Barely dressed above decency’s minimum in shorts, socks, runners, he hugs himself hushed in intense conversation with an eager next-door neighbour ⸺ his late afternoon jog still flushed crimson on his chest. As I pass by self-compact on the footpath, I notice tucked behind one ear like a stray afterthought one shining ice-white frangipani flower: how they match, whorl to whorl, in that grainy hour of twilight! There are gestures ⸺ MICRO-GESTURES ⸺ which complicate so much for the better all our caricature notions of character, though with age, the uncatalogued repertoire shrinks substantially to a few odd edges of the infinite to haunt us absent-mindedly ⸺ God-sent to challenge timid autobiography. What we know we know for a fact definitely deters but does not prohibit spontaneous occasional ventures into “fiction”: down in the yard at the bottom of the drive, across a line of wind-lashed sheets, I glimpse that play-act; those folds; those shadows; that make-believe . . .
Photograph: 唐人溪流：模糊嘅黃花 Blurred wattle flowers, Chinaman Creek (2020)
Walk your yawning old self into naked, stark morning. Too good to be true—that’s the lungs’ swell verdict on this instant intoxicant air, the atmosphere light, as a dark crow feather bookmarking some yet-to-be-read typographically concrete page. (Is it the breeze that reads as it breathes through overhead wires, through the spiral arterial branch-lines of the trees?) Pants dance the flap on a deserted clothes-hoist ⸺ they kick up their cuffs at the world’s heavy duty ⸺ while a shower of berries like pellet ball-bearings scatters hard noise across quiet’s tin roof, putting all calm’s composure quite sorely to the test.
No one ever takes no for an answer, but there is another world ⸺
The Hong Kong writer 鄧小樺 Tang Siu-wa (Dahng6 Siu2 Waah6) is the author of the poetry collections Unmoved Bottle and The Opposite of Sound, as well as several collections of essays. She also founded the literary magazine Fleurs de Lettres, and was instrumental in the establishment of the House of Hong Kong Literature.
During the anti-extradition treaty protests in 2019, she was arrested and charged with violence, an experience that took her ⸺ mentally, emotionally and spiritually ⸺ right to the heart of the current crisis in Hong Kong.
Earlier this year, she was interviewed by a reporter from Vision Times [看中國]. In the interview, she shares her views on the plight of Hong Kong and presents both an impassioned and a carefully reasonable response. I hope to transcribe and translate the full 22-minute interview on Chinaman Creek some time in the new future, but for now, here is a brief key excerpt in which Tang specifically addresses the role of the international community.
Next time you hear someone say that Hong Kong is an “internal matter” for the People’s Republic of China, please call to mind Tang’s very relevant words: 「一國兩制」係一個國際嘅承諾，嗄 = “One Country, Two Systems” is an international promise.
● 失信 sat1 seun3 = to break one’s promise; to go back on one’s word ● 支援 ji1 wuhn4 = to support ● 制裁 jai3 choih4 = to sanction; to punish
I hope that the international community will be able to make the Chinese people, to make China as a whole, regain some respect for what it means to make a promise. “One Country, Two Systems” is an international promise. Supposedly, it is a solemn promise. If in my view (?) a promise is being ripped to shreds, this can’t happen without any consequences, there ought to be consequences. Then all of us, [working] together, should make the people who broke their promise face up to the consequences. That’s how it ought to be. And then, next, it is my hope that the international community will support those individuals who need to leave Hong Kong. Some of my friends, actually, are in very serious danger. I hope that the international community will show some concern for their future, for people such as Joshua Wong, for Nathan Law and Agnes Chow. I think they are in grave danger, I do. And then finally I hope that the international community, where there are grounds, including humanitarian grounds, I hope that in the case of instances in which human rights [人道] have been violated, I hope that the international community will consider imposing sanctions [應該制裁], in the hope that the international community will see that the destiny of Hong Kong is in the hands of everyone. So I hope that our friends in the international community will show concern for the destiny of Hong Kong and stand on the side of the protesters of Hong Kong.
Here is a lesson not only in Cantonese but in courage. It comes from an article published here on the HK01 site on 22 July 2020 dealing with an interview between Figo Chan (pictured) and Emily Lau Wai-hing.
The former chairperson of the Democratic Party Emily Lau Wai-hing in an interview with Figo Chan, vice-convenor of The Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF), [aired] on the on-line program Council Ins & Outs [《議會內外》] discussed how the young people of Hong Kong would face up to the social situation in Hong Kong [in the wake of] the National Security Law.
+ 非法集結 fei1 faat3 jaahp6 git3 = unlawful assembly + 發聲 faat3 sing1 = usu. “make a sound” but perhaps “to speak out” + 寄語 gei3 yuh5 = 1. to send word; to convey a message 2. a message + 展示 jin2 sih6 = to display; to reveal; to show + 篡改 saan3 goi2 = to falsify; to tamper with; to doctor
Chan said that he was currently accused of seven offences related to unlawful assembly. However, he was not terrified of the future and would continue to speak out peacefully for the people of Hong Kong. He also told [寄語] the Hong Kong people to conquer terror, to continue to speak out and to reveal the truth to the rest of the world to prevent those in power from falsifying history.
Lau Wai-hing asked him whether he felt terrified before the National Security Law came into effect. Chan replied that naturally he was afraid for a while, but realized that it was necessary to conquer [such] terror, otherwise nothing at all could be done. Laughing, he said “If you worried you’d be hit by a falling aeroplane if you stayed at home, and that you’d fall into water if you went outside, there’d by nowhere for you to go at all, would there?” He went on to say that there were more people at the 1 July protest than expected, believing that at least 100,000 people [had taken part], but on the whole things were peaceful, with only some scattered incidents of destruction. He also said: “The water-cannon trucks used by the police were far from peaceful ⸺wherever they went they sprayed”.
+ 區域法院 keui1 wihk6 faat3 yun6*2 = the District Court
Figo Chan mentioned that of the seven charges he was facing, two cases were in the process of being heard at the District Court [in Wan Chai]. He said that he could not feel fear because, since the protest movements that began last year, people of different ages, generations, nationalities and ethnicities have come together [一起] to offer support. Their power is significant and there are many people who support [him]. “Knives and spears kill no ideals”, [he said].
道出真相 防止當權者篡改歷史 Tell the truth,prevent those in power from falsifying history
+ 展現 jin2 yihn6 = to unfold; to present; to display + 主宰 jyu2 joi2 = to dominate; to rule
Figo Chan also said that, in the past twelve months, the people of Hong Kong had been through a lot and, at present, you could be accused of breaking the National Security Law if you held up a sign and thrown heavily to the ground by police if you set up a roadside display (a reference to the arrest of LegCo councillor Andrew Wan Siu-kin on the day of the 1 July protests). Things were deteriorating by the day. Nevertheless, he still believed that anything that was attempted, even if it seemed “useless”, was actually a way of laying the facts before the media and the international community and could enable more people to know what was actually going on [事實真相]. He added, if one did not persist in telling the truth, the “truth” would be controlled by those in power and their blind followers.
By way of an example, the violent attack on civilians carried out in Yuen Long on 21 July 2019 was being distorted by the deeply conservative camp, who blamed Lam Cheuk-ting for stirring the whole thing up, while in a report made by the Independent Police Complaints Council it was referred to as “a gang fight between men dressed in white and people dressed in black”. Neither of these descriptions is correct, and so the people of Hong Kong must continue to speak out, making evidence available to the [broader] public and enabling ever more people to know the actual truth, otherwise, history would be falsified. Also for this reason, he did not agree with [the view of] some young people who claimed that the older generation of democrats “had failed to achieve anything”, because ⸺ regardless of whether one acted “before the curtain or behind the curtain” [幕後幕前], things that were done did not yield an immediate result but took time.
Here is a second short clip in the “Postman’s Gaze” series from the Journey of the Isle website about Cheung Chau. In this one, 李達成 Léih5 Daaht6 Sìhng4 talks about a photograph of a bicycle he took when lit up by the first, early rays of the dawn. The image is certainly a memorable one, and made all the more poignant, especially in light of the current situation in Hong Kong, by the fact that the bike was parked outside a cemetery.
A. The use of 咪 maih6 has been puzzling me for ages, especially when there is no accompanying 囉 lō1 at the end of the clause! My informant for this text added the following helpful notes:
Actually, 咪 has several meanings in Cantonese. Below I mentioned a few I could think of, but there might be more possibilities. Firstly, it means “don’t” e.g. 咪笑我啦 = Don’t laugh at me, 咪走呀! = Don’t/ Stop running away! [Note: This 咪 is pronounced in the low-rising tone, máih5] Secondly, in this transcription, you are right about the use of 咪 being similar to that of 就, but using 咪 helps you to emphasize more on the fact you are going to say. In 啫係有架單車咪插咗啲花, 咪 is used to emphasize or to state that there are flowers stuck on a bicycle. The situation is similar for 噉佢咪隨意咁樣泊架單車喺路中間囉. 咪 is used to link the subject and his action: 佢(subject) +咪+ 隨意咁樣泊架單車喺路中間囉 (action/fact). [Note: Because the final particle 囉 is added in this case, the use fits the explanation of “obvious conclusion” suggested by Yip and Matthews in Intermediate Cantonese, Unit 23。] Lastly, it means “is” e.g. 佢咪我隻貓 = She is my cat.
Bear this in mind as you listen to Lee’s voiceover. There are some expressions in English such as “well, if it isn’t (noun)?” that use a kind of negative expression to achieve a sense of emphasis and/or surprise, and perhaps 咪 maih6 works in a similar way.
B. There is a type of verb in Chinese called a “verb-object compound”, made up of a verb and a noun. These verbs often behave in unusual ways. For example, the perfect aspect marker 咗 jó2 is routinely inserted between the verb and the object rather than at the end of the verb as is usual (at the end of the explanation, Lee says 影咗依張相 = photographed this; took this photo). Another kind of modification is found involving the VO compound斷氣 tyuhn5 hei3 = to be short of breath (or, more colloquially, “to run out of puff”). In this case, the object is put before the verb with dōu1 to indicate extreme degree: 氣都斷 = completely out of breath. I believe the rule of thumb is that any verb in which the second element is a noun can be classed in this category.
C. Cantonese uses a number of double final particles with a specific meaning such as 嚟㗎 for explanations (係墳場掃地嘅叔叔嚟㗎 = he’s the old man who goes and sweeps the cemetery grounds) and 吖嘛 for obviousness (this is used by Lee in 冇人㗎嘛, where 㗎嘛 is a contraction of 嘅吖嘛). A less common one is 咁滯 gam3 jaih6, which has the meaning of “almost; nearly”. So, 一路爬坡咁踩到氣都斷咁滯呀 means something like “ I kept on going up the slope until I was almost out of breath”. Sheik Cantonese also lists 飯熟晒咁滯。 = “The rice is almost done” and 佢啲錢差唔多輸晒咁滯。 = “He has almost lost all his money”. It can also be written 咁濟.
D. 零鐘 lèhng4 jūng1 is a colloquial term which usually comes after and modifies a certain time. It means “around” or “-ish” e.g. 8 點零鐘 = around 8 o’clock or eightish.
相冊 sēung1 chaak3 = photo album 朝頭早 jīu1 tàuh4 jóu2 = morning 爬坡 pàah4 bō1 = to climb a slope; to go up a hill 斷氣 tyúhn5 hei3 = ① to stop breathing; to breathe one’s last; to die ② to cut off the gas supply 唔係呀話 is used to express your emotion when you are surprised, often but not always, in a negative way. It can be translated as “What! / What’s going on?” or anything that suits the emotion. 主人 jyú2 yàhn4 = the owner (of a bicycle) 墳場 fàhn4 chèuhng4 = cemetery; graveyard 叔叔 sūk1 sūk1 = respectful term to address an older male 開工 hōi1 gūng1 = to start work 食正 sihk6 jeng3 = the bicycle was right under a ray of dawn light. 曙光 chyúh5 gwōng1 = the light of dawn (Measure word: 道 douh6) 依 yī1 is a common variant of 呢 nī1 = this 干擾 gōn1 yíu2 = to disturb; to interfere; to obstruct; to jam 畫面 wáa6*2 mín6*2 = usually “display; screen (of a monitor/TV)”; here perhaps “the composition” | Note that both characters change their tone in this compound.
You can watch the video here. If you’d like to read the Cantonese transcription together with an English translation, please keep scrolling down.
Michael Lee: In my own, ah, photo album, there aren’t many images of scenery. But there is, it seems [好似], one picture, of a bicycle with flowers stuck on it, one in which a ray of light just happens to be falling [across] [打落嚟] it. That photo . . . I was out riding my bike in training [練習] one morning. I was climbing up a slope, all the way up a slope, until I was almost out of breath. Well at that moment, I [thought to myself]: “Ah, oh no [唔係呀話]. Why is there a bike in the middle of the road up ahead?”. When I looked a bit more closely, [I thought]: “Huh? I know the man who owns that bicycle!”. Now he, he’s, he’s the old man [叔叔] who goes and sweeps the cemetery grounds. He had started work. You know, it was only around 7 in the morning and there was no one [around]. He had casually parked his bike in the middle of the road. Just by chance, it just happened to be under a ray of dawn light. So, I got off my bike and took this photograph. As it happened, he was nowhere near his bicycle at the time, so didn’t spoil [干擾] the image.
Here, as a stranger, I religiously stick to the map, moving round mountains along dotted path-lines and through the strict blue mesh of the grids till I am cast under the spell of a simplifying picture. But contrast with actual places through the fact of constant contact gets the better of me, eventually — then, with the medicinal thickness of soap, the disinfectant scent of ginger flowers breaks the chain of my ailing thought and, through a gap in the mental sentence I dictate myself, the world jumps in. And I see.
香港屯門屯子圍 Tuen Tsz Wai Village in Tuen Mun, Hong Kong
To watch the video made by HK01, please clickhere.
Benny Tai speaks:
我哋又創造咗令一次嘅奇跡 We have created yet another miracle
喺今次民主派嘅初選嘅公民投票 In this public ballot [for] primary elections [for] the democratic camp + 初選 cho1 syun2 = primary election
按而家系統，電子系統，所統計到嘅投票嘅人次呢 According to the current system, the electronic system, statistics for the number of people voting
係592,211位 Stands at 592,211
另外呢，我哋仲有係大概21,000張呢，係紙嘅選票嘅 In addition, we also have roughly 21,000 paper ballots + 選票 syun2 piu3 = a vote
合理啲呢，去推算呀 Making reasonable calculations on the basis of [these figures]
係有好大機會呢，今次嘅由民間所進行嘅一次嘅投票啦 There is quite a big chance (?), [that] this vote conducted by the people + 由 yauh4 = indicates the subject of the verb進行 jeun3 hahng4 = to carry out | + 民間 mahn4 gaan1 = of the people (as opposed to the government or some official agency)
係超過60萬 In excess of 600,000 [people voted in this ballot]
因爲點票嘅時間會比較長 Because it takes rather a long time to count the votes + 點票 dim2 piu3 = to count votes
因爲都有21,000張嘅紙張票 [And] because there are also [都] 21,000 paper ballots
但我哋估計呢，個個嘅投票嘅結果呢 We estimate, however, that the result of all the votes
最快都要聽日（13日）嘅黃昏時段都先至可以出得到嘅 At the quickest, it will take until dusk tomorrow (13 July) before [the result] comes out
《香港大學民意研究計劃》嘅總監鍾庭耀話 Robert Chung Ting Yiu, the Director of the Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute at Hong Kong University, said + 民意 mahn4 yi3 = public opinion | + 總監 jung2 gaam1 = director
紙張點票即將展開 That the counting of the paper votes was about to get underway + 即將 jik1 jeung1 = about to (indicates a near future occurrence) | + 展開 jin2 hoi1 = to open up; to launch
點票完成之後 [And] when the counting was complete
會連同電子投票結果一同公佈 The result combined with the electronic voting result (?) would be announced
Benny Tai speaks again:
我相信每一個參選人 I believe that every single candidate
按返喺之前協調嘅時候嘅協議，係會按返個協議遵守承諾 Will keep their promise [in line with] the agreement we had, the agreement made before, when we were co-ordinating [this ballot] + 協調 hip3 tiuh4 = harmonious; to coordinate | + 協議 hip3 yih5 = to negotiate; an agreement
係去作出參與或者唔參與官方選舉嘅決定 And make a decision to take part or not in the official election
我哋係根據嗰兩三日呢，公佈結果之後呢 On the basis of these two, three days, we will announce the results and afterwards
有一啲區呢，一定要進一步進行協調嘅喇 Some districts will have to do a bit more in the way of co-ordination
包括咗香港島同埋九龍西 Including Hong Kong Island and Kowloon West
而有任何參選團隊係唔理呢一個之前嘅協議 [Now] if any groups taking part in the election choose to ignore [唔理] this previous agreement
然後繼續去參選呢 And later go on to contest the election
啊我相信佢係必然係會受到各方責難嘅 It is my belief that they will receive censure from various quarters + 責難 jaak3 naahn4 = blame; censure
噉如果佢自己要去啊面對緊嗰個嘅後果呢 If they want to confront those consequences [of their actions]
即使佢可能保住佢自己所謂嘅基本盤都好呢 Although they may be able to hold on to their own voter bases [基本盤] + 即使 jik1 si2 = although; even though | + 基本盤 gei1 bun2 pun4*2 = base; people who are committed to voting for you
其實呢，就，佢能夠當選嘅機會我相信都係好細嘅 Actually, there is only a slight chance in my view that such people will be elected
呢對眼鏡呢，我諗都碎咗唔知几多次嘅呢，吓 I think these spectacles of mine have been broken a fair number of times already
啫由我喺前幾日講到我哋嘅投票 From what I said in the past few days about our elections
可能只係得170,000 仲驚不夠數嘅時候 Possibly only getting [a turn out] of 170,000, I was still afraid then that the numbers wouldn’t be enough (?)
各方多努力啦，吓 So everyone needs to keep making an effort
今次有600,000嘅市民係參與咗呢個初選嘅投票 This time 600,000 [Hong Kong] citizens have participated in these primary elections
去到9月6號嘅時候 When 6 September comes around
應該係比呢一個數字更多更多嘅香港市民 The number of Hong Kong citizens ought to be many, many more than this
係會好聰明哋呢，係去識得點樣去將佢嘅選票運用 And wisely they will understand how to make use of their vote + 運用 wahn6 yuhng6 = to utilize
使到民主派嘅候選人能夠贏取到最多嘅議席 Enabling candidates belonging to the democratic camp to win the greatest number of seats + 候選人 hauh6 syun2 yahn4 = candidate | + 贏取 yehng4 cheui2 = to win | + 議席 yih5 jihk6 = a seat in LegCo