Stella’s Hounding  

Photograph by Lani Elliott at flickr


To get to this point, she had to be largely out of the common sense. Like toilet paper fluttering in a steady draught, twisting and snaking the full length of its perforated segments, her nerves never ceased, never settled into any less unpredictable pattern called “home”. Each turn of phrase was a change of heart, emotion’s perpetual motion — she couldn’t f-f-f-find herself for long in a single one of any of her f-f-f-feelings. Voices spoke against her in a relentlessly demented tone of vice. Her search against incomprehension was for anything that would drive her sane — by middle age, the exhaustion was as clear as the no’s on her face. And yet, despite the accumulated mundane darkness, there were moments when — like the brave dog born without eyes — she could listen to the world to the limits of existence in all her skin, as if a Painted Lady had landed slap-bang on her forehead.

Learning Cantonese: Popsong as Prophecy with Wong Yiu-ming


Singer 黃耀明 Wong Yiu-ming, together with guitarist 劉以達 Tats Lau, formed the band 達明一派 Tat Ming Pair in 1985, a name inspired by the final character of their personal names. They are described as “an experimental Cantopop duo” and are also credited with making the first local concept album in the history of popular music in Hong Kong. Although officially disbanding in 1991, Tat Ming Pair continue to reunite periodically with new songs and concerts, some of which has upset the fragile-hearted censors so much that streaming of their music has been blocked in the Mainland.

In this four-minute video — which premiered on Stand News not long before it was closed down by the National Security Department for honest reporting (otherwise known as “subversion”) — Wong reflects on the role of popular music in the documentation of an era and on his commitment to living the life he has grown accustomed to, which means 我有咩,就想講咩嘢 = “saying whatever happens to be on my mind” . . .

There is some interesting grammar worth delving into in this interview, including those impossible sentence-final particles that drive even the most level-headed and conscientious of learners wild with frustration, especially the Terrible Trio of 喇 laa3, 啦 lāa1 and 囉 lō1! At best, I think all you can really do is try to identify typical situations in which these particles occur as you go on collecting and reflecting on concrete examples. Wong also uses 中 jung3 as a result particle, and employs the structure 有得/冇得 + VERB. You can find my discussion after the transcription, if you’re interested.

As for vocabulary, Wong gives us the chance to learn the four-character phrase 一廂情願 yāt1 sēung1 chìhng4 yuhn6 = “one’s own wishful thinking”, something we should all be checking ourselves for. You would also do well to commit the following to memory: 荒謬 fōng1 mauh6 = “absurd; preposterous”; 失戀 sāt1 lyún2 = be disappointed in a love affair; 變遷 bin3 chīn1 = changes; viscissitudes; 願望 yuhn6 mohng6 = a desire; a wish; an aspiration | 感受 gám2 sauh6 = ① to be affected by ② to experience; to feel; and 光復 gwōng1 fuhk6 = to recover; to liberate.

Please scroll down for my transcription, English translation and notes. You can view the video here (subtitles in Standard Written Chinese only). Since it is a YouTube video, you can slow down the playback speed if you wish: at 0.75 and 0.5, the sound quality is still good. And remember, if you want the standard jyutping romanization or to check any of the Chinese in the text, please consult the Sheik Cantonese on-line dictionary.


你做唱片嘅時候 | 你更梗係希望做好咗張唱片,吓 | 噉而我諗有時咁啱呢 | 佢裏邊講嘅嘢係 timeless(永恆)嘅 | 係幾時都講得中 | 我唔知道我哋有一啲歌 | 係咪有一種 timelessness(永恆的特質),吓 | 抑或係都唔好彩 | 我哋 . . . 我哋嘅歌講咗嗰啲嘢 | 只係香港呢個宿命一路不斷不斷咁樣喺度循環,吓 | 噉咁啱就撞正喇,吓

Caption: 30 年前的預言 | 黃耀明

歌詞:但請不要為我憂愁 | 蝴蝶總比沙丘永久 | 但請相信我的荒謬 | 縱使真的不想遠走 | (達明一派《愛彌留》

你開始嘅時候其實你冇目的 | 你只係想有人幫你出一首歌、出唱片 | 有得玩 | 後來你發覺你遇到好多嘅事情 | 然後你可以將佢變成你音樂嘅一部分

● 永恆 wíhng5 hàhng4 = eternal; perpetual | ● 宿命 sūk1 mihng6 = predestination; fatality | ● 循環 chèuhn4 wàahn4 = to circulate; to cycle | ● 撞正 johng6 jeng3 = to collide head-on with; head-on collision | ● 預言 yuh6 yìhn4 = ① to foretell ② a prediction | ● 憂愁 yāu1 sàuh4 = sad; worried; depressed | ● 荒謬 fōng1 mauh6 = absurd; preposterous

When you make a record, even more, of course, you hope to make the record well [做好咗張唱片]. Now I think sometimes just be chance, the things said in it [that is, the record] are timeless, valid for any time [講得中]. I don’t whether any of our songs have this timeless quality. Or perhaps it’s just unlucky: what we talk about in our songs is merely the destiny [宿命] of Hong Kong, a destiny that is repeating itself over and over again and which we have collided with head-on, just by accident.

Caption: A Prediction from 30 Years Ago | Wong Yiu-ming

Lyrics: Please don’t worry about me | Butterflies last longer than sand dunes | Please believe my absurdities | Even if I don’t want to go very far away from here (“Oi Nei Lau”, by Tat Ming Pair)

When you first start out, you have no real aim. You just want someone to put out a song for you, to put out a record[ing], to have a bit of fun [有得玩]. Later, you realize that a lot of the things you come across in your life can go on to become a part of your music.

【1:00】覺得好似搵到一個 | 呃,表達自己嘅工具啦

有時你想音樂純粹啲,吓 | 但係其實冇乜嘢係純粹或者唔純粹 | 你主要嘅目的就係要抗爭 | 咁咪寫啲抗爭嘅歌出嚟囉 | 啫,譬如《榮光》(《願榮光歸香港》)咁樣| 如果我哋仲有呢一個嘅平台 | 呢一個工具嘅時候 | 呃,我都希望 | 至少有部分我哋嘅歌可以,啫,變成 | 為大家發聲嘅一部分喇 | 尤其是而家 | 大家好似做好多嘅行動 | 都係會好危險咁樣 | 創作又或者藝術嗰度可能冇咁危險,吓 | 啫,或者我哋一廂情願咁諗,吓 | 我諗無論你哋有意定冇意 | 歌都係一個記錄嚟㗎喇 | a documentation of 你嘅失戀 | 抑或係個時代嘅變遷,吓 | 《意難平》係一個 personal 啲嘅一個記錄囉 | 而《神經》係一個社會性啲嘅,呃,記錄囉

● 純粹 sèuhn4 seuih6 = pure; unadulterated| ● 發聲 faat3 sēng1 = (?) to speak up; to speak out| ● 一廂情願 yāt1 sēung1 chìhng4 yuhn6 = one’s own wishful thinking | ● 失戀 sāt1 lyún2 = be disappointed in a love affair | ● 變遷 bin3 chīn1 = changes; viscissitudes

I think it’s like having found a tool with which to express yourself.

Sometimes, you [may] think that music is more pure, but it’s not really a question of purity. [If] your main objective is struggle, then you write songs about struggle, like for example [the song] “Glory to Hong Kong” [《願榮光歸香港》)] While we still have this platform, this tool, my hope is that at least some of our songs can become a part of [our] speaking out on behalf of everyone. Especially now, [when] people are doing engaged in all kinds of actions [做好多嘅行動] that could be very dangerous. Creativity or art is maybe not so dangerous, or perhaps that’s just wishful thinking on our part. Whether intentionally or unintentionally, I think [music] is a documentation — of your failed love affair or of the changes of an age. [The album] Fallen Angel [《意難平》] is a more personal document, while Nerve [《神經》] is a more social kind of documentation.

【2:00】吊詭嘅地方就係話 | 我 . . . 我哋就係用呢兩張唱片 | 嚟回應呢一個時代

歌詞:(Heard but not shown on screen) 賣掉舊夢跟舊愁 |賣掉伴著我的憂 | 代換了新愛才來渡以後 | 賣掉痛苦買美酒(達明一派《四季交易會》

Caption: 達明一派11月舉行演唱會 | 將完整演出 | 《意難平》和《神經》兩張專輯

譬如《四季交易會》| 係一個 | 一切都可以買賣嘅一個社會,吓 | 本來有享受嘅自由你都可以賣咗佢嘅 ,吓 | 因為你想得到另一啲嘢

歌詞:賣掉寂寞的自由 | 賣掉願望和感受 | 賣掉了所有 來期待以後 | 賣掉理想買借口

Captions: 1989.05.27 民主歌聲獻中華 | 2014.11.12 雨傘活動 | 2019.06.04 六四晚會 | 2019.07.21 反修例遊行 | 2019.12.08 民陣國際人權日遊行

要希望自己繼續 | 你一向習慣嘅生活方式 | 而我一向習慣嘅就係 | 我有咩,就想講咩嘢

● 吊詭 diu3 gwái2 = (?) paradoxical | ● 回應 wùih4 ying3 = to respond | ● 舊愁 gauh6 sàuh4 = roughly, “old worries” | ● 代換 doih6 wuhn6 = (?) to substitute | ● 交易會 gāau1 yihk6 wúi6*2 = trade fair | ● 專輯 jyūn1 chāp1 = (music) album; LP | ● 寂寞 jihk6 mohk6 = lonely; lonesome | ● 願望 yuhn6 mohng6 = a desire; a wish; an aspiration | ● 感受 gám2 sauh6 = ① to be affected by ② to experience; to feel

Where it gets paradoxical [吊詭嘅地方] is that it is with these two albums that we responded to these times [呢一個時代].

Lyrics: Sell off old dreams and old cares | Sell off the worry that keeps me company | Getting by, finding a replacement new love | Selling pain & buying up fine wines (“The Four Seasons Trade Fair” by Tat Ming Pair)

Caption: Tat Ming Pair Will Do Concerts in November | Performing Every Song from the Albums Fallen Angel & Nerve

For instance, “The Four Seasons Trade Fair” is [about] a society in which everything can be bought and sold. The freedom you used to enjoy can also be sold because you want to get some other things [for it].

Lyrics: Sell off lonesome freedom | Sell off aspirations & experiences | And when everything is sold off, look forward to what comes next | Selling ideals & buying up excuses

Captions: 27 May 1989: Offering Democracy & Song to China | 12 November 2014: The Umbrella Movement | 4 June 2019: June 4 Candlelight Vigil | 21 July 2019: Anti-extradition Bill Demonstration | 8 December 2019: Civil Human Rights March for Internal Human Rights Day

You would like to hope that [要希望] you can continue the way of life you’ve grown accustomed to, and what I am accustomed to is saying whatever happens to be on my mind.

【3:00】五年前敢講嘅嘢或者敢唱嘅歌 | 希望我而家都繼續係 . . . 繼續做呢件事

歌詞:抑鬱於天空的火焰下 | 大地靜默無説話 | 風吹起紫色的煙和霞 | 百姓瑟縮於惶恐下 | (達明一派《天問》

其實我都唔知道嗰陣時嘅香港 | 係咪需要光復嘅 | 亦都唔係需要返翻去,呃,九七前嘅香港 | 我唔會enjoy(享受),啫,被人殖民 | 只不過話,我哋有好多成長嘅元素 | 係喺嗰個咁奇怪嘅社會狀況裏邊 | 我覺得得到好多有趣嘅嘢囉 | 甚至有趣過而家啦 | 我覺得我哋需要有一個新嘅香港

● 霞 hàah4 = rosy clouds; morning or evening glow | ● 瑟縮 sāt1 sūk1 = to curl up with cold; to cower | ● 惶恐 wòhng4 húng2 = terrified | ● 光復 gwōng1 fuhk6 = to recover; to liberate | ● 殖民 jihk6 màhn4 = to establish a colony; to colonize

I hope now I will continue to talk and sing about the things I dared to talk and sing about five years ago.

Lyrics: Depression beneath the flames in the sky | The Earth is silent, not saying a word | A wind blows up a purple-coloured mist and glow | The people cower in the face of terror (“Heavenly Questions” by Tat Ming Pair)

Actually, I have no idea whether the Hong Kong of those days needs to be recovered or not. Or whether [we] need to go back to the Hong Kong of pre-1997 days. I don’t enjoy being colonized by others. Nevertheless [只不過話], there are many elements in our growing up in this bizarre social situation that have given us, I feel, many interesting things, even more interesting than today [甚至有趣過而家啦]. I think we need a new Hong Kong . . .

【4:00】 但係需要光呀 | 香港而家係好黑暗 | 可能真係,吓 | 啫,我哋需要更多 . . . 更多嘅光射入嚟喇

● 黑暗 hāk1 am3 = dark | ● 射入嚟 seh6 yahp6 lèih4 = to shine into

. . . but it needs light. Hong Kong is now very dark. Perhaps what we really need more of is . . . is for more light to shine in.


Grammar Notes

Typically, 喇 laa3 is used to indicate that something has already happened and to report change. I saw a simple example recently: 凍嗮喇 = “(the food) has gone completely cold”. When something new happens, 喇is also often used to mark the change in situation. At 0:27, Wong says 噉咁啱就撞正喇 = “we have collided with head-on”. You will routinely find 喇 used in if-clauses to indicate what new situation will emerge if certain conditions are met. For instance, at 1:21 , Wong says “if we still have this platform, this tool …” and goes on to finish with the new situation: 至少有部分我哋嘅歌可以,啫,變成 | 為大家發聲嘅一部分喇 = “my hope is that at least some of our songs can become a part of [our] speaking out on behalf of everyone” (unfortunately, the sentence itself is a bit complex). Finally, 喇 can be used prospectively, in circumstances where you want a new situation to emerge. Tsang Yuen-lam describes this usage as “It is time to”, and notes that it should not be used when speaking to “superiors”. This prospective usage is possibly at work when Wong declares in his final sentence 我哋需要更多 . . . 更多嘅光射入嚟喇 = “what we really need more of is . . . is for more light to shine in”. According to Colloquial Cantonese (168), 喇 can be added to negative imperatives formed with 唔好 mh4 hóu2 and the expression 唔使 mh4 sái2 = “there is no need to: 天氣轉熱。唔使着太多衫喇。 = “The weather is getting hotter. There’s no need to wear too many clothes”.

Note too that 喇 regularly fuses with that other common sentence-final particle 㗎 gaa3 to form 㗎喇. This often suggests that the speaker has everything under control, perhaps reflected by the prevalence of “no problem” in Hong Kong English (at least according to Martin Booth).

啦 lāa1 is routinely used to mark the items in a list (呀 aa3 is also used for this purpose). It is also commonly used with proposals and suggestions, often formed in Cantonese with the opening expression 不如 bāt1 yùh4 = why don’t (we)…; how about … In material on Cantonese, it is often suggested that 啦 also serves as a more “animated” version of 喇 laa3, conveying the fact the speaker is more enthusiastic or personally engaged in what is being said. This also connects with the idea that 喇/啦 can be used to express that enigmatic quality called “CRS” (current relevant status). I think there is some truth in the hypothesis that 啦 in particular is used (subjectively) by speakers to “book-mark” certain parts of a conservation as “worthy of note”, but by nature it seems very hard to pin down. When Wong says at 3:53 我覺得得到好多有趣嘅嘢囉 | 甚至有趣過而家啦 = “(our growing up in this bizarre social situation that has given us,) I feel, many interesting things, even more interesting than today”, he may be using 啦 for this reason. Or it may be that by using啦 lāa1, Wong wants to indicate that his remarks are to be taken as his personal suggestion/opinion rather than categorically asserted fact.

囉 lō1 is used to suggest that what is being said should be obvious to the listener. As we have seen on several occasions in these posts, is regularly used with 咪 maih6 to express “an obvious conclusion”. Tsang Yuen-lam adds a bit more detail when she states that it is used for “giving suggestions that the speaker thinks are obvious” (157). Wong uses it at 1:16 in 你主要嘅目的就係要抗爭 | 咁咪寫啲抗爭嘅歌出嚟囉 = “[if] your main objective is struggle, then write songs about struggle”. Tsang gives three other uses for 囉 lō1: (1) pointing out something that the speaker thinks is obvious; (2) refuting someone (obviously you are wrong); and (3) expressing unwillingness or discontent. Perhaps the first additional use explains why Wong uses 囉 lō1 twice at 1:50 in 《意難平》係一個 personal 啲嘅一個記錄囉 | 而《神經》係一個社會性啲嘅,呃,記錄囉 = “[The album] Fallen Angel [《意難平》] is a more personal document, while Nerve [《神經》] is a more social kind of documentation”.

Bear in mind, however, that 囉 can also be pronounced lo3 and lòh4, with other shades of meaning . . .

Two other points are worth mentioning. Firstly, when pronounced in the mid-level tone rather than the high-level tone, 中 jung3 means approximately “to hit; to fit exactly”. It is often added to verbs to indicate the result of an action. When a high-school student was shot by police in Tsuen Wan during the 2019 protests, TV reports described the event by using (警方)亦都喺荃灣開過槍 | 射中一個示威者, with 射 seh6 meaning “to shoot” and 中 indicating a hit. Note too that 中籤者 jung3 chīm1 jé2 refers to “someone who has won the lottery. At 0:13, Wong uses it with the verb 講 góng2 = to speak. Adding 中 jung3 seems to give the meaning of “hitting the nail on the head” or “saying something that is spot on”:

佢裏邊講嘅嘢係 timeless(永恆)嘅 | 係幾時都講得中

There is also one occurrence of the structure 有得 + VERB. I am yet to find any good discussion of this in the literature, but it seems to be linked to (absolute) ability (得 dāk1 = to be able). It may be, too, that there is an impersonal quality implied: what can or can’t be done has more to do with the situation than it has with any individual capability. At 0:55, Wong makes use of 有得玩, suggesting roughly “enabling one to have a good time”:

你開始嘅時候其實你冇目的 | 你只係想有人幫你出一首歌、出唱片 | 有得玩

Other examples from my own experience include 根本佢係冇得選擇 = “basically, he has not choice (is unable to make any choice)” and (from Sheik Cantonese) 佢淨係鍾意著紅色裙,冇得解嘅。 = “She only loves to wear red dresses, which can’t be explained.”

Wild Blue Yonder

Photo by Brett Sayles on Pexels.com


The thunder seems to roll right up deep from underneath all hearing.
There, in some sub-subterranean auditory realm,
it decibellows
the whole blunt length of its Earthquavering range
over what
we think we imagine we say to our basement souls
(“How I want just a piece of that GRANDEUR all to my self!”)
Crows why-fly wide against pallid dawn light;
a moon still in memory of its latest full face
spins on now in return to whatever comes —
lunarly — next; and leaves effervesce in a breath of fresh air
frictions too slight for heat. Today
as it happens
the storm keeps — gruff — to itself — off-stage — in the wings,
while in highest clear skies
swallows ply sharp contrasts overhead.

Tomas Tranströmer’s Great Leap Forward: “Utkantsområde”

Photo by Miguel u00c1. Padriu00f1u00e1n on Pexels.com












The Great Leap Forward — 大躍進 in Chinese — refers to the second Five Year Plan for the years 1958 to 1962. It was an attempt to rapidly transform the People’s Republic into an ideal communist society. In effect, it led to massive starvation due to food shortages, with millions of people dying from the simple lack of something to eat.

This kind of blind, accelerated rejection of the land in the name of “improvement” seems to lie at the heart of this poem by Tomas Tranströmer, first published in the collection Mörkerseende (1970). What he calls in the third line det stora språnget must be, I think, a Swedish translation for the Maoist term. And — without trying to limit the possibilities of the poem too neatly — the reference at the end of the text to begravningsplats = “burial place” hints at the destruction and famine associated with the ill-fated Chinese campaign.

But is Sweden (or anywhere else, for that matter) really so different? There is, for me, an echo of this insane leap-mentality in a passage from the book Författarmiljöer i Stockholm by Ulla Montan and Ludvig Rassmusson:

När Stockholm under förra seklet blev storstad, offrades naturen. Det hade inte behövt gå så, det var inte nödvändigt — i Paris, som var den stora förebilden, anlade man parker och planterade träd längs boulevarderna. Men i Stockholm var man nyförälskad i stadsaktigheten. Alla dessa inflyttade som lämnat landsbygden bakom sig, skämdes för de knotiga björkarna, de magra rönnarna, vedbodarna, utedassen, Kronblom ock leran. De ville ha modernitet och stadsaktighet. (p.52).

When Stockholm became a big city over the course of the previous century, nature was sacrificed. It did not have to be that way; it was not at all necessary. In Paris — which served as the major prototype — parks were laid out and trees planted along the boulevards. But in Stockholm people had become infatuated with the big city lifestyle. All those who moved to the city left the countryside behind, ashamed of scraggy birch trees, skinny rowans, woodsheds, earth-closets, low-brow comic-strips and all that mud. They wanted modernity and a life in the metropolis.

Two kinds of vocabulary dominate this short poem: a construction lexicon intertwined with agricultural terms. The organic growth of the soil is mimicked by a constructive pseudo-flourishing: earth-coloured men pop up out of the ground like seedlings. Farm-animals seem to haunt the poem. We are reminded of them by the cranes that wish to spring like gambolling lambs; by the sound of bells; by the concrete pipes, thirsty in their own way, “lapping” at the light; and by the repurposed lagårdar or “cow-sheds”. But ultimately, the landscape is a space-age, lunar one, devoid of organic growth, a deathly site populated everywhere by föremål [objects] rather than subjects. The search for profit at the expense of the magical fertility of the soil has betrayed us.


Utkantsområde

Män i överdragskläder med samma färg som marken kommer upp ur ett dike.
Det är ett övergångsområde, dödläge, varken stad eller land.
Byggnadskranarna vid horisonten vill ta det stora språnget men klockorna vill inte.
Kringkastade cementrör lapar ljuset med torra tungor.
Bilplåtverkstäder inrymda i före detta lagårdar.
Stenarna kastar skuggorna skarpt som föremål på månytan.
Och de platserna bara växer.
Som det man köpte för Judas’ pengar: ”Krukmakaråkern till begravninsplats för främlingar.”

…………………………………………………..

Men in overalls the same colour as the ground sprout up out of a trench.

This is an in-between zone, dead-heat, neither city nor country.

Construction cranes along the horizon want to make the Great Leap Forward, but bells hang back.

Dotted across the landscape, concrete pipes lick light with parched tongues.

Crash-repair garages housed in what used to be cow-sheds.

The stones cast their shadows sharply like objects on the surface of the moon.

And such places are growing.

Reminiscent of “the Potter’s Field” they bought with Judas’ silver “as a burial place for strangers”.

An Eye on Hong Kong by Keith Macgregor (1999)

Keith Macgregor: “Central 1990”











The Consummate Panorama

It was Martin Booth who once revealed that the view of Victoria Harbour regularly reduced friends to the verge of tears, either because they were moved by the magnificence of the vista or because they were only able to fit one-fifth of it into the view-finder of their cameras. In An Eye on Hong Kong, you feel that photographer Keith Macgregor is absorbed by this problem of the panorama and what it means for our understanding and appreciation of Hong Kong.

The urban panorama is the obvious place to start, and Macgregor understands its idiom perfectly. “Central 1990” captures the mixed ruthless geometry of the harbour-side skyline set against a deep-blue sky only partially softened by cloud. This is one of the founding dreams of Hong Kong, in which no individual human being matters (you see none in this image) and where wealth and power solidify themselves with a breath-taking yet cold-blooded aplomb.

More lively and endearing are the nightscapes, often shot with long exposure-times to create vivid light-trails inscribed by ferry-boats and land traffic in motion. Colour here intrudes on the otherwise imperturbable architecture, and softens the harsh angles and plate-glass glare of the day-time city environment. There is a garish vitality to the light, as contradictory as the night itself with promises of leisure — if not pleasure — alongside our instinctive terror of the dark. Macgregor’s masterpiece in this type of photograph is the three-page fold-out “Island 1996”, taken from Hung Hom on the Kowloon side. It shows Victoria Harbour all the way from North Point to Sheung Wan, lit-up by neon and the complementary red and yellow lights of the boats. But beyond it all, under a late-twilight sky, the mountains on the eastern coast of the island remain featureless, forbidding, presences.

A different kind of panorama characterizes the Kowloon pictures. It is not horizontal sweep that matters but depth in a streetscape filled with what Romain Jacquet-Lagrèze calls “city poetry” — that is, the collage of signage that transforms main roads into textual fields. One typical example is “Tung Choi Street Market, Mong Kok 1994”. With the exception of the words “PARK’N SHOP in the foreground and an upper-case GROOVY in the middle distance, what follows down the length of the road is a galaxy of Chinese writing, much of it done in red, some it reading right-to-left, in other cases top-to-bottom. If you read Chinese, you could spend an easy half-an-hour deciphering what you see (I spied a shop-sign for a Buddhist vegetarian restaurant tucked in amongst the linguistic barrage).

Naturally, night scenes of a neon-lit Nathan Road lend themselves perfectly to photography, too. No language glows in the dark like Chinese does.

Once we leave the built-up centres of Hong Kong behind, we come to a third mode of panorama, this time composed of sea, mountains and sky, the whole unified by the light that transforms the blues and greens into jewel-like azure and emerald. The eastern New Territories is a favourite location for Macgregor in this regard, examples including “North Sai Kung 1995”, “Sai Kung Peninsula 1995”. Other shots have a tourist-brochure feel to them, but at their best they distil the overpowering natural beauty of the Hong Kong landscape and convince us that there must be something altogether remarkable about the feng-shui of the place.

Apart from the panorama, you will find many photographs in An Eye on Hong Kong concerned with the life of fisherfolk. Of course, pictures of junks are a stock item in many books on Hong Kong, but Macgregor goes well beyond this, with numerous pictures of working life at sea and of the dragon boat races. Like the wonderful Barbara E. Ward before him, Macgregor seems to feel a close affinity for the Tanka people, and has gone out of his way to document what he can of their seafaring lifestyle. Late in the book (pages 114-116), there are even shots of celebrations for the birthday of Hung Shing on Kau Sai Island, not far from where the locals have put up a plaque in commemoration of Ward for all the work she did for the local community, including the creation of a new Kau Sai Village in Hebe Haven.

This affinity for the Tanka also results in some very special photographs of female heads, a minor strand in Macgregor’s work that serves as a tender counter-balance to all the sweep and impersonality essential to his panoramas. There is a full-page photograph in the introductory section of the book of a woman dressed in her best clothes and wearing a number of elaborate silvery ornaments in her hair, with all the vibrant colours of some temple decoration in the background. It is the epitome of festivity, summed up in a couplet I once saw in Tsz Tin Tsuen Village in Tuen Mun — 神人共樂, Gods and Human Beings, Enjoying Themselves Together. Of this type of image, the most memorable one for me is “Fisherwoman”, taken in Aberdeen in 1986. It is certainly not a photograph that leaps out at you the first time you see it, but there is something in the woman’s appearance and expression that is like an enigma, drawing you back again and again.

Keith Macgregor: “Fisherwoman”

Collages and contrasts are two other elements in Macgregor’s photography that diversify his appeal. Subject-matter for the former include temple decorations, smiling faces, various dry goods, aerial views, seafood, and salt-dried fish, as well as children taking part in the annual float procession held on Cheung Chau. Contrasts generally involve two photographs of the same scene taken at different times. The prime example is “The Harbour and the City”, which juxtaposes a panorama taken by Mee Cheung in pre-skyscraper 1948 with one by Macgregor taken in 1970. Quieter (and, for me, sadder instances) include the shot of a “typical old building in Eastern Street, Kennedy Town” from 1977 placed next to that imperious photograph of Central in 1990, as well as two pictures of Sha Tin, before and after it was new-towned out of existence into its present Legoland form, racecourse dominant in the foreground beside the extensive sewage treatment works.

And if this is not enough for you, Macgregor also includes some important images from the Sau Mau Ping Monkey God Festival. In one, a young male medium possessed by the Monkey King’s spirit prepares to dip his feet in a wok filled with boiling oil, while in another he sprints down a road made of hot burning-coals past the exclusive area set aside for VIPs.

The book ends on a glorious-sombre note, with a finale panorama entitled “Sunset over Lantau Island 1996”. From somewhere above Central we look out west over the darkened waters towards a yellow-gold conflagration of light and monumental cloud, beneath an expanse of sky still lit up enough to show faintly blue. An era has come to an end, it suggests, and with it, perhaps, an extraordinary way of life that will never be repeated anywhere in this world again.

You can see more of Keith Macgregor’s work at Keith Macgregor Photography and at Blue Lotus Gallery.

Learning Cantonese: Hong Kong Newts and their Underwater Plant Nurseries

Photograph: 香港大埔滘:香港瘰螈 Hong Kong Newt, Tai Po Kau, Hong Kong (Thomas Brown on Flickr, 2011)


The wonderful 劉善茗 Lau Sin-ming at RTHK has narrated a whole series of 5-minute videos on Hong Kong’s natural environment, each of them featuring extraordinary camera work. At the risk of appearing to be something of a 瘰螈迷 ló2 yùhn4 màih4 (“Hong Kong newt nut”), I have transcribed the following clip, entitled 石菖蒲幫一把 or “Sweet Flag Lends a Helping Hand”, about the newt’s life-cycle.

The “sweet flag” in the title is a species of water plant, called 石菖蒲 sehk6 chēung1 pòuh4 in Cantonese. You don’t come across the character 菖 very often, but here’s your chance to master it. (Actually, in Chinese terms, it’s quite straightforward: just add the grass radical 艹 to the character 昌 chēung1 = “prosperous; flourishing” and Bob’s your uncle.)

You won’t find anything too curly in the grammar, but there are some minor points worth keeping in mind. The auxiliary verb 會 wúih5 crops up a lot. It basically indicates high likelihood (or predictability) of something happening, and this often extends to notions of “what tends to happen” or “what habitually happens” in a particular situation. How this is handled in English is really quite tricky and only adds to the difficulty of learning to use 會 appropriately. Take the idea of a regular activity like drinking coffee. In the past: I used to drink/I would drink (every morning). In the present: I drink coffee (every morning). In the future: (when I go to Italy) I will drink coffee (every morning). In Cantonese, life is much simpler, at least for present and future actions (I still need to do more work on the use of 會 in the past). Here are some relatively simple examples from the voice-over:

0:31: 佢哋部分嘅葉浸喺溪水裏面 = some of their leaves (tend to/have a tendency to) grow down into the water
3:28: 有啲時候佢哋好心急咁用口撕開抱卵嘅葉 = Sometimes, with their mouths, they anxiously tear open . . .
3:49: 一種可能性係瘰螈食同類嘅卵 = one possibility is that the Hong Kong newt eats (or “has the tendency to eat”) its own eggs

Also interesting is the use of 到 dóu3*2 as a verbal particle to indicate success in an action. (One of the basic meanings of 到 dou3 is “to arrive; to reach”.) English sometimes uses different verbs. For instance, the verbs “to look for” and “to find” are both 搵 wán2 in Cantonese, but since the latter suggests success in the activity (once you “find something, you no longer need to “look for” it), it usually expressed as 搵到. Sometimes, it seems to convey a sense of “managing to do sth.” Here are some examples from the last section of the video, where 到 appears five times:

發現到有啲卵受到刺狀真菌感染 = we find that some of the eggs have been infected … (infection has occurred)
但係受到本能驅使 | 為繁衍下一代付出最大嘅努力 = they are driven by instinct to go to great lengths … (lit. “[they have] received the urgings of instinct”)

Don’t confuse this use with 到 dou3 is commonly seen with location expressions, especially where movement from A to B is involved. For example, it appears at 3:04 in 雌性瘰螈慢慢咁爬到佢啲已經抱卵嘅石菖蒲上面 = “the female newts climb slowly up onto the leaves of sweet flag” and then at 4:06 甚至會蔓延到去旁邊健康嘅卵 = “could even spread to the adjacent healthy eggs”.

There is also an abundance of useful vocabulary. Apart from all the biological terminology, listen out for 育嬰室 yuhk6 yīng1 sāt1 = nursery; 腹大便便 fūk1 daaih6 bihn6 bihn6 = pot-bellied; big-bellied; 四處摸索 sei3 chyúh5 mó2 sok3 = to feel about all around; and 撕開 sī1 hōi1 = to rip open. You’ll also hear the Cantonese word for “jelly”, obviously borrowed from English — 啫喱 jē1 léi1*2 as well as the common verb 喐 yūk1 = to move.

Please scroll down if you want the transcription, notes and English translation. Otherwise, you can view the video here (subtitles in Standard Written Chinese only). And remember, if you want the standard jyutping romanization or to check any of the Chinese in the text, please consult the Sheik Cantonese on-line dictionary.

Other posts on the Hong Kong newt:
● “Cantonese Podcasts: Hong Kong Newts
● “The Good News about Hong Kong Newts


Caption: 石菖蒲幫一把

旁白:入夜之後,森林裏面嘅瘰螈就開始產卵 |瘰螈嘅繁殖 | 其實同一種喺溪邊嘅植物有緊密嘅關係 | 石菖蒲,正名金錢菖 | 佢強而有力嘅根 | 令到佢哋可以抓緊溪邊嘅石頭,喺上面生長 | 佢哋部分嘅葉會浸喺溪水裏面 | 厘啲位置就係瘰螈最佳嘅育嬰室

腹大便便嘅雌瘰螈 | 會爬去石菖蒲葉上四處摸索

● 石菖蒲 sehk6 chēung1 pòuh4 = grassy-leaved sweet flag (Acorus gramineus) | ● 產卵 cháan2 léuhn5/léun2 = to lay eggs; to spawn | ● 繁殖 fàahn4 jihk6 = to breed; to reproduce | ● 正名 jing3 mìhng4 = roughly, “proper name” | ● 抓緊 jáau2 gán2 = roughly, “gripping onto; clutching onto” | ● 育嬰室 yuhk6 yīng1 sāt1 = nursery | ● 腹大便便 fūk1 daaih6 bihn6 bihn6 = cf. 大腹便便 = pot-bellied; big-bellied | ● 雌 chī1 = female | ● 四處 sei3 chyúh5 = all around; in all directions; everywhere | ● 摸索 mó2 sok3 = to grope; to feel about; to fumble

Caption: Sweet Flag Lends a Helping Hand

Voice-over: After nightfall, the forest Hong Kong newts begin to lay their eggs. The reproductive [cycle] of Hong Kong newts is closely entwined with a plant [that grows] by the side of streams — sek cheong pou or [to give it its] proper name, kam chin cheong [both names refer to Acorus gramineus]. Its strong and powerful roots enable them to grip onto stones by the side of streams and to grow on their surface. Some of their leaves grow down into the water. These places [that is, in the leaves dangling down into the water] make a most excellent nursery for the Hong Kong newt.

With her heavy, swollen belly, a female newt climbs onto the leaves of the sweet flag plant groping about in all over.

【1:00】佢哋會喺兩塊葉中間扭動身體 | 喺葉中間產卵 | 由於卵有黏性好強嘅啫喱外層 | 雌瘰螈產卵之後,會用手腳輕輕咁擠壓兩片葉 | 令到有片葉黏住,對喺裏面嘅卵子造成保護

● 扭動 náu2 duhng6 = to wriggle | ● 黏性 nìhm4 sing3 = stickiness; viscidity; viscosity | ● 啫喱 jē1 léi1*2 = jelly | ● 外層 [ng]oih6 chàhng4 = roughly, “outer layer” | ● 擠壓 jāi1 ngaat3 = to extrude; (?) to squeeze | ● 卵子 léun2 ji2 = ovum; egg

They twist about between two leaves, laying their eggs. After the female newt has laid her eggs, she uses her arms and legs to squeeze the two leaves lightly together. Because the eggs have a very sticky jelly-like outer layer, this causes the two leaves to stick together, creating protection for the eggs within.

【2:00】產完卵之後,雌瘰螈就游走去休息

日光再照到溪流 | 已經忙咗一整晚嘅瘰螈大家族仍然喺度休息 | 只係輕微咁喐一下 ,又或者喐都唔喐 | 直至到秋日嘅太陽開始猛熱 | 瘰螈嘅身體開始暖和起嚟 , 活動就開始

● 大家族 daaih6 gāa1 juhk6 = (?) big family; big clan | ● 喐 yūk1 = to move | ● 秋日 chāu1 yaht6 = an Autumn day| ● 猛熱 máahng5 yiht6 = roughly, “fiercely hot” | ● 暖和 nyúhn5 wòh4 = warm; nice and warm

Once the eggs have been laid, the female newt swims off to have a rest.

When the sun lights up the stream again, the big family of newts is still taking it easy, have worked the whole night through. They just move a little bit, or not at all, until the sun on this Autumn day begins to grow intense and the bodies of the newts begin to warm up and [their] activity gets underway.

【3:00】雌性瘰螈慢慢咁爬到佢啲已經抱卵嘅石菖蒲上面 | 佢哋嘅育嬰室,四處咁聞一下卵 | 好似進行巡視咁 | 有啲時候佢哋會好心急咁用口撕開抱卵嘅葉 | 並且嘗試將某啲卵咬走 | 究竟佢喺度做緊咩?| 一種可能性係瘰螈會食同類嘅卵 | 原因可能係喺水裏面嘅食物不足 | 或者增強自己後代嘅存活率

● 抱卵 póuh5 léun2 = (?) to nurse (eggs) | ● 巡視 chèuhn4 sih6 = to make an inspection tour; to tour | ● 撕開 sī1 hōi1 = to rip open | ● 咬 ngáauh5 = to bite | ● 存活率 chyùhn4 wuht6 léut6*2 = (?) survival rate

The female newts climb slowly up onto the leaves of sweet flag, their nursery, which are already holding their eggs [抱卵]. They sniff the eggs all over, as if carrying out [some kind of] inspection. Sometimes, with their mouths, they anxiously tear open the leaves where their eggs have been laid and also try to bite away certain eggs. What exactly are they doing? One possibility is that the Hong Kong newt eats its own eggs, perhaps because there is not enough food in the water, or that this increases the survival rate [存活率] of the next generation.

【4:00】所謂同類相食現象 | 但係當我哋翻開石菖蒲嘅葉嘅時候 | 發現到有啲卵受到刺狀真菌感染 | 可能係有啲卵子生產嘅時候未受精 | 變成死卵 | 真菌入侵,甚至會蔓延到去旁邊健康嘅卵 | 所以另外一種可能性係 | 瘰螈為咗保護健康嘅卵,唔受到真菌傷害 | 佢哋會為卵子做定期嘅婦科檢查 | 將受感染嘅卵子咬走 | 確保健康嘅卵減小感染機會 | 瘰螈外表冷定定 | 但係受到本能驅使 | 為繁衍下一代付出最大嘅努力 | 確保卵能夠孵化出健康嘅瘰螈蝌蚪

● 刺狀真菌 chi3 johng6 jān1 kwán2 = (?) a kind of echinate fungus | ● 受精 sauh6 jīng1 = to be fertilized | ● 死卵 séi2 léun2 = (?) unfertilized egg (lit. “a dead egg”) | ● 蔓延 maahn6 yìhn4 = to spread; to extend | ● 婦科 fúh5 fō1 = (department of) gynaecology | ● 冷定定 láahng5 dehng6 dehng6 = cool(ly) [I think this is right, but I’m not entirely sure] | ● 驅使 kēui1 sí2 = to prompt; to urge; to spur on | ●繁衍 fàahn4 hín2 = to multiply; to increase gradually in number or quantity| ● 孵化 fū1 faa3 = hatching; incubation

[This is] what is called the phenomenon of “eating one’s own kind”. However, when we open up [翻開] the leaves of sweet flag, we find that some of the eggs have been infected with a kind of echinate fungus [刺狀真菌]. It is possible that some of the eggs were not fertilized at the time they were laid, [thus] becoming infertile eggs [死卵]. The incursion of the fungus could even spread to the adjacent healthy eggs. For this reason, another possibility is that in order to protect the health of the eggs and to avoid [唔受到] be affected by fungus, the Hong Kong newts carry out gynaecological examinations of the eggs at regular intervals and remove infected eggs by biting them away [咬走], [thereby] ensuring that the chance of healthy eggs becoming infected is reduced. [Although] the newts seem cool and calm [冷定定 (?)], they are driven by instinct to go to great lengths [付出最大嘅努力] for the sake of the reproduction of the next generation [繁衍下一代], ensuring that the eggs can incubate healthy newt-tadpoles.

One-minute Wonderful Short Cantonese Videos: A New Year’s Message from Buddhistdoor


The Buddhist nun 傳燈法師 Master Chuen Tang has been very active on YouTube of late, producing a series of videos on fundamental life issues. Here, in a simple New Year’s message, she engages with the issues of joy and contentment in clear and (fairly) easy-to-understand Cantonese. Have a listen and see for yourself just how much wonderful Cantonese can be compressed into a single minute!

Apart from her key-words, 歡喜 fūn1 héi2 = “joy” and 知足 jī1 jūk1 = “be content with one’s lot”, you’ll also hear some other very useable items, including 擁有 yúng2 yáuh5 = “to possess”; 情景 chìhng4 gíng2 = “a scene; a sight; circumstances”; and 應對 ying3 deui3 = “to respond (to circumstances)”. Also worth learning is the pair 順 seuhn6 = “favourable” and its opposite 逆 yihk6 = “contrary”, together with 逆境 yihk6 gíng2, meaning “adverse circumstances; adversity”. There’s also a very fine four-character phrase you can try and make your own: 一笑置之 yāt1 siu3 jī3 jī1 = “dismiss with a laugh; laugh off”, useful for any language-learner, who knows in her bones what it is like to experience deep frustration in the course of learning a difficult language!

You can watch the video here.

Have a Sober-joyous Year of the Tiger!


Caption: 新年 (壬寅)快樂

傳燈法師:各位佛門網嘅讀者朋友 | [Caption: 傳燈法師 | 大覺福行中心主持] | 大家新年好 | 喺虎年嘅開始 | 我祝福大家有歡喜同知足呀 | 嗱,呢個知足呢,係睇一睇自己,你嘅身體 | 手腳靈利,係咪 | 頭腦清醒 | 係咪應該知足呀 | 另外就係我哋擁有嘅嘢,哈 | 譬如話你有,呃,健康嘅身體 | 呃,屋企人係咪一齊 | 甚至有朋友,大家互相嘅支持 | 我哋要知足 | 另外就係呢個歡喜 [啦] | 嗱,歡喜,無論你遇到乜嘢嘅情景 | 乜嘢嘅事,哈 | 順嘅、逆嘅 | 我哋都以一笑置之 | 用一個歡喜心嚟應對 | 慢慢呢,呢個逆境就會轉變㗎喇 | 而喺順境嘅時候,我哋以一個歡喜嘅感恩心,哈 | 更加努力 | 更加珍惜把握 | 所以呢個歡喜、滿足、知足 | 祝福大家 | 喺呢個虎年可以 [將佢] 發揮出嚟,哈 | 祝福大家 | 新年快樂 | 健康吉祥

● 壬寅 yàhm4 yàhn4 = the name of this new year, according to the Chinese lunar calendar | ● 歡喜 fūn1 héi2 = joyful; happy; delighted | ● 知足 jī1 jūk1 = be content with one’s lot | ● 靈利 lìhng4 leih6 = (?) agile; flexible | ● 清醒 chīng1 síng2 = clear-headed; sober | ● 擁有 yúng2 yáuh5 = to possess; to have | ● 情景 chìhng4 gíng2 = a scene; a sight; circumstances | ● 逆 yihk6 = contrary; counter cf. 逆境 (see below) | ● 一笑置之 yāt1 siu3 jī3 jī1 = dismiss with a laugh; laugh off | ● 應對 ying3 deui3 = usu. to reply; to answer | ● 逆境 yihk6 gíng2 = adverse circumstances; adversity | ● 感恩心 gám2 yān1 sām1 = roughly, “a spirit of gratitude | ● 珍惜 jān1 sīk1 = to treasure; to value; to cherish | ● 把握 báa2 ngāak1 = to hold; to grasp | ● 發揮 faat3 fāi1 = to bring into play; to give free rein to | ● 吉祥 gāt1 chèuhng4 = lucky; auspicious; propitious

Master Chuen Tang: Dear readers and friends of Buddhistdoor on-line.

Caption: Master Chuen Tang | Head [主持] of the SPGA

Happy New Year, everyone! | At the beginning of the Year of the Tiger, I would like to wish you all happiness and contentment with what you have. Now this contentment [means] taking a look at yourself, at your health [身體]. If your arms and legs give you no trouble, and if your mind is clear, then you ought to be content, right? And then there are our possessions. We must be content if we enjoy good health, if our family is still together, if we have friends that all support one another. Then there is happiness. No matter what kind of circumstances you meet with, no matter what happens, favourable or adverse, we must meet them all with a smile, responding with a happy heart. [Then,] adversity will slowly change for the better. When things are going well, we should — in a happy spirit of gratitude — make even greater efforts, cherishing [everything] and making good use of circumstances [把握]. And so it is my wish to you all in this Year of the Tiger that you can make good use of this happiness, satisfaction and contentment. Have a Happy New Year, with good health and good fortune.

Learning Cantonese: Tonyee Chow Hang-tung’s Letter to Hong Kong’s Secretary for Security


鄒幸彤 Tonyee Chow Hang-tung is a genuine Hong Kong Hero. Born in 1985, she originally studied geophysics at the University of Cambridge, but later discovered a passion for human rights and switched her studies to law. She was also very actively involved as vice chairwoman of the Hong Kong Alliance, the group that for many years organized annual vigils and other activities to commemorate the 1989 Tian’anmen Massacre.

In this brilliant letter to Chris Tang, Secretary for Security, written after the ruthless crackdown on any form of remembrance of the events of 1989 in Hong Kong, she argues with great lucidity and wit that any denial of the murderous crackdown on the Pro-Democracy Movement is a simply a refusal to face the facts. The sad thing is, virtually any one of importance in the Hong Kong government, from the Chief Executive down to minor civil servants, is now officially required to be a Tian’anmen Massacre denier in order to prove his or her “loyalty” to the regime.

However, as she states so magnificently, 權力再大,亦無法改寫事實真相 = Were they even more powerful [than they already are], the Chinese Communist Party would be powerless to rewrite the truth of this event, and this leads her on, with many passionate flourishes, to the unforgettable concluding sentence.


鄧先生:

茲收悉你於2021 年 9 月 10 日發出的信件,稱將向行政長官會同行政會議建議將支聯會自公司登記冊中剔除,並給予了支聯會「機會」於9 月 24 日前提交反對剔除的申述(『該信件』)。本人感謝鄧先生的「寬大」,然而相信你亦了解,在你向本人發出該信件及其厚達數吋的附件時,本人及所有支聯會常委均身處西九龍裁判法院的羈留室中,其後在控方反對保釋的情況下,所有常委均一直處於懲教看管之中。在此等情況下,支聯會的決策層根本無法商討如何回應閣下的信件及其大量附件,亦無法翻看本會的任何記錄,以作具體核證,懲教院所亦未提供任何便利,以處理你所提供的大量沒有列明頁碼的文件,或是給予支聯會的常委們任何機會去互相溝通。因此,本會實難言有公平機會去作出回應,而本人在這裡所提供的陳述,僅反映本人記憶所知及個人意見,並未經本會其他常委討論,僅此聲明。

● 茲 jī1 = now; at present | ● 收悉 sāu1 sīk1 = (?) to have received cf. 悉 = to know; to learn; to be informed of | ● 公司登記冊 gūng1 sī1 dāng1 gei3 chaak3 = registry of companies | ● 申述 sān1 seuht6 = to state; to explain in detail; to expound | ● 寬大 fūn1 daaih6 = lenient; magnanimous | ● 羈留室 gēi1 làuh4 sāt1 = cf. 羈留 = to detain; to keep in custody | ● 懲教 chìhng4 gaau3 = roughly, “to punish & to educate” cf. 香港懲教署 = Hong Kong Correctional Services | ● 看管 hon3 gún2 = to guard; to watch | ● 決策層 kyut3 chaak3 chàhng4 = (?) decision-making level cf. 決策 = to make a strategic decision | ● 翻看 fāan1 hon3 = (?) to look through cf. 翻閲 fāan1 yuht6 = to browse; to look over | ● 核證 haaht6 jing3 = (?) to certify cf. 核 = to examine + 證 = evidence; proof; testimony | ● 懲教院所 chìhng4 gaau3 yuhn6 (?) só2 = correctional institution | ● 便利 bihn6 leih6 = usu. (adj.) convenient; easy | ● 列明 liht6 mìhng4 = roughly, “to set out clearly” | ● 實難言有 saht6 nàahn4 yìhn4 yáuh5 = roughly, “it would truly be impossible to say/claim” | ● 陳述 chàhn4 seuht6 = to state; to declare | ● 僅此 gán2 chí2 = (?) perhaps “[I am] merely stating [this] here

I am now in possession of your letter of 10 September 2021, which states that you will recommend to the Chief Executive and to the Executive [行政會議] that the Democratic Alliance be deleted from the registry of companies [公司登記冊], and that you have given the Alliance “the opportunity” to submit a statement opposing the deregistration before 24 September (referred to as “the letter”). I would like to thank you, Mr Tang, for your “lenience”, but I am sure you are well aware that, at the time you sent out your letter to me together with appended material [amounting to] several inches in thickness, I together with all the other members of the standing committee of the Alliance were in custody in the detention facility at the West Kowloon Magistrates Court. Since then, bail having been opposed by the prosecution, all members of the standing committee have been under guard in a correction facility. Given these circumstances, the decision-making level [決策層] of the Alliance has basically no way of discussing how to respond to your letter and the material accompanying it, nor of consulting [翻看] any of the Alliance’s own records in order to make a concrete examination of the evidence [以作具體核證] and, to date, none of the correctional institutes [懲教院所] have provided any form of dispensation [任何便利] to allow us to deal with the large amount of unpaginated documentation you have provided, nor have they given the members of the standing committee of the Alliance any opportunity to communicate with one another. For these reasons, it cannot be said that [實難言有] the Alliance has been granted a fair opportunity of making a response, and the statement which I am providing here is only a reflection of my own knowledge from personal recollections and my individual views. None of it has been discussed with other members of the standing committee. I merely wish to make such matters clear here [僅此聲明].

鄧先生的決定,主要基於一份國安處洪毅先生所簽發的 56 頁建議書(『該建議書』)。該建議書羅列大量證據以證明本會一直堅持五大綱領,並詳細列出本會 32 年來的活動,包括燭光晚會、六四紀念館、歷年大大小小的遊行、公開信、展覽、研討會、講座、甚至「愛心寄秦城」、「中秋民主燈火行動」、「民主風箏行動」、「釋放劉霞街站」這些小行動,也逃不出國安們的法眼,被列作「罪證」之一。我們感謝國安處如此巨細無遺地梳理本會的歷史足跡,然而國安處大可不必如此費心,我們從不否認我們一直堅持五大綱領,並以此自豪。可是,我們亦必須申明,我們多年的維園燭光晚會,以及建議書第 21 至24 段所列舉的 32 年來所有的活動,均是合法舉行的活動,並往往獲得警方及相關政府部門的大力協助,如提供場地、安排交通改道、疏導人流、發出不反對通知書等。國安處如今將此等活動描繪為危害國家安全之活動,豈非有指責同僚為協助危害國家安全之共犯之嫌?

● 簽發 chīm1 faat3 = to sign & issue a document | ● 建議書 gin3 yíh5 syū1 = roughly, “a letter proposing (a certain course of action”) | ● 羅列 lòh4 liht6 = 1. to set out 2. to enumerate | ● 五大綱領 ngh5 daaih6 gōng1 líhng5 = five operational goals | ● 愛心寄秦城 [ng]oi3 sām1 gei3 chèuhn4 sìhng4 = an activity involving the sending of Christmas cards to jailed dissidents | ● 法眼 faat3 ngáahn5 = a Buddhist term meaning “a mind which perceives both past & future” | ● 罪證 jeuih6 jing3 = evidence of a crime; proof of one’s guilt | ● 巨細無遺 geuih6 sai3 mòuh4 wàih4 = roughly, “big & small, with nothing omitted” | ● 歷史足跡 lihk6 sí2 jūk1 jīk1 = lit. “historical footprint” | ● 疏導人流 sō1 douh6 yàhn4 làuh4 = (?) to relieve congestion (caused by crowds of people) | ● 描繪為 mìuh4 kúi2 waih4 = to be described as; to be portrayed as | ● 同僚 tùhng4 lìuh4 = usu. colleague; fellow official (dated) | ● 豈非 héi2 fēi1 = isn’t that? (rhetorical) | ● 共犯 guhng6 faahn6 = an accomplice

Your decision, Mr Tang, is primarily based on a 56-page letter of proposal (“letter of proposal”) which was signed and issued by a [certain] Mr Hung Ngai. In it, a large amount of evidence is set out to prove that the Alliance has, throughout the course of existence, upheld its five operational goals, and has meticulously listed [詳細列出] all the activities of the Alliance over the past 32 years, including candlelight vigils, the 4 June Commemorative Museum, large- and small-scale demonstrations held over the years, open letters, exhibitions, forums, and lectures. Not even minor events such as the sending of Christmas cards to jailed dissidents [愛心寄秦城], democracy lantern parades for the mid-Autumn Festival, democracy kite-flying events, and a street stall [organized] for the release of Liu Xia escaped the Dharma Eye [法眼] of the National Security Department, and have all been listed as one [part of the] proof of [our] guilt. I would like to thank the National Security Department for having set in order [梳理] the historical footprint [歷史足跡] of the Alliance, but there was really no need for the Department to go to all that trouble — we never denied that we have all along upheld the five operational goals, and we are proud of the fact. However, we must also spell out [我們亦必須申明] [the fact] that the candlelight vigils held at Victoria Park as well as all the activities held over the past 32 years and listed in the letter of proposal in sections 21 to 24 were carried out legally, and in many cases [並往往] with the extensive assistance of the police and other government departments, [assistance] such as the provision of venues, the re-routing of traffic, crowd congestion relief [疏導人流], and the issuing of letters of support [發出不反對通知書]. If the National Security Department now describes such activities as being a threat to national security, then doesn’t that suggest that you are accusing your colleagues of being accomplices aiding [協助] such threats?

本會行事向來光明磊落,從不會否認我們所持守的綱領和曾舉辦的活動。然而,我們必須強烈否認以下指控:

1. 八九年的「天安門事件」是一場意圖推翻中國共產黨領導和顛覆社會主義的中華人民共和國的反革命暴亂(Tiananmen Incident…was a counter-revolutionary rebellion that sought to overthrow the CPC’s leadership and subvert the socialist PRC)
2. 六四燭光晚會以及「釋放民運人士」「平反八九民運」「追究屠城責任」三個綱領合理化及歌頌(legitimized and glorified / justified)「天安門事件」
3. 「結束一黨專政」「建設民主中國」兩個綱領,因為挑戰中共領導,要求建立與憲法不相符的政治制度,因而危害國家主權、領土完整及國家的獨立性(The Alliance’s goals to “結束一黨專政” and “建設民主中國” endanger the leadership of CPC and the socialist system of PRC under the leadership, and hence the state power and sovereignty which would ultimately endanger the territorial integrity and the independence of the PRC)
4. 支聯會拒絕應國安處要求提交資料,因而顯示其無意維護國家安全,並公開宣揚故意違法的行為

● 行事 hàhng4 sih6 = 1. to act; to handle matters 2. behaviour; conduct | ● 光明磊落 gwōng1 mìhng4 léuih5 lohk6 = open & aboveboard | ● 暴亂 bouh6 lyuhn6 = a riot; a rebellion; a revolt | ● 追究 jēui1 gau3 = to look into; to find out; to investigate | ● 合理化hahp6 léih5 faa3 = usu. “to rationalize” | ● 歌頌 gō1 juhng6 = to sing the praises of; to extol; to eulogize | ● 無意 mòuh4 yi3 = have no intention of doing sth. | ● 宣揚 syūn1 yèuhng4 = to publicize; to propagate; to advertise

The conduct of the Alliance has throughout its existence [向來] been open and aboveboard, and [so] we would never deny the operational goals that we uphold, nor the activities we have conducted. However, we must deny the following accusations [指控] in the strongest possible terms:

1. That the Tian’anmen Incident of 1989 was a counter-revolutionary rebellion that sought to overthrow the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party and subvert a socialist People’s Republic of China.

2. That the June 4 Candlelight Vigils together with the three operational goals of “Release the dissidents”, “Rehabilitate the 1989 pro-democracy movement” and “Demand for accountability for the June 4 massacre” both legitimize [合理化] and extol the Tian’anmen Incident.

3. That the operational goals “End one-party dictatorship” and “Build a democratic China” endanger state power, territorial integrity and the independence of the People’s Republic of China because they challenge the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party and call for the establishment of a political system which is not in accordance with the constitution.

4. That the Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements’ refusal to comply with the National Security Department’s request for the handing over of material [拒絕應國安處要求提交資料] shows that it [that is, the Alliance] has no intention of safeguarding national security, and that it publicly propagates behaviour that deliberately breaks the law.

一、八九民運絕非暴亂,且絕不能藉此合理化六四屠城

八九民運是一場全民參與、和平地要求政治改革的民主運動,我們絕不能容忍國安處將之誣蔑為「反革命暴亂」,從而合理化其後的血腥鎮壓。當年的學生、市民、工人,本著為國為民的拳拳之心,以最溫和的方式,遊行、靜坐、絕食、對話,希望推動國家走向民主,卻換來最殘暴的屠殺,平民遭軍隊無差別掃射,學生被坦克無情碾壓。中共多年來藉污名化八九民運合理化自己的暴行,千方百計地阻撓受害者及難屬發聲,嚴刑打壓任何悼念的行動,然而,全世界曾共同見證這場運動的興起與鎮壓,留下過無數的影像記錄,證人證詞。權力再大,亦無法改寫事實真相。

● 容忍 yùhng4 yán2 = to tolerate; to put up with; to condone | ● 誣蔑 mòuh4 miht6 = to slander; to vilify; to smear | ● 血腥 hyut3 sīng1 = reeking of blood; bloody | ● 鎮壓 jan3 [ng]aat3 = to suppress; to repress; to put down | ● 為國為民 waih6 gwok3 waih6 màhn4 = for the country & for the people | ● 拳拳之心 kyùhn4 kyùhn4 jī1 sām1 = a sincere heart | ● 掃射 sou3 seh6 = to strafe | ● 碾壓 níhn5 [ng]aat3 = (?) to crush; to flatten | ● 污名 wū1 mìhng4 (?) = (?) to tarnish/sully the name of; to stigmatize | ● 暴行 bouh6 hàhng4 = savage act; outrage; atrocity; acts of brutality | ● 阻撓 jó2 nàauh4 = to obstruct; to thwart; to stand in the way of | ● 難屬 naahn6 suhk6 = (?) a family member of a victim | ● 證人證詞 jing3 yàhn4 jing3 chìh4 = ? a witness & her testimony

Note: According to Sheik Cantonese, the phrase 為國為民 is part of a longer saying: 為國為民,俠之大者 hahp6 jī1 daaih6 jé2 = for the country and for the people, the biggest of all heroes (that is, “those who act for the sake of the country and its people are the biggest/greatest of all heroes“).

1. The 1989 Pro-democracy Movement Was in No Sense a Rebellion, and Can in No Sense be Used to Legitimize the Beijing Massacre

Conducted peacefully and involving people from all walks of life [全民參與], the 1989 Pro-democracy Movement was a democratic campaign that demanded political reform. We refuse to condone the National Security Department’s vilification of it as a “counter-revolutionary rebellion”, which legitimizes its subsequent bloody suppression. Sincerely wishing to serve their country and the people [本著為國為民的拳拳之心] students, citizens, workers at that time employed the mildest of methods — demonstrations, sit-ins, hunger strikes and dialogue — in the hope that they could push the nation in the direction of democracy. In turn, they were brutally and savagely slaughtered, with ordinary people being strafed indiscriminately and students mercilessly crushed under tanks. For many years, the Chinese Communist Party has sullied the name of the 1989 Pro-democracy Movement in order to rationalize the savagery of its own actions, resorting to every possible method [千方百計地] to prevent victims and their family members [難屬] from speaking out, and by criminalizing and repressing any commemorative activities. Nevertheless, the rest of the world collectively witnessed from this movement from its inception to its suppression, and kept countless visual and documentary records [of what took place] [留下過無數的影像記錄], with eye-witnesses and their testimony. Were they even more powerful [than they already are], the Chinese Communist Party would be powerless to rewrite the truth of this event.

我們非常遺憾國安處對中共扭曲事實的說法照單全收,不作任何的分析和判斷,連「反革命」這樣不知所云的形容也直接套用。不知道國安如此用詞,是否表示其認同革命有理、反革命有罪?我們建議國安處認真閱讀他們在調查本會時所收集的大量資料,本會的網頁及社交媒體平台上,均有大量關於八九民運及六四屠城的歷史資料,只要有半點求真之心,不難知道真相為何。

● 扭曲 náu2 kūk1 = to distort (facts); to twist| ● 照單全收 jiu3 dāan1 chyùhn4 sau1 = accept/take sth. at face value (lit. “accepting the lot on the basis of the bill of delivery (without checking what has actually been sent) | ● 套用 tou3 yuhng6 = to apply mechanically; to use indiscriminately | ● 屠城 tòuh4 sìhng4 = usu. “massacre the inhabitants of a captured city” | ● 求真之心 kàuh4 jān1 jī1 sām1 = roughly, “a wish to know the truth”

We find it extremely regrettable that the National Security Department accepts the Chinese Communist Party’s distortion of the facts at face value, making no analysis or judgements [of its own]. Even the description of [the 1989 Pro-democracy Movement] as “counter-revolutionary” — a term that seems to have no meaning at all [不知所云的] — is taken on-board without a moment’s reflection [直接套用]. Could it be that in the use of this term, the National Security Department acknowledges that revolution is reasonable, and that to oppose a revolution [反革命] is a crime? We would like to suggest that the National Security Department make a conscientious study of the large volume of material it has collected in itsinvestigation of the Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements, together with [other material] on its website as well as other social media platforms, all of which have a vast amount of historical material concerning the 1989 Pro-democracy Movement and the June 4 Massacre. All it takes is the slightest willingness to learn the truth and you will without difficulty discover what really happened.

我們要求國安處收回其歪曲八九真相的不實言論,並希望鄧先生及行政會議不要犯上同一錯誤,以一個錯的實施基礎去判斷本會的存立問題。相信以鄧先生及眾高官的智慧,斷不可能沒有獨立判斷的能力,而輕易被中共的謊言所蒙蔽。

● 不實言論 bāt1 saht6 yìhn4 leuhn6 = roughly, “erroneous view” | ● 行政會議 hàhng4 jing3 wuih6 yíh5 = usu. “executive council” | ● 斷不可能 dyuhn6 (?) bāt1 hó2 nàhng4 = roughly, “absolutely impossible” | ● 蒙蔽 mùhng4 bai3 = to hoodwink; to deceive; to hide the truth from

We must ask the National Security Department to retract its erroneous view which distorts the reality of the 1989 Pro-democracy Movement. It is our hope, too, that Mr Tang and the executive [行政會議] do not make the same mistake, making judgements about the question of the Alliance’s existence on the basis of a flawed foundation [實施基礎]. Given the wisdom of Mr Tang and a host of other high-ranking officials, there is absolutely no possibility of you lacking the capacity to make independent judgements and of being readily duped by the lies of the Chinese Communist Party.