Dispatches

Singing for Hong Kong

Three protests, three tunes – Alec Ash

In October 2014 I travelled to Hong Kong for a friend’s wedding. I had booked my flight the year before, and went straight to St. John’s Cathedral from the airport. But instead of taking a cab down Connaught Road – Hong Kong Island’s central thoroughfare, usually choked with traffic – I walked down the empty multi-lane expressway it had become. Metal barricades were strewn across the tarmac, some knocked over. Impromptu stalls by the roadside were handing out free bottles of water and biscuits. A scattering of people were sitting cross-legged under the shade of overpasses, many of them on picnic blankets. But for the incongruous setting of an abandoned highway, the scene had the air of a not very successful county fair.

Later, after dusk had fallen and vows had been made, I slipped out of the wedding reception in the Foreign Correspondent’s Club and returned with a couple of friends to the blocked-off stretch of motorway. In the interim, crowds had gathered in the tens of thousands. Now the way was packed, with only elbow room to squeeze past the miles of protestors marching for democracy.

Dispatches

A Tour of Lesbian Hong Kong

Names, places, and the stories behind them – Benita Chick

The alley is dark and a bit creepy, and it doesn’t look like it leads to anywhere. Concealed within it is a secret spot that is largely unknown to both locals and foreigners: T:ME Bar.

Probably my favorite spot in Hong Kong’s Central district, right off Hollywood Road and next to Club 71 in Pak Tsz Lane Park, the bar is a hidden gay sanctuary that makes for a particularly enlightening pit stop. In my experience, four out of five Hong Kongers don’t know it exists, or that it relates closely to Chinese history.

Dispatches

The Hungry Ghosts of June Fourth

Concrete and memory is all that is left on Tiananmen Square Isaac Beech

A hungry ghost, or e’gui 饿鬼, is the lingering spirit of a person who has met a violent or miserable end. In Buddhist tradition, it is the evil deeds of the individual which lead them to be reborn as a hungry ghost, below even the lowest of animals. But in more popular belief, the cruel end of a life cut short is enough to leave a ghost unanchored, unable to rest in peace, forever hungry, never sated.

On the night of June 3, 1989, paramount leader Deng Xiaoping sent some 200,000 troops into Beijing and created anywhere from several hundred to several thousand hungry ghosts. That we don’t know the precise number – likely something less than 3000, despite recent claims of 10,000 or more – is only a testament to the efficacy of the cover-up. If the human tragedy of it all feels too far removed geographically or generationally (I was three in 1989), videos and pictures remind us of what we were not there to witness.

Dispatches

Larkin in the Middle Kingdom

They fuck you up, your poetry teachers – Elyse Weingarten

When I entered the classroom, I expected it to be abuzz with joy. Instead, the students filed in silently, looking at their phones until class began, and then remained characteristically taciturn. It was my second year living in Beijing and teaching at a university. For weeks, I had been looking forward to teaching British poet Philip Larkin’s ‘This Be the Verse’ to the Chinese undergraduate English majors in my creative writing class. They had read the poem as part of their assignment before the class. I had assumed they’d delight in the poem’s mischievousness and musicality, like so many of their Western counterparts before them. I thought I’d finally elicit enthusiasm from them. I couldn’t have been more mistaken.

Dispatches

Trickle-down Economics with Chinese Characteristics

For rural Chinese, economic reform is worth the 40-year wait – Matt Chitwood

President Xi Jinping’s New Era was ushered in by a new cast of characters: ballerinas in pink tutus, laborers in yellow hardhats, hip-hop dancers in silver foil Hammer pants and a girl in pigtails. The new proletariat took center stage in Beijing last December to ring in the 40th anniversary of China’s Reform and Opening. Their highly choreographed number, ‘Enter the New Era,’ was just one of dozens in a nationally televised epic production that paid tribute to the economic reforms championed by Deng Xiaoping in the 1980s, and now Xi, that have paved the way for China’s prosperity.