Public Eye

In Hong Kong, ‘white terror’ is whatever you want it to be

Term now has nothing to do with historical meaning, Michael Chugani argues, citing recent clash between Carrie Lam and John Tsang

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 14 March, 2017, 3:00pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 14 March, 2017, 3:00pm

What exactly is white terror? Don’t ask. Just remember that in Hong Kong, its historical meaning of political jailings and heads being lopped off has no relevance. Here, its meaning is ever-shifting. It can mean whatever you want. Former chief secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang, our self-proclaimed media freedom defender, cried foul two years ago when the media revealed that Apple Daily founder Jimmy Lai Chee-ying had given her a HK$3 million donation. She termed the revelation white terror.

Democracy camp stalwart Martin Lee Chu-ming likewise called it white terror when it was revealed that he too had received money from Lai. It was white terror when the left-wing media assailed former University of Hong Kong law dean Johannes Chan Man-mun as being unfit to be the school’s pro-vice-chancellor.

So, what is not white terror? Well, it is not white terror when you want it to be free speech. Chief executive hopeful Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor learned that the hard way last Sunday during a forum for the three candidates. Foolishly trying to mimic the tactics of hypocrites, she described as white terror the sickening online attacks on her supporter Josephine Siao Fong-fong, an icon of Hong Kong’s golden age of Cantonese cinema.

Rival candidate John Tsang Chun-wah immediately mocked Lam, describing the attacks as free speech rather than white terror. The audience of mostly Tsang supporters applauded. Let’s try to understand what kind of free speech Tsang was defending that elicited such applause. Siao suffers from a hearing problem. Netizens mocked her for not only being deaf, but blind and brainless for supporting Lam.

If that is free speech, then why was it white terror for the left-wing media to attack Johannes Chan as being unfit for the job of pro-vice-chancellor? Why was it white terror to reveal that Lai had donated money to democracy camp leaders? If John Tsang doesn’t think it is white terror for netizens to mock Siao as deaf, blind, and stupid, would he at least call it cyberbullying? Could he please clarify if cyberbullying is also free speech? Who knows, his answer may elicit more applause.

I am befuddled as to why netizens cyberbullied Siao, a jewel of Cantonese movies, for supporting Lam but applauded silver screen icon Chow Yun-fat for supporting Tsang. Could it be that Beijing prefers Lam instead of Tsang as chief executive? Go on, take a guess.