Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Political Dilemma

That unauthorised building works have been found at the luxury residence of Chief Executive-elect Mr Leung Chun-ying has dominated the local news since last weekend. Almost everyone in the political spectrum spares little time to jump on the bandwagon to criticise Mr Leung of his negligence, if deliberate fraud, in the run-up to the Legislative Council elections in September. Online communities are, as usual, flooded by criticisms, parodies and sarcasms.

How amusing. This is because most of us still remember how Mr Leung attacked his opponent Mr Henry Tang in the Chief Executive elections on the lavish unauthorised building works in his Kowloon Tong home.

So much for the laugh. This piece of news is yet again very irritating. For one thing, Mr Leung's so-called explanation is hardly comprehensible. Even if the Hong Kong Institute of Surveyors has issued a statement to implicitly support his claim that there are so many different types of surveyors that he is not necessarily aware of the unauthorised building works, questions around the date of property purchase and whether those structures were bequeathed from the first owner, as he claimed, are left unanswered. This is precisely where the parodies set in.

Although Mr Leung has acted way faster than Mr Tang in addressing public concerns and suspicions, his failure to provide a credible statement supported by adequate, timely information is likely to cost him dearly in political terms. Days have passed and time is running short. While his rationality may propel him to insist that it is unnecessary to provide any further information, he must not forget that he is now facing a highly emotional and sceptical population that has little confidence, if any, in him. It has always been said that he is going to fight an uphill battle to build public confidence, which is essential in achieving effective governance, but few of us knew he has so little time to even get prepared.

From what I read from local media reports throughout the years, Mr Leung seems to be a man of iron will and is very unlikely to yield to public pressure and resign. However, Beijing may think otherwise. Unlike his predecessors Mr Tung Chee-hwa and Sir Donald Tsang, Mr Leung was not really the sole favoured, if designated, candidate. If Mr Tung's resignation and Mr Tsang's poor governance were embarrassments of Beijing, Mr Leung may not necessarily so. Apparently he does not have the unanimous support from the top leaders and thus he had to make such enormous efforts to get elected. His political career does not necessarily hold so much stake for Beijing. For this reason, I would not be surprised by any action beyond imagination across the border, despite the fierce political struggle behind the walls in Zhongnanhai.

For another, the people once again stop short of making fun or pointing an accusing finger to the man, missing the real issues at stake. Why are there so many unauthorised building works around Hong Kong and only a handful of ordinary homes in the city are being inspected and the law enforced upon? Why politicians, tycoons and local gentries who have obviously contravened the law are spared from government scrutiny? Instead of making fun of Hello Kitty, can we be a bit more serious in coming up with suggestions of enhancing impartial, comprehensive law enforcement on this issue?

Farces and blunders have been staging almost non-stop in the local political landscape. Lies, distortions, smearing are everywhere. I am so annoyed, frustrated, weary of all these. And yet I can kind of imagine the situation would not be much better even if we have an accountable democracy. The hearts and minds of too many of us seem to be contaminated and I don't know whether those poor souls can be cured. It seems our world is falling apart, being turned upside down and there is little we can do about it.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

「雛鳳鳴」與「鳳和鳴」

看網友討論公主殿下出身成名的金漆字號,到底是「雛鳳鳴」還是「鳳和鳴」好聽些,不禁失笑。若是真的要討論,不如談談這兩個名稱的來歷。

甫見「雛鳳鳴」三字,便想起晚唐詩人李商隱《韓冬郎即席為詩相送一座盡驚他日余方追吟連宵侍坐徘徊久之句有老成之風因成二絕寄酬兼呈畏之員外》的絕句:

十歲裁詩走馬成,冷灰殘燭動離情。
桐花萬里丹山路,雛鳳清於老鳳聲。

此詩題目很長,手上五冊本的《李商隱詩歌集解》沒有斷句,其實應是:「韓冬郎即席為詩相送,一座盡驚。他日余方追吟『連宵侍坐徘徊久』之句,有老成之風,因成二絕寄酬,兼呈畏之員外」。

韓冬郎者,即晚唐詩人韓偓,「冬郎」是他的小字。李商隱則是他的姨父。正如詩中所言,韓偓自幼聰敏過人,十歲能詩,即席吟詠,舉座為之驚詫。前文引述的詩句,正是李商隱為盛讚外甥才華而作。詩題中說到的「畏之員外」,便是韓偓的父親韓瞻,與李商隱是連襟,「畏之」是他的字。

相比《無題》、《錦瑟》等膾炙人口的七律,李商隱此詩較為淺白易懂。少年時讀唐詩,很喜歡後兩句,總覺得立意不錯,修辭婉麗,音韻鏗鏘,雖是信手拈來,仍見大師風範。至於「雛鳳清於老鳳聲」一句,當然是稱讚韓偓詩才在乃父之上,很可能亦是「雛鳳鳴」三字的出處。我不知道當年是誰為任姐、仙姐門下一班女孩兒組成的劇團取了這個名字,但竊以為取得極好,用典燙貼傳神,既與「仙鳳鳴」一脈相承,又蘊含諸位前輩對公主殿下等一班同學仔的期望和鞭策。

儘管看到「鳳和鳴」三字,想不起有甚麼典故,但這個名稱也有其深遠意義。「和」字雖然常見,卻是含義非凡。它可以指恰到好處、剛柔並濟,如《中庸》說道:「『和』也者,天下之達道也。」又可以是溫順、平靜、諧協,不論唱曲或演戲,掌握合適的分寸最是困難。「和」也是不爭,「以和為貴」是待人接物的基本原則。據說「鳳和鳴」這名稱是仙姐親自構思的,大概她希望同學仔在演藝上做到分毫不差、不慍不火,彼此之間也可以和衷共濟,一起為理想而奮鬥吧?

從音韻方面來說,「雛鳳鳴」的粵語讀音是平、仄、平(陰平、陽去、陽平),「鳳和鳴」則是仄、平、平(陽去、陽平、陽平),似乎又是「雛鳳鳴」稍勝一籌。中國人取名字,多以「平、仄、平」的格式,因為唸起來響亮悅耳,頓挫分明。以平聲字首尾呼應,感覺也較平穩圓滿。

Friday, 22 June 2012

《滿庭芳》--崑劇《獅吼記》之〈跪池〉觀後

月滿梧桐,風翻蓮葉,夜色如水茫茫。漏沉更渺,清露浥羅裳。爭奈衾寒枕冷,繡幃外,翦燭西窗。愁無寐,巫山夢遠,紅淚映孤芳。 心傷,辭扃戶,閒遊冶蕩,倚馬平康。問多少恩情,分付東江?可嘆青藜棒下,誰信道,因愛成狂?難言處,秋波微轉,欲語已彌彰。

Sunday, 17 June 2012

重看《大唐胭脂》

翻看舊文,才記起原來初看《大唐胭脂》,已是去年七月初旬。當時對劇情和製作細節雖然頗有微言,但觀乎一年來為了「振興粵劇」而推出的所謂「戲寶」,《大唐胭脂》可能已是萬中無一的稀世奇珍。平心而論,戲文的確不算太差,至少有完整的故事脈絡和鮮明的人物設計,令人看得舒服。礙於才情和眼光,模仿、抄襲的痕跡固然難以避免,但起碼沒有那些令人噁心、如坐針氈的齷齪場面。所以得知上月底重演此劇,馬上買票支持,因為在這個窮得只剩下錢的社會,沒有東西比真金白銀更能發揮賞善罰惡的力量。

可惜當天工作有點阻滯,以九秒九的極速趕到新光戲院時,第一幕已差不多演完了,只見衛駿輝飾演的裴曉郎聽胭脂的師娘解釋了扇子的「妙用」,便喜孜孜的轉身進場了。但看今次師娘由經驗豐富的高麗飾演,戲服也是平日慣見的樣式,改正了唐朝人穿清朝服的毛病,不禁一陣喜慰。

戲文演將下來,比初看時更覺緊湊,甚覺可喜。尤其是第二場〈題紅應娶〉,儘管仍是擺脫不了肉麻當有趣的格局,畢竟還是濃縮了些,至少沒讓我如墮冰窖渾身打顫。

拙文曾提到,《大唐胭脂》有兩個明顯的犯駁之處,這次重演時已酌情修正,更感欣慰。我不知道他們是否看過拙文,也不敢居功,但得悉製作者抱著精益求精的態度,努力剔除劇本的瑕疵,總是高興的。

接下來裴曉郎奉詔上京起草鋤奸令,沒想到竟因此身陷囹圄。裴父為救兒子,有意將胭脂獻予武則天之姪武三思,誰知裴曉郎抵死不從。後來裴曉郎出獄復職,裴父仍舊計賺胭脂,初看時只覺渾不可解。這次重演,補充了裴父極力反對兒子與胭脂結褵的細節,令劇情合理得多。雖說這是老掉了牙的原因,但於推動劇情頗有幫助。更何況,這是有其歷史根據的。唐代承襲魏、晉以來的風氣,非常講究出身門第,號稱「五姓七族」的世家望族李氏(只限籍隸隴西與趙郡者)、崔氏(清河和博陵)、盧氏(范陽)、鄭氏(滎陽)和王氏(太原),世代聯姻,權勢滔天,甚至不屑以李唐公主為媳,可見一斑。雖然戲文沒有說明裴曉郎的籍貫,或可假設他也是當時關中地區首屈一指的名門望族之一(唐代關中以韋、裴、柳、薛、楊、杜六姓為首)。在這個時代背景下,裴父既然出身名門,復又官至尚書,不想兒子聘娶煙花女子為正妻,自是順理成章。

另外,結局時給裴曉郎指點迷津的小郡主,不再沿用「霍小玉」之名,只稱她是梁王(不是霍王)流落民間的小女兒。輕輕一筆,便把霍小玉從中唐穿越到武后臨朝時代的破綻勾消了。這個修改非常合適,我由衷的贊成。早前在《文匯報》戲曲版看到一篇報道,主辦者似乎有意擺脫去年公演時「《紫釵記》前傳」作招徠的說法,更是值得鼓勵。唐先生的遺作歷演逾半世紀不衰,膾炙人口,任何蛛絲馬跡也逃不過觀眾的法眼,何必多此一舉招惹是非?其實創作總少不免以前人的作品為基礎或靈感來源,即使天縱奇才如唐先生,也是透過改編古典戲曲而建立不朽的盛名,全新創作的劇本反而較少人注意。所以說,創作時參考、模仿前作自是無可厚非,能否推陳出新、青出於藍,則看作者的才情、思維與筆力了。抄襲又好,模仿又好,觀眾自有公論。

不過,這次演出在製作上仍有一些粗疏之處,希望主辦者多加注意。最不可原諒者,就是飾演小郡主的明明是盧麗斯,何以場刊卻寫著陳紀婷?是陳紀婷臨時辭演,來不及修改場刊,還是製作者疏忽大意?另外,字幕的錯別字仍嫌太多,例如「僕射」寫成「伏射」,這是初中程度的歷史常識,真叫我無言以對。曲詞亦有不少瑕疵,尚待斟酌潤飾。堂而皇之錄入場刊的曲詞,想是作者自認為得意之作,但竊以為堆砌造作、華而不實,既無助於推動劇情,亦未見深刻描繪人物的內心世界,甚至有渾不可解者。例如結局時裴曉郎與胭脂一段對唱,甚麼「宋玉詩賦誦神話,甜蜜在兩心中軟化。謝有福星伴,鏡心得愛灑……」我真的不懂編劇想表達些甚麼,只覺莫名其妙,畫蛇添足。

縱觀全劇,演員俱可保持水準。只是高麗聲線稍有不及,某些曲子唱來頗感吃力,不知是身體不適還是怎地,頗覺可惜。盧麗斯代替陳紀婷飾演小郡主,我只看到結局一段,卻見她演來活潑靈動,七分俏麗之中,帶著三分自負和刁蠻,令人印象深刻。大概由於劇本所限,只覺陳咏儀演來始終稍欠些甚麼,未算真切動人。反觀衛駿輝卻有兩場獨腳戲〈牢房魂會〉和〈公堂審妻〉,演來極具神采,不禁精神為之一振。裴曉郎在〈牢房魂會〉中,但憑著一點渴望與愛妻重會的精誠、一身堅信邪不勝正的凜然傲氣,雖在蹇滯之中,始終不屈於人。在〈公堂審妻〉裡,裴曉郎刑滿復職,穿起一襲官袍亮相,英姿颯爽,威勇迫人。雖然無力改變時局,也不知愛妻流落何方,仍能收拾心情,深信可憑一己之力秉公執法,安邦濟民。衛駿輝看來充分掌握裴曉郎的性格和感情轉折,演來豐富具層次,非常可喜,希望她繼續努力,莫要辜負難得的一身好本領。

Monday, 11 June 2012

人間有情

上星期日和朋友到香港藝術館參觀「有情世界──豐子愷的藝術」展覽,甚是快慰,猶如一道清泉,緩緩在心底流過,把塵俗洗滌殆盡,清泠怡人。

展覽分為兩部分,分別題為「人間情味」和「護生護心」。「護生護心」的一百幅展品,取自豐子愷為乃師李叔同(後出家,稱「弘一法師」)所繪畫的祝壽畫冊《護生畫集》。這些畫作以「護生」為主題,大都透過動物有情的故事,表達佛家慈悲、戒殺的主張。「人間情味」則以家庭和社會生活為題材,刻劃小孩天真爛漫的情態,令人窩心;描繪貧苦大眾生活的無奈與艱難,則充滿關愛和憐憫。還有一些表達反戰、厭戰感受的作品,更是發人深省。

參觀前,自問對豐子愷認識不深,只知道他是中國漫畫之父,也是文學家和翻譯家,日本古典長篇小說《源氏物語》的首部中譯本,就是由他翻譯的。可是他的作品,一篇也沒讀過。然而這也不要緊,看他充滿淳厚溫情的畫作與字跡,如見其人,真切地感受到他那一顆珍而重之、著意呵護的赤子之心。藝術館以「情」為展覽主題,也深得豐子愷作品的箇中三昧。

在豐子愷眼中,凡是有生命的,都有靈性、都有情感,所以人類不應肆意傷害其他生物,尤其是動物,謂之「護生」。他跟隨弘一法師皈依佛教,雖未主張禁絕肉食,但反對為了排場或貪玩而濫殺動植物,包括採花、撲蝶之類。更重要的是,他明言「護生」的目的在於「護心」,不是為了保護動植物,而是避免人類因濫殺無辜而養成殘忍嗜殺的性情。言下之意,他認為人類宰殺動物太多,久而久之,連互相殘殺也不怎麼放在心上了,因此種下了烽火連天、生靈塗炭的禍根。故此在「護生護心」展覽中,有多幅作品從動物的角度,反映人類濫殺無辜的殘忍與專橫。其中給我印象最深的一幅,畫了一個提著一條火腿的人,後面跟著一頭滿懷心事的豬,好像盯著那條火腿的樣子。畫題倒是一語中的:「我的腿!」還要加上斗大的嘆號。題旨清晰而不失幽默,確是高手之作。看那頭豬呆頭呆腦的模樣,竟想起可愛的麥兜來。說不定,豐子愷的作品正是啟發麥兜這個角色的創作靈感之一。

在「人間情味」的展覽中,不少作品均令人留下深刻印象。例如《月上柳梢頭》,情致纏綿,意在畫外,令人低迴再三。又如《貧女如花只鏡知》,光看畫題,已經感受到作者對貧家女子的關懷和憐惜。不過若說我最喜歡的,首推《似愛之虐》。畫中是一名坐在木頭車裡的嬰兒,車上滿布食物,兩手也抓得滿滿的,正吃得起勁呢。一眼看去,便想起今天橫行當道的怪獸家長和他們一手調教的小魔怪,看似是愛護孩子,實際上卻是虐兒兼虐人。沒想到數十年前豐子愷早有先見之明,怎不叫人佩服得五體投地?可是仍有多少不動腦筋、沒有心肝的人附庸風雅,不是大發謬論批評豐子愷畫功不濟,就是大放厥詞:「我不明白這幅畫(正是《似愛之虐》)到底是甚麼意思。」他大概以為這就表示豐子愷表達能力不佳,卻不經意洩露了自己淺薄無知的底蘊,真是好笑。

除了作品本身所流露的溫情與敦厚,豐子愷與恩師的深厚情誼、與兒女的舔犢之情,莫不令人動容。例如《護生畫集》是弘一法師五十歲壽辰時豐子愷與他約定而作,五十歲作五十幅,六十歲作六十幅,餘此類推,直至百幅。弘一法師圓寂後,豐子愷排除萬難,恪守諾言,耗時數十年而完成六冊《護生畫集》,共計四百五十幅。這份生死不渝的師生之情,在這個教育淪為貨銀兩訖的商業服務、學生和家長驕傲自滿地以付鈔買文憑的顧客自居的世道,不啻是當頭棒喝、灌頂醍醐。還有數十年來對慈父念念不忘的女兒,如今到了耄耋之年,仍為他當年所遭受的迫害而憤憤不平,在文章中大聲疾呼:「如今,你可以好好地休息!再也沒有甚麼『造反派』來打擾你,搞甚麼『逼供信』了!爸爸,你安息吧!」大概那些不惜與父母、兒女對簿公堂,爭奪財產的逐臭之人,永遠也不會明白親情的真正價值所在。

所以,我很慶幸在這指鹿為馬、真偽難辨,窮得只剩下錢的社會,還有豐子愷的作品流傳下來,讓人真切地體會何謂赤子之心、人間有情。

Sunday, 10 June 2012

針灸記

其實左膝的問題纏繞多時,只是一直沒甚大礙,偶然發作一次半次,所以沒怎麼理會。三月時不經意扭傷了左前臂,看朋友介紹的跌打師傅時順便請他看看左膝,沒料到一按膝窩,痛徹心肺,才知道傷勢不輕。但師傅的醫館在灣仔,偶然看他一兩次猶自可,怎麼來得及下班後風雨不改天天上門三星期?何況師傅已是半退休,他也明言興之所至經常出門遊山玩水去,所以求診必須預約,只好暫時擱下,再看看家裡附近有沒有其他醫師。誰知上星期練跑時,左腿完全發不了力,心知不妙;經過菱角山一役,更是不敢怠慢,今早馬上跑去求醫。

可惜家裡附近唯一的跌打師傅沒開門,不知是休息還是結業了,只得到另一家中醫館。那是母女合設的醫館,除一般診脈、開方外,招牌上還寫著針灸和跌打。兩人對答時滿嘴儂來儂去的上海話,我只聽懂了三成,比今天上海年輕人的普通話化上海話難懂得多。那女兒醫師著我躺下,用廣東話問明了我的情況,在左膝上按了幾下,又問:「你怕針灸嗎?」我答說:「不怕。」她說:「那我替你針灸試試看。」

其實這是我第一次接受針灸,但小時候下盤不穩,經常摔倒受傷,皮開肉綻已是家常便飯,雙肩、左肘和左腕也全都脫過臼。三、四歲時左肘脫臼,給跌打師傅推拿接骨已是一聲不哼;如今長得這麼大了,幾枚小針還怕他怎的?

果然不出所料,針灸不怎麼痛,就只有施針一刻的那一丁點兒。相較之下,捐血時輸血管插進手臂那一下子痛得多了。只見小針刺下皮肉而不出半絲鮮血,說起來也真神奇,至今仍未明白箇中道理,也許覆診時再請教一下。

原來針灸工序頗多,以前卻不知曉,也可算孤陋寡聞了。醫師在膝蓋前後幾個穴道施針後,還要在小針末端駁上電線、接通電流以加強推拿效果。穴道通電之後,施針處好像敲鑼擊鼓一樣有節奏的輪流震動,但感麻癢一片,只有前膝受傷的部位微感酸痛。但多做幾下之後,痛楚漸減。百無聊賴之餘,竟跟醫師有說有笑起來,從哪裡的咖啡好喝到上海話與廣東話的分別也胡扯一番。

醫師又說,膝蓋軟骨磨損無法復元,吃些花膠、牛筋或骨質補品等物,只能補充少許,沒有太大作用。針灸也是治標不治本,只能止痛散瘀,但連續施針三天,已能痊癒七成;隔幾天再施一兩次,應該就會好了。看來要保護膝蓋、長跑長有,還是要請跌打師傅看看筋骨有沒有受傷,加強鍛鍊大腿肌肉和調整跑步減肥的策略。

針灸推拿約十五分鐘後,醫師拔去小針,燃著醮了酒精的棉花,燒熱幾個手指粗大的小玻璃瓶,按在膝蓋前後做拔罐。拔罐完了,又用紅外線燈照射膝蓋約十分鐘,再敷上跌打膏藥,才算大功告成。膏藥敷上大半天,晚上洗澡前就可以撕掉了。猶幸針灸不像跌打那樣不准洗澡沾濕患處,否則以我怕熱汗多的體質,在這種悶熱潮濕的天氣,少洗一次澡猶如要了我的命。醫師又給我開了兩片行氣活血的田七藥丸,著我飯後服用。然而我素來熱血澎湃,練了太極拳之後更是如此,那兩片藥丸有沒有功效,倒是難說。也許心理作用勝於一切吧?

菱角山

一直很喜歡到南丫島遠足,因為貪圖交通方便,不必長途跋涉,從中環乘渡輪約半小時可到。從榕樹灣走到索罟灣是最為人熟悉的路線,已經不知走過多少次;今年四月覲見公主之暇,也差不多把榕樹灣一帶的山路走遍了。近日上網得知索罟灣旁有菱角山,山上築有狀況良好的郊遊徑,於是趁著周末一遊。

時近端午,天氣悶熱而不穩定,經常有驟雨,出發時心中不免一陣猶豫。猶幸天公造美,除了乘渡輪時下過一場大雨之外,在索罟灣一直陽光普照,到離開時才灑下一點小雨。

下了渡輪,右轉至索罟灣大街,經過多間海鮮食肆,直走至天后廟,從旁邊的石階上山。

走不多久,赫然發現左邊山坡上滿布墳墓,加上叢林茂密,樹蔭蔽天,難免起了一身雞皮疙瘩,急忙低頭疾走。經過兩片墳地,約十五分鐘後來到一爿水泥建造的休憩亭。據指示牌的資料,從索罟灣到這裡約需二十五分鐘,沒想到自己的腳程居然快了那麼多。

亭子位於山谷之中,景色豁然開朗,山坡一片青翠,長滿矮小的灌木叢,可惜鮮花寥寥,樹木幾乎絕跡,與山腰茂密的樹林儼然兩個世界。右邊有石階通往山地塘,左邊石階則直達菱角山頂。先循右邊石階上山,只見四周一片荒蕪,怪石嶙峋,景觀乏善足陳。山坡遠處有一方綠瓦飛檐的涼亭,亦無甚足觀,所以只繞了一圈就返回休憩亭了。

從亭子旁邊的石階上山,愈走愈感吃力,不禁一陣怵然。難道是睡眠不足?早餐沒吃飽?抑或近日疏於練跑,體能劇降?還是兩膝勞損已甚,以致酸軟無力?時近正午,日照當空,山上毫無遮蔭和休息的地方,自然汗出如漿,衣履盡濕,兩條手臂炙得火紅,猶如紅燒元蹄一般。幸而裝備充足,只好停下來多休息,不斷喝水補充,勉力應付。

終於走到山頂,極目望去,西北角的發電廠和榕樹灣、東北角香港島上的香港仔、海洋公園等清晰可見,東南方的石排灣和東澳也宛然目前。

過了地政總署設立的測量柱,經過有人戲稱為「試劍石」的石群,便是一幢正在興建的電視發射站。時值周末,無人工作,更添荒涼之感。繞過發射站,便是下山的路徑。這邊山坡十分陡峭,一條連綿不絕的階梯曲折蜿蜒,兩旁雖有護欄以策安全,仍得步步為營。走不到一半,雙腿已感酸軟無力,幾乎站也站不穩,那是前所未有的事,心中不免又是一陣張皇--看來膝蓋的毛病再也拖延不得了。

好容易挨到山下,沒想到還有一大段路程才回到索罟灣,而且全是忽高忽低的斜坡。若在平日,自然如履平地,可是當時已經筋疲力盡,半路上吃下去的乾糧恍如無物,早就消化得一乾二淨,只好坐下來休息片刻。如此這般邊走邊歇,終於回到索罟灣,急不及待先來一大瓶冰凍汽水解暑。回過神來,看看手機上的運動計時器,原來五公里半的路程,只走了兩小時零六分。我不知道計時器是否懂得扣除靜止的休息時間,但即使沒有計算在內,花兩小時爬完海拔二百五十米、山徑全長五公里半的菱角山,似乎又不算太差。不過,山上的景觀實在並不吸引,難怪荒山冷落,一路上不見遊人蹤影,彷彿世上只剩下我一人。看來要我重遊舊地,相當困難了。

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Horrendous

Chinese activist Li Wangyang, a native of Hunan who had been in jail for more than two decades for his role in the pro-democracy movement in 1989, was found dead in hospital yesterday. Officials said he might have hanged himself. His family, however, refused to accept the official claim. They questioned why he was on his feet if he hanged himself. They also insisted that Li had always been strong despite his suffering and poor health throughout the years. Li was reportedly blind and deaf as a result of torture and maltreatment in prison.

Personality seems a bit arbitrary, especially when it comes to providing evidence for a criminal case. But the fact that Li was standing by the window is by all means intriguing and suspicious. That his family was barred from bidding Li farewell and his body was taken away despite his family's protest only fuelled the suspicions.

If what Li's family said is true and there is little distortion to their story, this is by all means horrendous. What is the point of killing a dissident, also a human life? To mute opposition? To show how committed they are to upholding the paramount principle of maintaining harmony? Why do the Chinese authorities, central and local alike, still believe they can put everything under control with repressive measures like this? Isn't there a flicker within their conscience in any split of second that reminds them of all those stories in history about the brutal revenge upon merciless dictators? We Chinese are one of the first peoples to start writing history and I take great pride in this fantastic heritage. But why so many people out there fail to learn from past mistakes? Human nature is extremely difficult to change, I agree, yet it can and should be restrained, if controlled, by reason and empathy. Otherwise what is the difference between humanity and animal instincts that drive us to kill and feed on the prey?

I have always tried to keep my head cool when it comes to discussions about the Chinese communist regime because I'm too familiar with all those biases, hostilities, prejudices and propositions. But the preliminary evidence in this case, or at least how the story is told, has already spoken for itself, too loud to be neglected. I am expecting someone to tell me everything is just a joke, or a well-planned conspiracy of the family to take advantage of the situation by blaming the authorities for Li's death. But any sensible person would not do this to his family. Or are you going to tell me anything can happen in the lawless and ruthless China?

Monday, 4 June 2012

Speechless

Even if justice were done on the mainland, although none of us has the crystal ball to tell exactly when, today is a day for commemoration and reflection. Cognitively I'm compelled to write something, but my hand and heart fail me. I have tried to scribble something, but it doesn't make sense. After a few attempts, I think I'd better give up and let my emotions flow.

At the recommendation of Ramie, I have started listening to Lady Gaga and I must confess that her remarkable talent and vocal skills really surprise me. Interestingly, a few lines from Lady Gaga's Speechless, my favourite of her songs, seems to have somehow articulated what I feel on this special but tragic day:

Could we fix you if you broke?
And is your punch line just a joke?

I'll never talk again, oh boy, you've left me speechless
You've left me speechless, so speechless



I felt even more so when TV news reported this morning that London has held the spectacular celebrations of the Diamond Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II yesterday on River Thames – pretty much at the hour when the first bullets were fired 23 years ago in Beijing.

How sarcastic! I was left speechless most of the day.