Cantonese through News Stories: Demonstrators Break Into Legislative Council Complex

Capture_Wire-mesh Trolley_1 JUL 2019

Here is one version of events that led to the so-called “storming” of the Legislative Council Complex. I recently came across the quote “There are years that ask questions and years that answer” (Zora Neale Hurston). Perhaps this is just such a question-asking year for Hong Kong. In several parts of this report, it is impossible to hear what people are actually saying. I have provided a translation based on the subtitles, but these are in Standard Written Chinese rather than Cantonese. Watch out for the use of the verb 撞 johng6 = “to strike” and its use in various compounds: 撞爛, 撞擊, 撞裂 and 撞破.


12 new words:

露面 louh6 mihn6 = to make an appearance
汲取教訓 kāp1 chéui2 gaau3 fan3 = to learn a lesson; to assimilate; to imbibe
民情民意 màhn chìhng màhn yi3 = public feeling & the will of the people
平息 pìhng4 sīk1 = to calm down; to blow over
鐵籠車 tit3 lùhng4 chē1 = wire-mesh trolley (?)
勸阻 hyun3 jó2 = to dissuade sb. from; to advise sb. not to
防毒面罩 fòhng4 duhk6 mihn6 jaau3 = gas mask
石灰粉 sehk6 fūi1 fán2 = powdered lime (?)
調停 tìuh4 tìhng4 = to mediate; to intervene
角力 gok3 lihk6 = to have a trial of strength; to wrestle
上彈 seuhng6 dáan6*2 = to load (a gun with bullets)
對峙 deui3 sih6/chíh5 = to stand facing each other; to confront



[On the occasion of] the twenty-second anniversary of the Handover of Hong Kong, the Chief Executive Carrie Lam made her first public appearance in two weeks.

She said that she had learned from what had happened, and that from now on the management of government affairs would adhere more closely [貼近 tip3 gahn6] to public feeling and the will of the people.

However, the protests of the demonstrators have not yet stopped [平息 pìhng4 sīk1].

This afternoon, assaults were made on the Legislative Council Complex many times, and many glass doors were smashed.
Note: The verb 撞 johng6 features several times in this report. It means “to bump against; to run into; to strike; to collide”. When 爛 laahm6 is added to it, it suggests result: “to strike so that it is broken”.

As it was getting dark, demonstrators went [instead] to the protest area of the Legislative Council Complex and made fresh assaults there, and fire [火光 fó gwōng] was seen inside the building for a time.
Note: The subtitles use 傍晚時 for “as it was getting dark”, but I think the announcer says 到挨晚嘅時候, using the Cantonese 挨晚 āai1 māan5*1 = “evening; dusk”.

Demonstrators also removed long strips of metal from the outside walls of the Legislative Council.

The government roundly condemned demonstrators for assaulting the Legislative Council using violent methods, and expressed [its] deep regret.
Note: Here, 以 yíh5 to express means, 暴力手法 = violent methods. Remember too that 並 bihng6 is used with the meaning of “and” to link two verbs.

Anchor speaks freely:
And now, let’s take a look at what happened [情況] during the assault on the Legislative Council this afternoon.

(Main story)

The assault this afternoon was begun by this man, who was wearing a helmet and a face-mask.
Note: Here, 由 yàuh4 is employed to indicate the initiator of an action.

Some time just after one o’clock, (he) made much use of a thick iron pipe to strike the glass door of the Legislative Council Complex.

Many demonstrators tried [試圖 si3 tòuh4] to make [him] stop [阻止 jó jí], but they did not succeed.

He went on cracking the glass door.
Note: Here’s another use of the verb 撞 johng6, this time paired with a second verb 裂 liht6 = “to crack” to show the result of the first. This combination, “to strike so that it cracks”, can be roughly translated as “to crack”.

A group of demonstrators then took over [接力 jip3 lihk6], pushing over a wire-mesh trolley [鐵籠車] loaded with cardboard [紙皮 jí2 pèih4] and rammed it into [the glass door] time and time again without stopping.
Note: I am not sure about the meaning of 接力in the context of this report. Its usual meaning is “(in) relay”, perhaps suggesting that the demonstrators took it in turns to push the trolley. I wonder though whether here it means to take over from where the first demonstrator started, or to build on his efforts with a new initiative.

Leung Yiu-chung, a legislative council member from the Democratic Party, stood in front of the glass door first of all to dissuade [them], but he was pulled away [拉走 lāai jáu] by other demonstrators.

Together with Kwok Ka-ki, he again tried to persuade the demonstrators to withdraw, but to no avail.

Someone dragged Leung Yiu-chung to the ground.

As well, police inside the Legislative Council Complex raised the red flag in the hope that they could tell them to stop.

• Police woman speaks over loud speaker:
Subtitles: 請你立即停止這個行為。
Please stop this behaviour at once.

During this time, smoke [煙霧 yīn1 mouh6] came out [from the Complex].
Note: The verb here is傳出 chyùhn4 chēut1 = to spread; to come out. There is a sense here of the smoke being “transmitted” from the inside of the building to the outside.

The police inside the Complex immediately retreated. Some of the police coughed and put on gas masks.

It is understood that what this was a demonstrator throwing [掟 deng3] some powdered lime (?), which irritates the eyes.
Note: The very Cantonese verb 掟 deng3 = “to throw; to hurl” is used here. The subtitles have 撒 saat3 = “to scatter” instead.

After this, a number of legislative members [belonging to] the Democratic Party went outside the Legislative Council to intervene.

  • People speaking indistinctly:
    Just calm down a bit, calm down

Subtitles: 我們預了被人拘捕了
We expect to be arrested
Note: I think 預了 is equivalent to 預料 yuh6 liuh6 = “to anticipate” here.

Subtitles: 交給我們吧
Give it to us (?)

Subtitles: 不值得了
It’s not worth it (any more)

Wu Chi-wai tried to reason with demonstrators.
Note: Wu Chi-wai is another legislative council member. 理論 léih5 leuhn6 usually mean “theory”, but it is clearly being used as a verb here, perhaps with the meaning of “to try and reason with sb.”

  • 胡志偉Wu Chi-wai speaks:

Subtitles: 你是否想坐一世監?
Do you want to spend the rest of your life in prison?

Subtitles: 會議已死了
The Legislative Council is dead

Subtitles: 你撞了過去連你也死
If you keep on banging away like that, you’ll be dead, too

Subtitles: 全被人拘捕了有甚麼好處?
What’s the good of all of you getting arrested?

The legislative council members and the demonstrators both pushed at the trolley in a trial of strength.

  • People shouting:
    Subtitles: 夾到了,很危險
    (We’re) pinned in, it’s very dangerous

Democratic council member Lam Cheuk-ting fell to his knees, in the hope that demonstrators would not make another assault.

• Lam Cheuk-ting speaks:
I am begging you. It’s very dangerous.

But still he withdrew without getting a result.
Note: I am not sure about the phrase 無功而退 mòuh4 gūng1 yìh4 teui3, but it seems to mean “to withdraw without getting a result”. 無功 is more commonly encountered in the expression 無功受祿 mòuh4 gūng1 sauh6 luhk6 = to get a reward without deserving it.

  • People shouting:
    You can do it, Hongkongers, you can do it

While demonstrators were making their assault on the Legislative Council Complex, over a hundred anti-riot police were on guard (?) inside the Complex.

Some of them were holding anti-riot guns [防暴搶 fòhng4 bouh6 chēung1] capable of firing tear-gas cannisters, and there were also police loading guns that fired rubber bullets.

Demonstrators continued to hit the glass door with long strips of iron and iron bars (?).
Note: I am not sure what a 鐵通 tit3 tūng1 is. It seems to be a metal bar of some kind, often wielded in one hand. I get the impression that 鐵 tit3 = iron tends to be used with the more general meeting of “metal”.

After an hour and a half, just before three o’clock in the afternoon, the glass door was finally shattered, unable to withstand it (any more).
Note: The structure 抵受唔到 expresses potential, “unable to withstand”. The positive form is 抵受得到, “able to withstand”. The sentence concludes with another variation on the verb 撞 johng6. The addition of 破 po3 suggests that a hole is made, that the door is broken right through.

Half of the wire-mesh trolley was wedged [楔 sit3 = to wedge] inside the Complex.

The two sides continued their stand-off.

The demonstrators now and then struck the curtain walls with various hard objects, and shattered many of the panes.
Note: For 久不久 = “now and then”, the Cantonese is probably 間唔中gaan1*3 mh̀4 jūng, but the speech is too rapid at this point for me to be sure. Also, the noun幕牆 mohk6 chèuhng4 is a technical architectural term meaning “(glass) curtain wall; (glass) block screen wall”.

Report by TVB News reporter Jēung1 Gāa1 Houh6


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