“Highest good is like water [上善若水],” it says in Chapter VIII of the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu, and it is a wonderful thing to read the phrase quoted again here, 2500 years later, in the 創刊宣言 or “Publication Manifesto” of a new Hong Kong magazine called 《如水》[Flow HK].
The purpose of Flow HK is 通過歷史論述、理論框架以及對未來路線的思考，我們希望連結每位參與這場光復運動的香港兒女，為他們作思想充權 — that is, “By means of discussions of history, theoretical frameworks, and a consideration of future ways to proceed, we hope to connect with every daughter and son of Hong Kong who is taking part in this movement to liberate Hong Kong and to empower them intellectually”, and anyone concerned for the fate of Hong Kong will be stirred by the words 在每個漆黑無聲的夜晚，不要忘記還有人從未放棄心中所有 — “In every pitch-black night in which nothing stirs, one must not forget that there are still individuals who have never given up on what they hold dear in their hearts”.
The theme of the first issue is 絆 buhn6, a verb that usually means “to trip up”, and which occurs in the compound 絆腳石 or “stumbling block”. It seems like a fairly reasonable place to set out from. For more information, you can visit the Flow HK website here.
Please scroll down for the Manifesto with an English translation and notes. If you wish to check any of the Chinese in the text, please consult the Sheik Cantonese on-line dictionary.
《創刊宣言》| Publication Manifesto
● 共同體 guhng6 tùhng4 tái2 = community | ● 傀儡 faai3 léuih5 = a puppet; a stooge | ● 日益趨厲 yaht6 yīk1 chēui1 laih6 = gets fiercer by the day | ● 不計其數 bāt1 gai3 kèih4 sou3 = countless; innumerable | ● 強行 kéuhng5 hàhng4 = to force | ● 威權 wāi1 kyùhn4 = authority; power | ● 收窄 sāu1 jaak3 = to narrow | ● 歷史試煉 lihk6 sí2 si3 lihn6 = (?) an historical test/trial | ● 流散於各方 làuh4 saan3 yū1 gok3 fōng1 = to scatter in all directions | ● 維繫 wàih4 haih6 = to hold together | ● 承傳 sìhng4 chyùhn4 = (?) to inherit & to impart cf. 傳承 chyùhn4 sìhng4 = to impart & to inherit
We live in the best, and the worst, of times. Over the course of the past resistance, we have seen the boundless possibilities of the Hong Kong people, and this has also enabled us to have some fond imaginings about the Hong Kong community. However, the repression carried out by the Chinese Communist Party and its puppet authorities [政權] in Hong Kong is getting fiercer by the day, and the number of those who have bled or who have been charged with a criminal offence because of their resistance or their political views is too numerous to count. In the wake of the Chinese Communist Party’s forcing of the passage of the National Security Law, Hong Kong has now truly entered an era of authoritarian rule [威權時代], and even though many acts of resistance opposing totalitarian power have been initiated among the common people [民間], the space of freedom for people in Hong Kong is constantly being narrowed down. Faced with this unprecedented historical test, we (people who have left Hong Kong and now live in various countries around the world) are determined to try and hold together this unique community [made up] of Hongkongers, in the hope that we can impart and hand on the sparks of resistance.
● 焗促不安 guhk6 chūk1 bāt1 ōn1 = cf. 局促不安 = feel ill at ease | ● 重新思索 chùhng4 sān1 sī1 sok3 = roughly, “to rethink” (cf. 思索 = to ponder; to think deeply) | ● 初心 chō1 sām1 = one’s original intention (Sheik Cantonese: 初心 is a Japanese term that means “beginner’s mind”) | ● 取其義 chéui2 kèih4 yih6 = roughly, “to take as its meaning” | ● 靈巧 lìhng4 háau2 = dextrous; nimble; skilful; ingenious | ● 強權 kèuhng4 kyùhn4 = power; might | ● 甚或 sahm6 waahk6 = even; (go) so far as to | ● 擴散 kong3 saan3 = to spread; to diffuse | ● 通澈 tūng1 chit3 = ? (cf. 通徹to understand thoroughly) | ● 容器 yùhng4 hei3 = container; vessel | ● 地緣 deih6 yùhn6 = relations formed through geographical links; geo- (as a prefix) | ● 格局 gaak3 guhk6 = a pattern; setup; structure | ● 論述 leuhn6 seuht6 = to discuss; to expound
In such an uneasy political environment, we can rethink the “original intentions” of the movement: “to be like water” [如水]. “To be like water” means that when the water goes into a cup or glass, it takes the form of the cup/glass, and when it goes into a jug [壺] it adopts the shape of a jug. The reason why the anti-extradition movement was able to achieve a breakthrough was precisely because activists [抗爭者] were able to respond with ingenuity to the tactics of those in power, just like water — capable of being both firm and stable [堅穩], and flowing like water, and even able to evaporate and vanish away into thin air [擴散而去]. But following on from the constant escalation in repression on the part of the regime, if we wish to go on in the spirit of being like water, we must first gain a thorough understanding of our containers, that is, the state of affairs in which we find ourselves and the global setup [世界格局]. Whose discourse is it that constitutes the Hong Kong and the Hongkongers we are to have in our minds? To what extent is our “common knowledge” saturated with the mindset [意識] of a Chinese communist colonial Hong Kong?
● 清空心智 chīng1 hūng1 sām1 ji3 = (?) to empty one’s mind | ● 審視 sám2 sih6 = to examine; to scrutinize | ● 未圓之處 meih6 yùhn4 jī1 chyu3 = roughly, “those places which are not satisfactory” | ● 摒棄 bing3 hei3 = to discard; to reject; to throw away; to abandon | ● 考證 háau2 jing3 = usu. textual criticism; textual research | ● 拷問 hāau1 mahn6 = usu. “to torture” (?) to interrogate
If we wish to be like water, we must first empty our minds and scrutinize ourselves for blind spots and imperfections [未圓之處]. That does not mean that we should try to go beyond history or set aside all the old intellectual frameworks. The opposite is true: we must once again examine [考證] history, criticize the utterances [論述] of the existing power structure, and establish our own discourse about this community, in order to reflect on future possible ways forward. Where does the long river of Hong Kong first begin to flow, and in which direction ought it to flow [next]? This is how the present era interrogates [拷問] us.
● 知所進退 jī1 só2 jeun3 teui3 = roughly, “know when to advance and when to retreat” | ● 任 yahm6 = to let; to allow; to give free rein to | ● 單一規範 dāan1 yāt1 kwāi1 faahn6 = roughly, “a single standard/norm” | ● 鐵則 tit3 jāk1 = an iron rule | ● 束縛 chūk1 bok3 = to tie; to bind up; to fetter | ● 奉為圭臬 fuhng6 wàih4 gwāi1 yiht6 = hold up as a model | ● 相左的異議 sēung1 jó2 dīk1 yih6 yíh5 = lit. 相左 = conflict with each other + 異議 = objection; dissent| ● 送葬 sung3 jong3 = to take part in a funeral procession; to attend a funeral | ● 合作基礎 hahp6 jok3 gēi1 chó2 = a foundation/basis for co-operation | ● 攜手 kwàih4 sáu2 = ① hand in hand ② to co-operate | ● 澤 jaahk6 = to benefit | ● 川流不息 chyūn1 làuh4 bāt1 sīk1 = flowing past in an endless stream; never-ending | ● 對撞契合 deui3 johng6 kai3 hahp6 = lit. 對撞 = colliding + 契合 = to agree with; to tally with
When unable to flow, water becomes turbid; when able to flow, it is never stagnant. If, during key moments in the days to come, we wish to be able to be like water — knowing when to advance and when to retreat — we cannot allow any single norm [單一規範] to become an iron rule with which to limit ourselves. When those holding power hold up telling lies as a model, as a matter of course [往往] they brutally obliterate any views that object to their own, and take part in the funeral for the possibility of the development of freedom among the people. If collective movements are to succeed, it is indispensable for public groups to seek out bases for co-operation and directions for development. Highest good is like water — only as long as we put ourselves to one side in the course of the revolution and advance hand in hand can we benefit the community we so deeply love. At the same time, it is only as long as we are willing to positively discuss issues affecting this community together that the vitality of the Hong Kong community can be maintained, providing intellectual nutrition to future movements.
● 政治寒冬 jing3 jih6 hòhn4 dūng1 = roughly, “a severe political Winter” | ● 剛強 gōng1 kèuhng4 = firm; staunch; unyielding | ● 不屈 bāt wāt1 = unyielding; unbending | ● 破除 po3 chèuih4 = to do away with; to get rid of; to eradicate; to break with | ● 夢魘 muhng6 yím2 = nightmare | ● 辯論 bihn6 leuhn6 = to argue; to debate | ● 抹殺 mut3 saat3 = to remove from evidence; to expunge; to suppress; to wipe out, to obliterate (also written 抹煞) | ● 建構 gin3 kau3 = to construct | ● 整合 jíng2 hahp6 = to reorganize & consolidate | ● 面向 mihn6 heung3 = ① to turn in the direction of; to face ② be geared to the needs of; to cater to | ● 論述 leuhn6 seuht6 = to discuss; to expound | ● 連結 lìhn4 git3 = to connect | ● 作思想充權jok3 sī1 séung2 chōng1 kyùhn4 = (?) to carry out ideological/intellectual empowerment | ● 弘揚 wàhng4 yèuhng4 = to develop & expand
Faced with this severe political Winter, Hongkongers must be flexible like water, and they must also be staunch like water, striving to do away with the Chinese nightmare. When political power obliterates all space for public debate, we cannot choose silence, we Hong Kong people who are scattered abroad as well as those who deeply love Hong Kong. We have decided to make use of those spaces for freedom outside of Hong Kong to construct and maintain a medium for the public discussion of Hong Kong, as well as to reorganize and consolidate discussions geared to [面向] [issues such as] politics, history, society and culture for Hongkongers inside and outside Hong Kong. By means of discussions of history, theoretical frameworks, and a consideration of future ways to proceed [未來路線], we hope to connect with every daughter and son of Hong Kong who is taking part in this movement to liberate Hong Kong and to empower them intellectually. In the course of human history, we would like to develop and amplify the voice of Hongkongers in their quest for freedom, as well as let the world come to see Hong Kong.
● 轉捩點 jyún2 liht6 dím2 = turning point | ● 失根的浮萍 sāt1 gān1 dīk1 fàuh4 pìhng4 = roughly, “duckweed which has lost its roots/identity” | ● 白白流逝 baahk6 baahk6 làuh4 saih6 = 白白 = in vain; to no purpose; for nothing + 流逝 = (of time) to pass; to elapse | ● 漆黑 chāt1 hāk1/hāak1 = pitch-dark; pitch-black | ● 心中所有 sām1 jūng1 só2 yáuh5 = roughly, “that which is in one’s heart/mind” | ● 憑藉 pàhng4 jihk6 = to rely on; to depend on | ● 夙願 sūk1 yuhn6 = a long-cherished wish | ● 跨 kwāa1 = to cut across; to go beyond | ● 呼聲 fū1 sēng1 = a cry; a voice | ● 召喚 jiuh6 wuhn6 = to call; to summon | ● 挺身而出 tíhng5 sān1 yìh4 chēut1 = step forward bravely; come out boldly | ● 不負 bāt1 fuh6 = (?) not to betray | ● 獨裁暴政 duhk6 choih4 bouh6 jing3 = cf. 獨裁 = dictatorship + 暴政 = tyranny; despotic rule | ● 破土而出 po3 tóu2 yìh4 chēut1 = (of a seedling) break through the soil | ● 遊子 yàuh4 jí2 = a person travelling or residing in a place far away from home | ● 解困 gáai2 kwan3 = to resolve difficulties | ● 希冀 hēi1 kei3 = to hope for; to wish for; to aspire to
Notes: ① The expression 是故 has the meaning of “for this reason” in Standard Written Chinese. ② I’m not exactly sure what 勢要 sai3 yiu3 means in the phrase 勢要讓獨裁暴政在這代終結. Usually, 勢 refers to “momentum” or “tendency”; it can also mean “state of affairs; circumstances”.
History is now at a turning point, and a revolution in thought is in the process of taking place. Hong Kong is the Hong Kong that belongs to the Hong Kong people — we have no wish to become [like] floating duckweed that has lost its roots, and for this reason we will absolutely not allow Hong Kong to slip out of our hands to no purpose. In every pitch-black night in which nothing stirs, one must not forget that there are still individuals who have never given up on what they hold dear in their hearts [心中所有]. Before the coming of the dawn, we will keep one another company through the long night, and with written words give expression to both our faith and our perseverance, providing in the darkness of night a basis for our common hopes. The striving for democracy and freedom is the long-cherished wish of Hongkongers cutting across a number of generations, and we are convinced that the pursuit of determining our own fate is something that History calls on us to do [追求命運自主是歷史的呼聲]. History is summoning us, so we must come out boldly, not betray the age, and continue the momentum [勢要] by which dictatorship and tyranny is coming to an end in this era. We look forward to the fruits of democracy breaking through the soil of Hong Kong, [so that] those residing far from home may return, and those in difficulty may resolve them [so that] together Hongkongers can build a beautiful new Hong Kong, as soon as possible. This is our shared aspiration.