Monday, September 29, 2014

Opposition to Violence

I have mixed feeling toward “Occupy Central”, just like many people in Hong Kong, I suppose. 
On the one hand, I am unhappy about Beijing’s imposition of restrictions on the election to ensure that only people it approves can get elected.  And peaceful, non-violent, civic-disobedience actions are legitimate means to voice our opinion.  Hence a peaceful, non-violent “Occupy Central” movement is worthy of resp[ect and support.  

On the other hand, I worried that some people might get overly excited, some instigators might stir up trouble, or police heavy-handedness might provoke violence. Hence I did not participate in Occupy, but had to give the Occupiers high respect. 

Unfortunately, my (and many other people’s) worries came true. As far as I can gather, from being on the street yesterday outside Government HQ, watching broadcasts, reading newspaper reports, and listening to the students who were there on the frontline, the students did their utmost best trying to stay non-violent. Yet the police were eager to deploy industrial-size pepper spray, and to shoot numerous tear gas canisters directly into the crowd of protesters. 

This is deplorable. 

Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Beginning of Occupy Central

When my wife and I got to Central around 3 PM, someone was threatening to jump off a bridge over Harcourt Road.  

Access to the Government Headquarters were blocked. But Harcourt Road was still open.  

We then went around the corner to the junction of Cotton Tree Drive, Harcourt Rod, and Queensway.  

There a small group of people had sat down on Cotton Tree Drive going up to the Peak.  They were surrounded by police. 

Another group started to walk onto the part of Cotton Tree Drive linking Harcourt Road with Queensway.  Some started to sit down in the middle of the road.  Traffic were blocked. The small group on the uphill section moved to join the bigger group on the level.   

More and more people joined in, and soon the whole street was blocked. 

Then a banner was brought in, and people started marching towards Government Headquarters.  Traffic on Harcourt Road was blocked. 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Iron House?

It seems like a hopeless cause.  Beijing will do anything to hold on to power.  It is not going to allow open elections in Hong Kong in which it might lose power.  It is not a matter of whether it is better to negotiate, to take a small step today hoping for a bigger step tomorrow, to protest, to demonstrate, to Occupy Central, to boycott classes.  Because Beijing knows it will lose an open election in Hong Kong, it is not going to allow it.  

On Monday, just before the start of the class boycott, a group of students at PolyU staged a small skit, of the story about an iron house in Lu Xin’s 魯迅《吶喊》自序.



“Many people are fast asleep in a house with walls made of iron, with no windows.  It is unbreakable.  They will soon suffocate, but they don’t know it.  Now you are shouting to wake them up.  Those who have been awaken is faced with inevitable doom.  Are you really doing them a favour?”

“However, since some of them have been awaken, you cannot say there is absolutely no hope of breaking down the iron house.”

Is it true?  I hope it is. Otherwise this world is too depressing to continue to live in.  

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Teachable Moment?

As a teacher, I know how difficult it is to capture the students’ attention.  When the students’ interest is high, when they are engaged with an issue, it can be a “teachable moment”, when learning is most effective.  Right now, we have such a moment.  The students, from secondary school to university, are engaged to a high degree, with the issue of government, how the chief executive should be elected. A teacher who truly care about the students would be happy to take this moment to engage the students, to guide them in their efforts in learning about society and matters of government.  

Instead, a certain former head of a reputable university, the minister of education, a certain headmaster, and myriad pro-establishment figures are jumping up and down to tell our students to just submit to the wishes of Beijing.  They are blaming the students for wasting time and public funds, creating undesirable and futile confrontation, and leading down a path of violence.  All these when the students are demonstrating maturity and great restraint in demonstrating peacefully.  It is the so called adults who are bad-mouthing the students.  It is a sad commentary on the quality of our leaders.  

Monday, September 22, 2014

Low carbon living

There is an interesting little exhibition on low carbon living going on this week at Hysan Place.  

There are a lot of interesting ideas and exhibits about eating vegetables, recycling, etc.  

You can even take a plant home.  

For me, the greatest attraction are the neat drawings of cute little plants, bicycles, people, … , and the big, stuffed toy vegetables - they were designed by my daughter A. 

Class Boycott

The university students have started the class boycott against Beijing’s screening of candidates for the election for the chief executive.  

A group of students are gathering on the PolyU campus.  

There are probably a couple hundred of them sitting in the group.  Around them is another couple hundred of students and staff, watching.  They heard speeches by the student leaders, and some of their teachers.  

They then read a statement stating that they do not accept Beijing’s decision to impose such a high barrier to screen out candidates Beijing does not like.  

They then marched around campus, and are now on the train to Chinese University to join the other students.  

Friday, September 19, 2014

My world

Today I have to attend an all-day workshop.  My one deliverable from the workshop is this doodle of a world map.  

It may not be 100% accurate.  But it was done 100% from memory.  

Thursday, September 18, 2014

International Service-Learning

In 2010 we took a team of 20 students to Cambodia for the first time.  We served at 3 community centres, a women’s shelter, and an orphanage.  At that time, we did not yet give academic credits to students for doing service-learning.  Even though the students did as much as - in fact, more than -  what students do in a 3-credit subject.  They did it strictly as volunteer work.  

That first Cambodia project was one of the major reasons that convinced the university that service-learning can be, - in fact, should be - credit-bearing.  They then went further and made it compulsory. 

In 4 years time, we have made tremendous strides.  In 2013-14, we offered 30+ service-learning subjects, taken by 1,900 students.  136 of those students, taking   4 different subjects, went overseas to Myanmar, Cambodia, Indonesia and Rwanda. 80 of them were my students. 

Looking back, it is nothing short of miraculous. We certainly did not expect that back in 2010.  And we did not do that by ourselves.  We are thankful to God who made it happen, who also allowed us to play a part in it. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Professor

My wife and I went to see “The Professor” last evening and were greatly impressed.  It was centered around a lecturer and his students. It touches on social justice, civic activism, etc., issues that are directly linked to the issues of universal suffrage, open and fair elections, protests, Occupy Central, …  The auditorium was full of students who obviously identified with the characters.  Many times they applauded what was said, about university life, professors, administrators, student leaders, …

A student leader had a run-in with the police linked to his activism.  His mother  the conservative wanted him to distance himself from his fellow activists.  His uncle the liberal lecturer wanted him to “do the right thing”.  His love-smitten girl friend wanted to help but didn’t know how, …

As concerned citizens, teachers, and parents, my wife and I see ourselves reflected in many of characters. We identify with them and feel their anguish.  We were young once, and have been in daily interaction with students and young people ever since.  We can also see things from their perspective and feel how they feel.  Often it is difficult to know what position to take, and what action to engage in.  But we are committed to helping young people think for themselves, to pursue the truth, and to do what is right.  

What we see in the play is in very stark contrast to the despicable behaviour of some of our so called leaders and high officials in charge of education.  These supposedly knowledgeable adults do not want the students to think.  They just want the young people to be obedient.  They have lost all credibility and legitimacy.  

Don’t think?

Normally we would encourage our students to learn to think for themselves, and their teachers and professors to guide them in the process.  The headmasters, university presidents, and officials in charge of education are supposed to create an environment conducive to learning and thinking. 

Lately, however, we have the minister of education, an ex-minister of education, an ex-president of the Chinese University, an ex-headmaster of a leftist secondary school, and numerous such people jumping up to tell the students, their teachers and their parents to stop thinking for themselves, to just toe the line of the government on the election of the chief executive.  

This is a great opportunity for the students to learn about public affairs that affect  the community.  And you are telling them you will do the thinking for them.  No, you are saying that the Communist Party will do the thinking for everyone.  Shame  on you.  

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Hong Kong the Beautiful

Hong Kong can still be beautiful.  

 On a rare day when it is sunny, and the sky is blue.  

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Communists are Civil?

Most of us have known for a long time, but it is still revealing to hear it from the horse’s mouth, so to speak.  Beijing’s representative told the pan-democrats in Hong Kong, “The fact that you are alive shows the country’s civility and inclusiveness.”  The original words were in Putonghua.  So something might have been lost in the translation.  But the core message is quite clear.  

From their perspective, pan-democrats should be thankful that they are even allowed to survive.  This is as far as Beijing is prepared to go.   Don’t ever dream of an election in which pan-democrats can genuinely participate.  

We can all stop dreaming now.  Reality can be harsh and even cruel.  But it is better to face up to it, and deal with it.  

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Dreams of Cambodia

We have taken teams to Cambodia on service-learning projects every year since 2010.  This summer, some of the students who went with us in 2013 formed a team to work on their own projects.  They call themselves “Connect Beyond Dream”, and worked in a slum in San Sok, on the outskirts of Phnom Penh.  They helped the local YMCA refine their home-stay program, did a survey of the slum, ran a number of health promotion workshops such as personal hygiene, wound management, shoe painting, etc.  They are hoping to form an organisation to continue the effort.  This week they are running an exhibition on campus to publicise their project and to recruit new members.  They put a lot of effort in organising the exhibition and it has been well-received.  

This is what we would like to see happening when we started the credit-bearing service-learning program across the campus.  Students continuing to participate in community service not because they have to, but because they want to.  We are trying to build a culture of social engagement at the university. And this is hopefully just the beginning. 

We are so proud of you.  Keep it up. 

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Tourists in To Kwa Wan (土瓜灣)

Were these police guarding these buildings in To Kwa Wan soon to be torn down and redeveloped?

Or were they standing by in case trouble developed among these tourists shopping for chocolates and other goodies in the building behind them?

Snitching is good?

A bunch of adults smiling smugly while announcing a plan to entice young students to snitch on each other.  They are setting up a hotline for the public to report on schools where students are planning class boycotts. The students themselves are the most likely to have such information.  So this is akin to asking students to snitch on each other.  That is despicable.  The act itself is bad enough.  And they seemed to be proud of it.  

It is hard to imagine how anyone can do such a thing.  Some of them seemed to be teachers or somehow involved in education.  Presumably some of them are parents.  So they are encouraging their own children and students to snitch on each other?  How low can you get? I understand some of them will do anything to attract attention, while others will do anything to please their masters in Beijing.  But this?  

This is like selling your soul.  Is it really worth it?

Friday, September 05, 2014

Nathan Road Trees

These are really our treasures.  Perhaps because we see them all the time, we do not appreciate how pretty and precious they are.  We are certainly not doing enough to protect them.  We only regret when they are gone.  Just like the way we treat so many of our treasures.