Culture Club

As Hong Kong lawmakers plan copyright bill, can young people teach old seafood new tricks?

Lawmakers and youth must reach an agreement on copyright law

PUBLISHED : Friday, 11 December, 2015, 9:52pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 12 December, 2015, 2:48am

Hong Kong is best known for its outside-the-box Cantonese slang. And the one that grabs my attention the most lately is “old seafood”.

“Old seafood” obviously isn’t referring to seafood that is old, aged or stale. It doesn’t even have anything to do with seafood to begin with. The pronunciation of “old seafood” in English in fact resembles the Cantonese sound of lo see fut, which actually refers to the body part that is much more localised than buttock but I can’t write that word here. Essentially it refers to an ignorant, arrogant older person who occupies top positions but thinks they know it all.

The heated debate over the latest copyright bill amendment dubbed “Internet Article 23” — a name derived from the Basic Law’s Article 23 on national security that failed to pass in 2003 — which will resume its second reading at Legco next Wednesday, is to best illustrate why Hong Kong’s young people are so angry with the city’s old seafood.

The debate centres around whether the 2014 copyright bill is the Leung Chun-ying government’s measure to clampdown on freedom of speech and creations in the name of protecting copyright owners and fostering the growth of cultural and creative industries.

The bill has stirred public outcry, especially among youngsters who are habitual Internet users and love to express themselves by creating derivative works based on copyrighted pieces such as pictures, films and songs.

I’m not planning to go into details, but the ceaseless debates have exposed vast cultural and generational gaps between young people who thrive on the Internet and their senior counterparts who are running our society.

Over the past week, it was discovered that the “honourable” lawmakers who are supposed to debate and vote on citizens’ behalf at Legco on the copyright bill — which includes amendments to tackle online piracy — actually know very little about not just the details of the bill but also the behaviour of young people online.

A while ago, Christopher Chung Shu-kan of the pro-establishment Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong disclosed in a Legco meeting that he could not distinguish the difference between downloading and streaming.

Just this past week, Emily Lau of the Democratic Party was captured on camera saying that she didn’t know anything about livestreaming videogame play (which could put players at risking themselves breaching the copyright law).

Tony Tse Wai-chuen, lawmaker of architectural, surveying and planning functional constituency, thought sharing altered pictures on social media was referring to some kind of survey plan.

At least the Liberal Party’s Vincent Fang Kang, lawmaker of wholesale and retail functional constituency, honestly admitted the vast generation gap between the lawmakers and the young generation and hoped youngsters could enlighten him. After all, the average age of lawmakers is about 60.

In fact, age is just a number. It’s the old seafood mentality that is problematic. When the decision on passing a law that will affect tonnes of youngsters rests in the hands of these old seafood who thought they knew it all, how can these young people trust the lawmakers and the government that they will make the right decision?

Even the Chief Executive has gotten himself into copyright trouble by uploading a video of him singing a Canto-pop classic by Hong Kong rock band Beyond on Facebook and his office had to embarrassingly clear the copyright with rights owners after netizens made fun of him.

It is time for the old seafood to lower their guards, be humble, and pay attention to what young people are saying — the kids are much smarter than many of the rest of us in the digital age.