absolutely, Wu BangGuo said it openly, " you will get only what Beijing gives you" which is how the Chinese Communist Party interpret "high degree of autonomy" !
Thorne needs to study what was written in the Sino-British Joint Declaration signed in 1984. It did not say Hong Kong could go independent but only Hong Kong could keep the existing social system unchanged for at least 50 years. It is not the territory that still looks like a colony but it is some people who still think and act in a way that they were living in one. They tend to ignore the fact that nowadays, the leader of local administration is no longer someone sent from place some ten thousands km away from the territory but someone who was born, educated and works here in Hong Kong. They tend to ignore the fact that nowadays, the sovereignty of Hong Kong has been returned to China. Perhaps Thorne is trying to project his feeling about Scotland towards London in his own country.
To those ignorant three above, all you have quoted are just illustrations of one country two system. Are you saying that you want one country one system in Hong Kong. How dare you.
By the way, don't compare London and Paris with Hong Kong. If you want to elect your major, go to live in London or Paris. By the way, do you have a British or French passport?
British filmmaker Matthew Torne, absolutely is correct. I give him credit for his in depth knowledge about Hong Kong which is so unsure for a foreigner.
I will add that as long as LKS is alive, Hong Kong remains a colony of the British way. Seventeen years since the handover, there is a slight sign that LKS’s political power in Hong Kong is receding by his vehement self-defense by attacking the current different Hong Kong.
I wish Hong Kong of its 7 millions well. To not moving on with the time is only a luxury even LKS has found it not easy.
British rule of Hong Kong was benevolent and inclusive. The Local population served in the government, civil service and armed forces protecting the colony. People in Hong Kong had faith in the governor and believed they would be protected and the colonies interests furthered though UK policies. Beijing is feared and it's military garrison's presence is to send a message to the local population and serves to further no coherent strategic goal. The pro China trolls will dispute this with their CCP inspired re-interpretation of history, but the fact is, people's lives were betters a UK colony, they were happier, the economy was better and the income gap was smaller. Chinese rule has been a disaster and the people of Hong Kong are paying the price.
Is Thorne inferring that Hong Kong is still a colony, but a Chinese colony under Beijing. Why not spend another HK$3mil explaining tomato and tomatoe. Heck...was the HK$3mil taxpayers' money?!



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