I see you in me – Guangzhou- Hong Kong Support Cantonese Action

2010-08-03 - michelle

On 25th of July, a “Support Cantonese Crowd Action” has taken place in in Guangzhou Jiangnanxi subway. Although it was officially classified as “unlawful assembly” and "Ying Ye", the 18-year-old founder, was brought to “drink tea” (by the Mainland police) twice, it did not prevent the Guangzhou people from supporting Cantonese. There were more than 2000 participants joined that action.

The number of protesters is no surprise to those who pay attention to China news. It is because in recent years, Guangdong Province, especially in industrial areas, constantly has the thousands of mass events. There are cases when workers even block the roads in order to force employers to response their demands. However, this action is similar to those new social movements take place in Hong Kong recently. That is the mass has got rid of their own direct interest, but to voice out and defend their Guangzhou local culture. The most recent mass incident happened at the Guangzhou city center was the 2005 anti-Japanese demonstrations. Yet, it had the city government acquiescence. However, this support Cantonese action is directly attacking the Government. The implications is completely different.

Without freedom of speech, mainlanders have to play "Edging ball" in order to express dissatisfaction with government policies. During this action, the enthusiastic participants were also worried the government's warning will scare away participants. Indeed they had been scared away, however -“Nobody said we cannot take pictures or chat on the spot!” This is how they replied and protected themselves. They always have their own way. In Hong Kong, we also had a “soft zone” during the rally against 2012 political reform. This allowed those did not wish to participate in direct action have space to continue join in meeting.

On 725 Jiangnanxi, we can notice from the pictures that “the surrounding area” is located at the stairs between the mall next to the subway station and the nearby KFC exit. The people were standing at the surrounding area, raising their camera and mobile phone. They seldom joined in when the mass in the square was shouting out the slogan. Some friends who engage in labor work in the Mainland often tell me, “organization” is the government taboo. No groups will take that position. Individuals will only join the action in the form of “surrounding crowd”, “taking a walk” and “taking photos”. Therefore, the loudspeaker we’ve often seen in Hong Kong public meetings of course did not appear at 725. The mass arrived at the scene was only waiting for someone who willing to take one step forward. Perhaps it maybe a man wearing “speech is innocence” T-shirt and raise a very rough black and white A4 photocopy of slogan. It will create a stir, hundreds of people will take photos immediately. In-depth review and discussion can only continue as “edging ball” in internet, hardly occur at the site.

Looking at the independent media coverage, people lifted slogan with “allow many flowers blossom, but can’t monopolized by one"[只當百花齊放,豈可一桶糨糊」(即一統江湖,原於上海方言)], “Putonghua bulldozer is here, pay attention[推普機出沒注意]”. “Putonghua bulldozer” refers to the Guangzhou government has vigorously promoted “Putonghua campaign” in recently years, especially at the education level. Guangzhou primary schools have completed prohibition usage of Cantonese, even after school. Interestingly, the idea of “bulldozer”- what we (Hong Kong people) often use to mock the Government and the Urban Renewal Authority who try hard to eliminate the community. The “Putonghua bulldozer" also aims at eradication of Cantonese the local culture.

Support Cantonese and defend the Lingnan culture

Hong Kong people may be surprised of this incident, but people in Guangzhou believe Ji ke-guang’s speech has merely lighted the fuse of the incident. In recent years, the Guangzhou government keeps on demolishing the old houses (such as En-ning Road); the city transformation plan has already torn down nine villages by force; in primary schools students are prohibited to speak their mother tongue Cantonese during recess; the Metro company planned to cancel the Cantonese announcement during the ride - eventually the decision was withdraw under the huge public pressure. However, obviously there are less and less media coverage in Cantonese. All these happenings have contributed to the underlying causes - Guangzhou people believe that the Government would like to extinct their local culture. In March 2008, the Guangzhou Municipal Government recommended demolition of a 270-year-old pier. A large number of netizens criticized the plan and it was canceled at last. This year in February, Guangzhou government announced it would spend 10 billion Renminbi as well as 10 years to compete the basically transformation of her old towns zones. The forced demolition and transformation will affect 600,000 people so as the three major old district zones. Since then, some groups such as “Old City Concern Group”, “Ming-Sound Action Team [聲•鳴行動小組]”, “En-ning Road civil concern groups”, “Yue Lai Yue Zheng group [粵來粵正小組]” have emerged. In this year, they mainly gather people and hold activities in the old town districts through domestic social networking sites. For example, “Old City Concern” group organizes old town photos-taking weekly. It also arranged Guangzhou people to sing Cantonese songs at July 11 in Guangdong People's Park. After 725, it continues to hold exhibitions and record oral history for the En-ning Road residents. Therefore, Guangzhou people not only defend Cantonese, but also Guangzhou's local culture.

On 725, many young participants agreed that Cantonese was the important part of Lingnan culture. Language always has a political significance. Dialect is the power of discourse for local. The stronger the local dialect, the stronger the people's local identity, leads to the greater the threat of Communist rule. Such as Chen Yun (a Hong Kong columnist) says, Cantonese is originated from Tang Dynasty as well as the influence of English and American style and culture. If compared with Putonghua, the Communist Party language, the later has much shorter language and historical roots. The narration of Lingnan culture is rare in Hong Kong. What is its contents? He says the contents of the Lingnan culture is a cultural system passing down from the Tang Dynasty, that is an elegant language and way of life, together with the cultural exchange between Qing Dynasty and the Western culture. It is both ancient and modern. Hong Kong was also known as the Lingnan culture. But after the communist rule began in 1949, the communication between two places was cut off. Since then we, Hong Kong, called it Hong Kong culture.

People watch our action

Guangzhou people Ah Wan joined the 725 action. When he noticed Inmediahk.net reporter come from Hong Kong, he said, “The impact seems not as strong as the Choy Yuen Village anti High Speed Railway.” More unexpected was, Inmediahk.net reporter found that a few Jiangnanxi participants were listening to Hong Kong online radio (Currently, a number of Hong Kong online media can be watched without censorship such as “Our radio”. Yet, “My radio” and Inmediahk.net must be “over the wall (censorship) in order to listen/ watch). These showed they desire for no censored information.

We (Hong Kong people) has engaged in local movement in recent years and not thought about the impact on the Mainland. Miss Liu accepted the inmedia’s interview at 725. She thinks that Guangzhou has long been a bastion of Chinese civil society. The common language, Cantonese, of Guangzhou and Hong Kong makes their cultural and political identity more closely. The free atmosphere in Hong Kong has infected the Mainland which made her feel that the suppress of Cantonese equal to suppress of dissidents voices. Her words remind me two weeks ago, a Mainland human rights lawyer Teng Biao visited Hong Kong to participate the book launch of “Direct Action”. After that he had a meal with audience. We talked about the link between Hong Kong and the mainland campaign. He said he began to feel the importance of Hong Kong for the development of the Chinese civil society. If the Hong Kong civil society cannot be defended, Mainland will only be even worse.

Tomorrow, August 1st, please join the first time Guangzhou and Hong Kong synchronous linkage assembly.

Chinese Link: http://www.inmediahk.net/node/1007858

Written by Bobo Yip [1-8-2010]
Translate by Michelle Fong

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