Chip Tsao on left-wing killjoys, a world in chaos and a supernatural experience
He loathes hypocrites, has no qualms about writing anything for money, and puts down critics he says have inferior Chinese skills. The Hong Kong-based columnist, broadcaster, and writer certainly does ‘call a spade a spade’
The Cup Magazine was closed last year and you took ownership of it from January and will continue running the magazine online. What are your plans for it?
I want to work in online media because of the saying by Bertrand Russell that “the whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts”. The world is in chaos now. I want to tackle serious issues. I am interested in the US election, Isis (Islamic State), the effect of US interest rate rises on Hong Kong and China. For the online publication, the first edition will go out at 8am and there will be updates later in the day. It will be news- and commentary-driven. There will be analyses done by me and feature stories.
What do you think about the world right now?
I am very afraid that a third world war will break out. The collapse of Hong Kong and Beijing’s pollution don’t worry me, but I am worried that the world will melt down, which is what is happening. The rise of Donald Trump, Isis, and Maoists in China shows the dominance of extreme right-wing and leftist forces. In the past, [politics was dominated by the] centre right or centre left. Middle-of-the-road forces are lacking now, [similar to the eve of the second world war when populism was on the rise].
In the district council elections last year, you supported the election bid of Joseph Lam Chok, a barrister with an arts degree from England’s Oxford University. Are you a proponent of the concept of elites running Hong Kong?
Yes. The elites in Europe and America now are not up to standard. [Politicians like] Obama, Tony Blair and David Cameron let people down. [Populists like] Donald Trump and Marine Le Pen say such elites have messed up Europe and America over the past 20 years and they should take their place instead. But they are dangerous populists. The fact that elites are not up to standard over the past 20 years doesn’t mean that the world shouldn’t be governed by elites.
Why do you have such a visceral dislike of people with left-wing political views?
When I was in kindergarten, I could make Christmas trees in art classes. There were scenes of the nativity in department stores. Although I am not a Christian, such scenes portray universal love and charity, which I find beautiful. Why can’t we even say Merry Christmas now so as not to offend people from other religions? The acknowledgment of being a Christian is more shameful than saying you are a criminal now. If such a trend continues, the world will be over.
Critics say you adore Western culture and look down upon Chinese culture. Is that so?
I have written about classical Chinese poetry numerous times in my columns. I am a fan of Chinese ink paintings. My Chinese writing skills are top in the city. I have done my duty as an ethnic Chinese. No one is qualified to say that I adore Western culture, as their Chinese is not as good as mine. I speak better Mandarin, Cantonese and Shanghainese than them. My memories of classical Chinese poetry are better than any of my peers. I have read the Dream of the Red Chamber three times. I can discuss with anybody the Four Great Classical Novels and Chinese classical culture. I tried to [invite people to discuss those in public with me], but no one responded. Those government officials whose eyes fill with tears at the sight of the five-star [national] flag and promote national education while sending all their kids overseas for education, they are hypocrites. I loathe hypocrites. I just call a spade a spade.
You do spot-on impersonations of people like Li Ka-shing and Zhang Chunqiao from the Gang of Four during the Cultural Revolution. How can you do that?
I have talent. I have good hearing and am attuned to pronunciation, intonation of speech spoken in different dialects. I like performing personally, too. I believe acting and writing are jobs worthy of respect like the foreigners do, unlike Chinese who only respect people like Jack Ma and Li Ka-shing.
The Obscene Articles Tribunal used to classify your erotic stories in free newspaper Sharp Daily as indecent. Why did you write those things?
There’s a quote in The Godfather movie said by the godfather: everybody has a price. Why couldn’t I write [them when I had] such a [lucrative] offer [from Sharp Daily proprietor Jimmy Lai Chee-ying]? I am not ashamed. I would still write such stories today if people paid me to. It’s a joke that no one writes about sex when so many people write about food. Eating and having sex are basic human nature. It’s again the scourge of the left-wingers who complain about anything and take out all the fun in the world.
You were commissioned by Albert Yeung Sau-shing to write his biography. Critics complained that you took money to write a hagiography. The Emperor Group employed you to give names to their private housing developments. Why did you do that?
I feel proud of it. Yeung’s biography, it’s not a flattering portrait. There was a condition that I had to write about his dark side. So he aired the dirty laundry about how he committed infidelity and how he went to jail. It’s not a hagiography. Some people were upset because they were jealous. There was a rumour that Yeung gave me HK$1 million to write that. So what? Cultured people shouldn’t get so much money for penning people’s biographies? My Chinese skills were learnt from reading 10,000 books. Don’t I need to pay for the books over so many years?
After the Paris terrorist attacks in November, you went to the French capital and met former Hong Kong governor Chris Patten. How was the meeting with him?
Patten took the Eurostar to reach Paris. He’s 70. Carrying two books and pulling his luggage, he got on Eurostar. He has guts, as terrorists might bomb Eurostar any time. We talked about books for a night in the Peninsula.
Twenty years ago you nearly died in a car crash. You were in a coma and had some supernatural experiences. Can you talk about that?
I was in the intensive care unit of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. When people are near death, their hearing capacity will increase by 1,000 times. My heartbeat and pulse became very weak. But they were like a Dolby soundtrack to me. The sound of a hospital worker pulling a cart was like thunder. Hearing is the last sense to go before a person dies. I could hear my parents’ conversation then. They were having an argument about my treatment. After I recovered, I asked them about the conversation. They told me they hadn’t had the conversation in the hospital. The conversation was conducted in a hotel near the hospital, as they had rented a room there for the night. I also knew the same people visited me twice when I was in the ICU. After my recovery, I asked these people why they came to visit me twice wearing the same clothes. They told me only the second meeting actually happened, which means people who are dying can see things that have not happened yet.