Established in May, The Overseas Hong Kong Media Professionals Association (AOHKMP), held a two-day seminar on June 11 and June 12 in London, England on “Rebuilding Hong Kong Civil Society Overseas.”
Shi Shan, an Epoch Times, Hong Kong political commentator, arrived in London early. Shi was invited by Joseph Lian Yizheng, the former editor-in-chief of Hong Kong Economics Journal, to undertake an exclusive interview/discussion to give Hongkongers a sneak preview of the event. Lian explained the purpose and significance of the event, while discussing the inheritance and development of Hong Kong culture overseas. He particularly focused on the importance of revitalizing the “Yellow Economics Circle.” Yellow Economic Circle means businesses that were supporters of the democratic movement during the protests in 2019.
Many people participated in the event. Lots of relocated Hong Kong media professionals and commentators were there, including former Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) English host Steve Vines; ex television screenwriter, commentator, Stephen Shiu Yeuk-yuen; scholar Simon Shen Xu-hui, and former RTHK radio host Tsang Chi-ho. They all gathered in the UK for the “Rebuilding Hong Kong Civil Society Overseas” conference.
Fighting for Democracy While Establishing a Self-Sufficient Economic System
Lian Yizheng said during the interview, that from the number of people who signed up online, the 2-day seminar was very well received. “Everyday the foot traffic is between 1000 and 1500 attendees. Although we have no idea if any agents sent by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) are taking up seats, the event lasts over six hours each day.”
This event was not a simple symposium. It was mentioned in the preview that there would be commercial activities.
Lian Yizheng explained that the concept of the service arose due to the venue being far away form commercial centers. For the convenience of the participants, the organizer would offer two day’s worth of food supplies and snacks. Additionally, for the ease of taking care of the children who came along on the trip, the organizer would also buy small items to keep them entertained so they wouldn’t be too bored.
Such commercial activities had led to questions of whether the association had organized a carnival. To this, Lian said straightforwardly, “There is a deeper purpose of these activities. The concept is to encourage merchants to support the Yellow Economics Circle, during the anniversary of June 12.
Lian hoped, while fighting for democracy, they could also develop a self-sufficient economic system.
Lian Yizheng mentioned specifically that, during the Hongkongers’ anti-extradition movement in 2019, “yellow shop” merchants (pro movement) protected protesters during the worst and most violent time; they constantly provided food and drinks. After the movement was over, these yellow merchants were suppressed and harassed by police and gangsters. That’s why a lot of the yellow shops were closed or even moved away from Hong Kong.
Lian was very grateful to the yellow shops supporting protesters. The mission of the Overseas Hong Kong Media Professionals Association also considered exiled Hongkongers, and whether they could be like the Jewish people. Jews inherit, and maintain their own cultural and national bloodlines. He also shared his hopes of Hongkongers owning the resilience of the Jewish culture and its economic strength.
“Jews had left their home for 2000 years. After 80 generations of inheritance, they could still preserve their own culture and recognition; at last, they could use the opportunity to fulfill their dream and return to rebuild their own country. Most importantly, they kept their strength and culture,” Said Lian.
Lian admitted that other than the interference of CCP, there was also some of his own negligence which led up to the misunderstanding about the event.
Lian recalled the initial promotion was less than perfect, which caused the misunderstanding of him organizing a “carnival.” Lian said that it was a wake up call, reminding everyone, that they should not, in anyway, treat or promote the event on June 11 and 12 as “a carnival.”
Stepping on the Cultural Inheritance to Avoid Losing a Generation
Shi Shan personally experienced anguish. During the 1989 Democracy Movement, a group of mainland Chinese students (youngsters) arrived overseas. After 30 or so years, only a few groups had weathered the storm. How can Hongkongers’ learn from their lessons?
Lian Yizheng openly admitted, “there was a pioneer who studied overseas and published a book in the 1970s. The book talked about this issue. Almost all of the exiled movements or overseas movements had disappeared in one generation. This is terrifying. He could put forward plenty of historical evidence.”
He therefore called on Hong Kong exiles to seriously pondered on the strength of inheritance. “How powerful will the strength be if all exiled communities pull together? It will for certain not disappear after a generation. Every minute counts.”
CCP’s Divisive Tactics Caused Distrust Among Overseas Groups
Form the perspectives of cultural research, She Shan explored why Chinese students who went overseas due to 8964 Tiananmen movement, even established groups such as the Civil Human Rights Front, The Democratic Alliance, couldn’t remain after 30 years.
He thought one of the reasons was because of CCP’s infiltration, which led to increasing distrust between people.
Lian mentioned that Falun Gong is also one of the groups that has been persecuted by the CCP for 23 years. He discovered that the most significant difference between democratic movement organizations and Falun Gong, was that Falun Gong is a cultivation practice, which has spiritual core values and strength. Hence, their ability to distinguish between lies and facts and avoid being divided.
She Shan reminded Hongkongers, “Those tactics of infiltration by the CCP are effective. Whether you are local or overseas Hongkongers, you must remain sharp-minded so that you won’t fall into their circle. Yellow Economic Circle is also a place where CCP will hit hard, it will definitely happen.”
Lian agreed that he hoped friends from the movement would understand the mission of his event, and development of the Yellow Economic Circle.
He explained, “when someone questions if 6.12 is a serious event, and if it should have a commercial element, let me say, we are not merely using the event to make profits. On the contrary, we want to develop an economic foundation in the movement, in order to support the development of the movement.”
As for it being accused of being supported by foreign powers, accepting U.S. dollars and British pounds, Lian said,”This is not so, if we took money, the direction and basis of the movement would be easily influenced and limited by the interests other countries. We want to be economically independent.”
Hong Kongese Is Culturally Diverse and Different From Cantonese
In the interview, She Shan and Lian Yizheng discussed the characteristics of the Hong Kong culture. Lian thought that Hong Kong culture is diverse. It contains the deeply rooted Chinese culture, as well as over a hundred years of western traditions; and don’t forget the American influence following the UK’s departure in 1997.
With the intent of television in the 1960s and 1970s, Japanese culture had also influenced Hong Kong through TV drama series.
The cultural origins and composition of Hong Kong were diversified, not singularly composed.
Lian mentioned how Hong Kong had also inherited the culture of southern China. The cultural factors of ancient Chinese, Cantonese itself retained a lot of elements from the ancient scholars. Once Cantonese arrived Hong Kong, new elements and cultural connotations were added, particularly the witty vocabulary of young people in use today.
She Shen deeply understood, that Hongkongers’ language had become a culture of its own. Hong Kongese is different from Cantonese.
It’s becoming more difficult for local and overseas Hongkongers to communicate
After the implementation of the Hong Kong National Security Law, more Hongkongers emigrated overseas. Can overseas Hongkongers still remain in contact with local Hongkongers?
She Shan is worried that the recent talk of the suspension of Telegram by the Hong Kong government might just be the first step. Later, they could ban Whatsapp or other communication software programs. Users could get arrested. Will the communication be increasingly difficult between local and overseas Hongkongers?
Lian shared: before the reform and opening up in the 1960s and 1970s, it was impossible to circulate information between China and overseas. They had to use all kinds of channels to communicate. People overseas would listen to the central radio news, then peel off the layers in order to grasp the true situation in China. He also worried, if the CCP becomes more left wing, it would become more challenging for information circulation.
Overseas Hongkongers might then need to rely on gossip from those coming from Hong Kong in order to learn the truth.
Nina Wong contributed to this article.