Skip to main content

Black Wednesday 黑色星期三

I seldom wear black. But I have this black T-shirt I put on two times a year  once for the Tiananmen Square Massacre commemoration on 4 June and the other for the pro-democracy protest on 1 July. Over the years, this T-shirt, the only piece of black clothing I own, has come to symbolize both sadness and discontent.

Since C.Y. Leung moved into the Government House in 2012, I have been wearing my black T-shirt a lot more. If it wasn’t for a mass protest against the national education curriculum, it was for a demonstration in support of HKTV’s bid for a broadcasting license. There seems to be plenty of sadness and discontent to go around these days. Surely enough, yesterday morning I found myself once again rummaging through the closet looking for my protestor’s uniform, this time to defend the future of our press freedom. With a heavy heart, I slipped the black thing over my head and made my way to Tamar.

A dark day for Hong Kong
*                             *                          *
What happened this past Wednesday has shocked the city to the core. Kevin Lau (劉進圖), former editor-in-chief of Ming Pao  one of the city’s major Chinese language newspapers  was attacked by two knifemen on his way to breakfast in Sai Wan Ho. We don’t know which is worse: that Lau was stabbed six times in his back and legs, or that it took place in public and in broad daylight. The assault reeks of the brazenness we expect only in the Mexican drug war or a turf battle between rival gangs in Russia. It makes Hong Kong, one of the safest international cities in the world, look like a lawless backwater.

Stabbed six times and now a poster boy for press freedom

Violence against the press is not unheard of in our city. There were a handful of high profile incidents in the past two decades. In May 1996, for instance, tabloid magazine publisher Leung Tin Wai (梁天偉) had his left forearm and both thumbs chopped off by attackers right in his office. Two years later in 1998, an equally vicious attack left Albert Cheng (鄭經翰), outspoken businessman and politician, hospitalized for two months. Just last year, Chen Ping (陳平) of iSun Affairs (《陽光時務週刊》), Jimmy Lai (黎智英) of The Apple Daily and Shih Wing Ching (施永青) of AM730 were either attacked or issued death threats. As recently as last month, firebrand radio talk show host Tam Tak Chi (譚得志), better known by his nickname Fast Beat (快必), was roughed up by a group of men outside his studio.

These violent episodes all have one thing in common: the crime never gets solved. Despite offers of multi-million dollar rewards, the bad guys go free and the police investigation goes cold after a few months. Even if the police manage to capture the assailants, perhaps with the help of eyewitnesses and security cameras, they won’t find out who the mastermind behind the attack is, ever. But we can’t pin all the blame on law enforcement. In this day and age, a text message and the target’s headshot are all it takes to order a hit. Anonymity has emboldened the cowardly; technology has enabled the mercenary. That puts journalists — people who make a living upsetting the apple cart  in an ever vulnerable position.

Albert Cheng, left for dead after a gruesome attack

When there isn’t much else the police can do, the burden of crime investigation falls on the shoulders of the journalists themselves. Ming Pao staff is currently sifting through dozens of news stories overseen by Kevin Lau before he was let go by the newspaper in January (his termination is a whole other story) to identify what might have gotten the editor in trouble. Among the possible culprits, the one that has generated the most interest is Lau’s exposé about offshore assets stashed away by Beijing’s ruling elite. Written in collaboration with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), the story is believed to have ticked off some powerful big wigs up north. So far, the ICIJ has found no evidence linking the attack to the investigative report and so the guessing game continues.

Whoever ordered the hit on Lau, however, probably hadn’t quite thought the whole thing through. If it’s vengeance, then why not take him out altogether but instead let him live to tell the tale? If it’s intimidation, why wait until after the news report has already been published? And why go after an editor who has already left his job? None of it seems to make much sense to us. Then again, the scariest thing about thugs has always been their irrationality and tenuousness of a motive. Sometimes “just because” is reason enough to slash a person with a 12-inch knife.

Lau's report on the hidden fortunes of the Chinese leadership

Whether it is intended or not, the people behind the brutal attack has made an example of Kevin Lau. The brutality and irrationality of it all has sent chills down the spine of every journalist in the city. For if it was Lau last Wednesday, it could be you and me tomorrow. It is not so much that all investigative reports will invite a deadly reprisal but that they might. It is not so much that reporters must look over their shoulders before breaking a story but that they feel they should. The attack on Lau has given journalists one more thing to think about before they hit that “send” button, something that they didn’t need to think about heretofore. The mere possibility of violence has cast a dark shadow over their desks. And so to those who question what the stabbing of one man has got to do with the press freedom of the entire city  I won’t name any names  and to those who wonder why “expert analysts” are needed to get to the bottom of the heinous crime  they know who they are  here is their answer.
*                        *                          *
Yesterday’s rally began at the government complex in Tamar and ended at the nearby police headquarters. There were thousands of participants, all dressed in black, many of them reporters and journalism students. They carried placards bearing the words “They can’t kill us all,” a phrase borrowed from the infamous Kent State University shootings in 1970 in one of the darkest chapters in 20th Century American history. The choice of words is apt, for last Wednesday may well be one of the darkest days in post-Handover Hong Kong. And so there I was, once again in my black T-shirt, chanting slogans and praying for Lau’s recovery, all the while looking at a city that suddenly felt a bit foreign to me.

A sea of black in Tamar
________________________

This article was published on SCMP.com under the title "Hong Kong's black Wednesday."

As posted on SCMP.com

Popular Posts

Seeing Joshua 探之鋒

“We are here to visit a friend,” I said to the guard at the entrance. 
Tiffany, Joshua Wong Chi-fung’s long-time girlfriend, trailed behind me. It was our first time visiting Joshua at Pik Uk Correctional Institution and neither of us quite knew what to expect.

“Has your friend been convicted?” asked the guard. We nodded in unison. There are different visiting hours and rules for suspects and convicts. Each month, convicts may receive up to two half-hour visits from friends and family, plus two additional visits from immediate family upon request.
The guard pointed to the left and told us to register at the reception office. “I saw your taxi pass by earlier,” he said while eyeing a pair of camera-wielding paparazzi on the prowl. “Next time you can tell the driver to pull up here to spare you the walk.”
At the reception counter, Officer Wong took our identity cards and checked them against the “List.” Each inmate is allowed to grant visitation rights to no more than 10 friends and fam…

About the Author 關於作者

Born in Hong Kong, Jason Y. Ng is a globetrotter who spent his entire adult life in Italy, the United States and Canada before returning to his birthplace to rediscover his roots. He is a lawyer, published author, and contributor to The Guardian, The South China Morning Post, Hong Kong Free Press and EJInsight. His social commentary blog As I See It and restaurant/movie review site The Real Deal have attracted a cult following in Asia and beyond. Between 2014 and 2016, he was a music critic for Time Out (HK)
Jason is the bestselling author of Umbrellas in Bloom (2016), No City for Slow Men (2013) and HONG KONG State of Mind (2010). Together, the three books form a Hong Kong trilogy that tracks the city's post-colonial development. His short stories have appeared in various anthologies. In 2017, Jason co-edited and contributed to Hong Kong 20/20, an anthology that marks the 20th anniversary of the handover. In July 2017, he was appointed Advising Editor for the Los Angeles Review…

Join the Club 入會須知

You have reached a midlife plateau. You have everything you thought you wanted: a happy family, a well-located apartment and a cushy management job. The only thing missing from that bourgeois utopia is a bit of oomph, a bit of recognition that you have played by the rules and done all right. A Porsche 911? Too clichéd. A rose gold Rolex? Got that last Christmas. An extramarital affair that ends in a costly divorce or a boiled bunny? No thanks. How about a membership at one of the city’s country clubs where accomplished individuals like yourself hang out in plaid pants and flat caps? Sounds great, but you’d better get in line.

Clubs are an age-old concept that traces back to the Ancient Greeks and Romans. The introduction of coffee beans to England in the mid-17th Century spurred the proliferation of coffeehouses for like-minded gentlemen to trade gossip about the monarchy over a hot beverage. In the centuries since, these semi-secret hideouts evolved into main street establishments t…

Media Attention + Upcoming Events 媒體關注 + 最新動向

2017 and upcoming events and speaking engagements


Talk at Independent Schools Foundation Academy
Topic: No City for Slow Men
Venue: Telegraph Bay, Pokfulam
Date: 30 November
Moderator at Enrich HK panel discussion Topic: Impact of financial literacy education
Venue: BNP Paribas, Two IFC Date: 11 December Time: 12:30pm

Contributor to HK24 (2017 Anthology by Hong Kong Writers Circle) Release date: December

Guest speaker and prize presenter at 2017 Hong Kong's Top Story Awards Venue: TBD Date: 11 December Time: 7:00pm
Speaker for Enrich HK's "Ask the Experts" series Topic: TBD Date: January 2018

Legal workshop for foreign domestic workers at University of Hong Kong's Domestic Workers Empowerment Project (DWEP) Topic: "Understanding Hong Kong Culture" Venue: TBD Date: February 2018

2017
Interview with NOW TV
Topic: Ho's corruption case and U.S. federal court procedures Interview date: 24 November

Interview with Apple Daily 蘋果日報
Title: "Ho's corruption h…

The Moonscape of Sexual Equality - Part 1 走在崎嶇的路上-上卷

There are things about America that boggle the mind: gun violence, healthcare costs and Donald Trump. But once in a while – not often, just once in a while – the country gets something so right and displays such courage that it reminds the rest of the world what an amazing place it truly is. What happened three days ago at the nation’s capital is shaping up to be one of those instances.

Last Friday, the Supreme Court of the United States handed down a 5-to-4 decision on same-sex marriage, the most important gay rights ruling in the country’s history. In Obergefell v. Hodges, Justice Kennedy wrote, “It would misunderstand [gay and lesbian couples] to say that they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find fulfillment for themselves… They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.” 
With those simple words, Justice Kennedy made marriage equality a constitutionally prote…

The Hundredth Post 第一百篇

This month marks the third birthday of my blog As I See It, a social commentary on the trials and tribulations of living in Hong Kong. The occasion coincides with the 100th article I have written under the banner. Having reached a personal milestone, I decided to take the opportunity to reflect on my still-young writing career and wallow in, dare we say, self-congratulatory indulgence.

It all started in November 2008 on the heels of the last U.S. presidential election. I was getting ready to create a personal website as a platform to consolidate my interests and pursuits. To do that I needed content. That’s how my blog – or my “online op-ed column” as I prefer to call it – came into being. 
Before I knew it, I was banging it out in front of my iMac every night, going on and off the tangent and in and out of my stream of consciousness about the odd things I experienced in the city, the endless parade of pink elephants I saw everyday that no one seemed to bat an eyelid at. Though singi…

When Free Speech Isn't Free 當言論不再自由

The school year had barely begun when two incidents—both testing the limits of free speech on campus—unfolded at Chinese University and Education University and sent management scrambling for a response.
On Monday, at least three large banners bearing the words “Hong Kong independence” were spotted in various locations at Chinese University, including one that draped across the famous “Beacon” sculpture outside the school’s main library. Within hours, the banners were removed by the school authorities.
A few days later, a sign “congratulating” Education Undersecretary Choi Yuk-lin (蔡若蓮) on her son’s recent suicide appeared on Education University’s Democracy Wall, a public bulletin board for students to express opinions and exchange views. Likewise, the sign was taken down shortly thereafter.


That could have been the end of the controversies had university management not succumbed to the temptation to say a few choice words of their own. In the end, it was the reaction from the schoo…

The Joshua I Know 我認識的之鋒

When I shook his hand for the first time, I thought he was the strangest seventeen-year-old I’d ever met.
It was 2014, and considering how much Hong Kong has changed in the last three year, it felt like a lifetime ago.
Joshua sat across from me at a table in the Foreign Correspondents’ Club, with his iPhone in one hand and an iPad in the other. I ordered him a lemon iced tea with extra syrup.
He was eager to begin our conversation, not because he was excited about being interviewed for my article, but because he wanted to get it over with and get on with the rest of his jam-packed day.
During our 45-minute chat, he spoke in rapid-fire Cantonese, blinking every few seconds in the way robots are programmed to blink like humans. He was quick, precise and focused.

He was also curt.
When I asked him if he had a Twitter account, he snapped, “Nobody uses Twitter in Hong Kong. Next question.”
I wasn’t the least offended by his bluntness—I chalked it up to gumption and precocity. For a te…

Maid in Hong Kong - Part 1 女傭在港-上卷

Few symbols of colonialism are more universally recognized than the live-in maid. From the British trading post in Bombay to the cotton plantation in Mississippi, images abound of the olive-skinned domestic worker buzzing around the house, cooking, cleaning, ironing and bringing ice cold lemonade to her masters who keep grumbling about the summer heat. It is ironic that, for a city that cowered under colonial rule for a century and a half, Hong Kong should have the highest number of maids per capita in Asia. In our city of contradictions, neither a modest income nor a shoebox apartment is an obstacle for local families to hire a domestic helper and to free themselves from chores and errands.

On any given Sunday or public holiday, migrant domestic workers carpet every inch of open space in Central and Causeway Bay. They turn parks and footbridges into camping sites with cardboard boxes as their walls and opened umbrellas as their roofs. They play cards, cut hair, sell handicraft and p…