As soon as news of Queen Elizabeth II’s death broke, Hongkongers braved the scorching heat and queued for hours outside the British Consulate General in Hong Kong to mourn the loss of the beloved Queen of England. They lay flowers and signed a condolence book prepared by the Consulate.
However, thousands of mainland Chinese netizens condemned a famous Cantonese opera singer for also paying his respects to the late Queen. The actor had to apologize publicly and stressed that he was Chinese and China would always be his motherland.
On Sept. 15, Dr. Law Kar-ying, a well-known Cantonese opera singer and actor, went to the Consulate in Admiralty to pay respects and say farewell the Queen.
Like many Hong Kong citizens, he signed the condolence book and added a message: “under her shelter, Hong Kong has been a heavenly place on earth.”
Controversy Began With a Selfie
Later that day, he took a selfie while outside the Consulate. He then shared the photo on Instagram along with a short eulogy he wrote for the Queen.
“I was seven when The Queen ascended to the throne. In the past 70 years, the Queen had been my elder, watching me grow up and old. Shielded by her majesty, Hong Kong has been a heavenly place on earth. How many elders with such presence are left in the world? With a bouquet, I pay my respects to thee. Her legacy and elegance will be remembered for many generations, encompassing and unpretending.”
The Queen’s Death Became Political
With his knowledge of Chinese art and literature, Law quoted Laozi’s “Tao Te Ching” in his eulogy to praise the Queen. Many believe that he had given deep thought to his message. He was genuinely mourning the Queen. But as soon as the post went public, Chinese netizens flocked to his Weibo (a social platform in China) account to criticize him. They accused his mourning the Queen of “hurting the Chinese people’s feelings.”
On Sept. 15, Law issued a public apology on Weibo. In a video, he bowed and said his regrets in mandarin.
“Hi, Everyone. This is Law Ka-ying, a ‘China’ Hong Kong actor. As a public figure, I regret having published a mourning message with little thought. I only wanted to commemorate an elder, nothing more. Please don’t overread the situation. I can never forget my origin. Owning a Chinese passport says it all. I am Chinese. I love my motherland forever. I am sorry.”
Commentators felt It was sad that he had to apologize for saying something he truly believed. One person said that it was because of politics and being a celebrity in Hong Kong, that Law was forced to deny his sentiments.
Mixed Responses to Law Mourning the Queen’s Death
Law’s apology prompted a few thousand comments. Many mainlanders felt that Law’s speech ‘hurt the feelings of the people of China. The Chinese netizens also disagreed that Hong Kong was “sheltered” by the British during the British colonial period since Hong Kong had to rely on the mainland to import water supplies at the time.
Current affairs commentator Raymond Wong Yuk-man pointed out in an online program, “Law quoted Laozi’s ‘Tao Te Ching’ to praise the life of the Queen of England. That is enough to prove how careful Law articulated his message.”
Wong thought the saddest thing about the incident was Law had to apologize for something he genuinely believed in for nothing but politics.
“Law Ka-ying has to deny his feelings because he is a well-known Hong Kong artist.”
Commentator: The Queen Made Law’s Opera Career
Commenting on the incident, current affairs commentator Fung Hei-kin said, “Law’s eulogy displayed his admiration for the Queen, and how competently she had governed Hong Kong: She did not use violence to intervene. She only observed and ruled quietly.”
Fung also said, “Law is a renowned Cantonese opera artist. His knowledge of Chinese culture is not from pretense.”
The commentator also pointed out that Law’s achievements today were under the blessing of the late Queen Elizabeth II. Fung said, “Her majesty not only took Law under her wing but also protected Law’s family.”
Law’s Family Fled From the CCP to Hong Kong
In 1949, Law’s father fled from mainland China, from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), to the colony of Hong Kong for protection. Law Ka-ying was three years old.
According to Britannica, in 1949, mainland China was facing a vast takeover by the Communist Party. The CCP sacrificed and killed countless innocent people for power and control.
“The cost of the war was enormous. Official Communist figures counted 1.5 million dead and wounded among the People’s Liberation Army, 600,000 Nationalist troops were killed in combat, and roughly three times that many people defected to the Communists. Nearly 7 million Nationalist troops were captured during [the] four years of combat. Approximately 5 million civilians died as a result of combat, famine, and disease.”
People sought shelter in the British colony of Hong Kong.
Fung emphasized that if the Queen were not ruling Hong Kong at the time, everything Law had gained under British protection would not have existed. “If Law had stayed in mainland China, [that] he claimed to love so much, and never fled to Hong Kong, do you think he would have had a prospect in Cantonese opera?”
Fung reminded us that during the Cultural Revolution, when Law was young and blossoming, the CCP had already overthrown and debased those who were educated, intellectual, or talented in China.
Famous, elderly, male Cantonese opera singers were chastised, denounced, and mentally tortured. The CCP would have shaved the hair off half of each singer’s head. It was called a yin-yang head, and was used to shame and strip the performers’ of their dignity. At that time, hair had symbolic significance in China.
Law Kar-ying, like every other Hong Kong artist, had to show his loyalty to the CCP. Some Hong Kong netizens, however, thought he was already in the CCP’s grasp because of his wife’s close relationship with the regime.
Law Kar-ying’s Wife
Law’s wife, Lisa Wang Ming-chun, was born in Shanghai in 1947 and moved to Hong Kong in 1956.
Wang is a veteran Cantonese opera singer like her husband, and a TVB artist. She is a member of The Chinese Artists Association of Hong Kong (CAAHK), also known as Barwo, an organization that promotes Cantonese opera and culture. It has branches in Hong Kong, China, and the United States.
But her rich political background and connection with the CCP are most likely why her husband, Law Ka-ying, is under scrutiny. When Wang is not performing, she is a voting member of the Chinese rubber-stamp legislature in Beijing.
Wang has political influence in Beijing, like former chief executive CY Leung and actor Jackie Chan, they are all part of the Chinese rubber-stamp legislature.
Conflict Hidden in Plain Sight
Some mainland Chinese netizens strongly believe that by mourning the late Queen’s death, Law was a “traitor, disrespecting and betraying the motherland and billions of Chinese.”
However, Hong Kong netizens argued that Law should not have to apologize for mourning someone’s death. Some felt as though the CCP patriots are only lashing out at others because they have to keep their mouths shut in China.
Others felt that the complainers are denying history. One netizen commented, “Hong Kong with a British governor went from being a small fishing village to a full-blown developed port. People were living in peace and safety. After the handover though, it is evident what Hong Kong is today. Besides, why should I care about what you think, little pinkies?”
Former Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) host and veteran media commentator Ng Chi-sum shared similar views as the Hongkongers. He described Law’s apology as “melancholy.”
Ng said with conviction, “Without the British system, without judicial independence, without the protection of human rights, without the freedom of speech and information, Hong Kong would never be a blessed land.”