'Resident Evil' and the War of Memory Between Hong Kong and China

'Resident Evil' and the War of Memory Between Hong Kong and China
A veil of smog hanging over the Hong Kong skyline on Dec. 29, 2021. (Peter Parks/AFP via Getty Images)
Hans Yeung

I am not a TV fan, but upon my wife’s recommendation, I watched some Netflix series. After "Stranger Things," it was "Resident Evil," in which I was absorbed. This is based on a Japanese video game, which has been adapted into movies and TV series over the years due to its popularity.

The story is about a pharmaceutical company that has developed a joy pill, which allows people to solve all their worries and feel no pain even after a knife cut. But the pill contains a virus that can turn people into zombies—and it does happen, making the globe a zombie world.

Albert, a senior from the company, has two twin daughters. Jade works hard to develop an antidote to save the old world, whereas Billie embraces the idea of the joy pill and the new society that it may create.

In a scene, the sisters argue. Billie says, "Do you like your memories, Jade? I don’t. That is why I’m building a better future, making the world a better place."

This reminds me of the battle of memory between Hong Kong and the Chinese Communist Party.

The communists write history according to the "historical materialist worldview," which, to put it simply, means that it draws a prior conclusion, and the conclusion can only be the same no matter what the specifics are. This approach, which is politically oriented, results in a "history of disappearance," in which historical memories are drastically filtered under the guise of anti-colonialism and anti-feudalism, leaving only the parts that are advantageous to the communist regime.

The late Qing and the Republic of China did nothing but abandon sovereignty and humiliate the country, the Chinese Communist Party was the backbone of the war of resistance against Japanese aggression, and there would have been no new China without the Communist Party—all these manipulated assertions are regarded as "historical memories" under the communist rule.

Moreover, power struggles made the communists revise historical memories for obvious political reasons. The most well-known example is the "Founding Ceremony" oil painting, which depicts the announcement of the founding of Communist China at the Tiananmen Gate in 1949, and includes images of Gao Gang and Liu Shaoqi, who were prominent communists leaders.

In the 1950s and 1960s, Gao Gang and Liu Shaoqi were respectively removed from the painting after they were both purged. This shows that the recent disqualification of the district and legislative councillors in Hong Kong is merely a mild version of purging political enemies, which is a well-founded tradition of the Communist Party.

In Deng’s era, Mao’s status declined drastically. Back then, I frequently went to mainland China for research purposes, and I heard quite some stories that people said Mao was a bad guy and Deng good.

Later on, in the "anti-bourgeois liberalization campaigns" Hu Yaobang and Zhao Ziyang were criticized, and they gradually receded from public memories.

In Xi’s era, attempts of rewriting history become obvious. History textbooks describe the Cultural Revolution, which had long been characterized as a "ten-year catastrophe," as an "arduous probing" of social construction, reverting its nature and obviously clearing historical obstacles for the ultra-leftist policies in the pipeline.

Once Hong Kong was returned to such a regime that regards historical memory as nothing more than a political tool, how the city’s historical memory is to be interpreted, cannot be part of the promised "high degree of autonomy," and any historical memory that is not conducive to Chinese communist rule needs to be rewritten.

Restrictions have not been imposed on "harmless memories" such as Hong Kong-style milk tea and Cantonese opera, but Hong Kong as a century-old colony can no longer claim to be a former colony, and for the 2003 SARS epidemic only the support from mainland China can be mentioned, and how the virus started has become a taboo.

In "Resident Evil," Jade is working in a university ship specializing in the study of the zombie virus. In a scene, Jade’s daughter plays the piano, before which her teacher gives the following thought-provoking speech: "So why teach children poetry, Shakespeare, dance, and music now, at this point of our history? Well, I think we are all dedicated to collecting everything we can from our past and preserving it in our collective memory because that is what the arts were in their most ancient forms. It is a way to imprint deep, emotional stories on our souls. Stories we don’t want to lose, because even in times like these, 'we are the stories we tell.'"

A civilized society should preserve all memories, both good and bad. It is a crime against humanity to tamper with memories in order to serve the regime.

Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.
Hans Yeung is a former manager at the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority, specializing in history assessment. He is also a historian specializing in modern Hong Kong and Chinese history. He is the producer and host of programs on Hong Kong history and a columnist for independent media. He now lives in the UK with his family. Email: hku313@gmail.com