In the past, Cultural Revolution culture has been easy to dismiss. Despite Western fascination will objects that we might call “Mao kitsch”—buttons, statues, and posters—and Chinese nostalgia for Cultural Revolution music or plays, we have written off these cultural products as “just propaganda,” or not really culture at all.
When we teach the Cultural Revolution here in the United States, our textbook version is that Chairman Mao, fearing “revisionism” within his own Communist Party, launched an attack on perceived internal enemies. Our students tend to be most fascinated with the Red Guards, young people who Mao called on to “make revolution” by joining him in an attack on the old world.
On January 14, the trial of Sir Donald Tsang, Hong Kong’s former chief executive who served from 2005 to 2012, was set for January 3 of 2017. This past December, Tsang pleaded not guilty to two counts of misconduct in public office, charges on which he was indicted in October.
That Johannes Chan—Hong Kong University’s dean of the law school—was barred from being appointed a pro-vice-chancellor, has been called the end of academic freedom by lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen, and “a visible litmus test” by Jerome Cohen and Alvin Cheung in the pages of the South China Morning Post.
Last year, the twenty-fifth anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen student movement and its brutal crackdown made major headlines. China-watchers, journalists, and academics commemorated June 4—as the event is called for short—with articles and books, and with lectures and roundtables.
May 17th in Hong Kong marked the opening of a two-week ‘Umbrella Festival,’ a pro-democracy sit-in protest that lasted from September to December 2014. The Umbrella Movement was one of the largest political demonstrations the city had ever seen.
This year, the 43rd annual Hong Kong Arts Festival commissioned a chamber opera in three acts called Datong: The Chinese Utopia. Depicting the life and times of Kang Youwei (1858-1927), a philosopher and reformer of China’s last Qing dynasty, it premiered in the theater of the Hong Kong City Hall.
This week’s “Report on the Recent Community and Political Situation in Hong Kong” underscores the way the Hong Kong government has and continues to portray its position vis-à-vis the Umbrella Movement. Local media reportage has focused on Pan-Democrats and activists’ objections to the way the movement is represented.
A week ago today I sat together with you outside the Chinese University of Hong Kong’s library, a teacher among other teachers, a university member beside students, 13,000 strong. The weeks before had felt quiet.
Last week at Hong Kong’s Chinese University, a crowd gathered around a replica of the statue Goddess of Democracy. Beneath hand-lettered banners calling on fellow students to “shoulder their historic mission,” several generations of student union presidents discussed a proposal to boycott classes. Read more at: https://www.thenation.com/article/what-hong-kongs-occupy-movement-can-learn-history/.
In between memory and forgetting, there is commemoration. Twenty-five years ago this month, a protest in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square ended in tragedy. As historical event, the contours of the Tiananmen student movement have long since entered textbooks in the West.
Last Saturday, April 26, marked the official opening of Hong Kong’s June 4th Museum, the world’s first permanent exhibition on the 1989 Tiananmen student movement. On the eve of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the pro-democracy protests and Beijing’s brutal crackdown, the museum—sponsored by the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements—opened with another kind of protest on its doorstep.