Monday, June 10, 2013

freedom


On June fourth we commemorated the Tiananmen Square protests and killings of civilians in Hong Kong, where we are still free to do so for the most part.  On May 26, SB and I were in Causeway Bay to watch demonstrators calling for a reappraisal of the Tiananmen crackdown as well as call for democracy.  I admire the vigilance of Hong Kong people in monitoring their freedom and press freedom that has been eroding over the years; I think that there is a tendency to be complacent when your economy is robust.  

The US stateside notice of the June Fourth anniversary was overshadowed by the exposure of the National Security Agency's PRISM presentation detailing how the program has been accessing data from major internet companies such as Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Apple, Yahoo and Skype.  The NSA was given authority through the Patriot Act to direct companies to turn over their servers, which contain information for all civilians, not just terrorists.

Ironically Edward Snowden, the whistle blower, arrived in Hong Kong days before the protests because he feared for his freedom, if not his life, and felt that Hong Kong was capable of resisting the US government's dictates and that Hong Kong “have a spirited commitment to free speech and the right of political dissent.”

Badcanto has published local reactions to Snowden's choice of haven.  The reactions capture a very typical Hong Kong flavor: witty, acerbic and upfront. "What a retard! Hong Kong doesn’t have freedom of speech anymore!"

It is times like this that I really regret my poor understanding of Cantonese.  I have learned enough to know of the clever word twists and poetic uses of language for verbal sparring and sly set downs, and wish that I could understand them in their native form rather than just translations.  I feel like I am missing out on a part of the local culture because clearly there is another layer underneath the polite, facial behavior that we encounter in passing.  I hope that certain aspects of Hong Kong culture never change.

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