Tuesday, May 06, 2014

All languages are equal, but some are more equal than others

Transcript of part of last night's ATV News (starting at 7:46 on the YouTube video):

ATV News:
The Law Society unveiled its proposals for democratic reform today, but we won't be reporting it [sic] because of the attitude on display during the press conference. Instead, we want to make a point here, and show you how increasingly difficult it is these days for English news gathering in Hong Kong, our so-called world city.

ATV reporter at the press conference: What's the Law Society's opinion on the 'love your country, love Hong Kong' requirement for the CE candidates?

Law Society President Ambrose Lam: I already explained it in Cantonese, sorry about that.

ATV: Yeah, we would like it in English please.

Lam: Sorry?

ATV: We would like it in English please.

Lam: I already provide[d] the answer.  Thank you.  [Pause]  You can translate into English.


The above gives the words, but you need to watch the video to observe the coldly dismissive tone in which they were delivered. What I wonder here is, if a CCTV reporter had asked for the answer in Putonghua, would Lam have told them he already gave it in Cantonese, or rushed to oblige?  Is it only the speakers of Hong Kong''s second official language that he shows contempt for?  Or ATV, perhaps?

In case you're wondering what he did say in Cantonese, the SCM Post reports:
Yesterday, Lam admitted the notion of "love the country, love Hong Kong" - cited by Beijing as a criterion for chief executive - was "literally absent" from the constitutional text and there was no clear mechanism to judge patriotism. "It is arguable whether patriotism constitutes a reasonable restriction on candidacy," Lam said. "But it is difficult to judge who complies with the notion. What is the mechanism to determine if an individual loves the country and Hong Kong?"

7 comments:

Foamier said...

Good call, PB.

My grouse on the language issue is that the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce did away with Cantonese for the announcements at its 150-year anniversary dinner/extravaganza, but included Mandarin in its place (along with English).

Time-servers at the Chamber, such as the superfluous and vacuous David O'Rear, "justify" this on the grounds that Hong Kongers can understand either English or Mandarin so they don't need to hear their own language. FFS!

Private Beach said...

As it happens, I know David, though I haven't seen him for years. You have to make allowances for Americans - they don't have a native language of their own (or rather, they used to have a lot, but wiped out most of the natives who spoke them), so they had to borrow one from England.

I have read elsewhere that many PRC companies coming to Hong Kong are joining chambers of commerce here and "mainlandising" them, like much else in Hong Kong.

Anonymous said...

Ooh, PB, that's just plain catty. You can be a real b**ch. But I thought anti-Americanism was a bit passe these days.

Private Beach said...

I think "American" is somewhat less of an insult than "superfluous and vacuous", a description I generally reserve for Hong Kong politicians.

Foamier said...

Here is Ambrose Lam's comment on the constitutional reform and his press conference in the Law Society weekly e-mail to members. All in English, with no complaint about having to do so. It must be easier to pick on a reporter than fellow lawyers.

"The Law Society issued its submissions to the Constitutional Reform consultation on 2 May and followed this up with a press conference on 5 May. Given the significant impact this subject matter has on the future of Hong Kong, we attach great importance to this important consultation. We issued a survey to understand members' views and our Council, with the assistance of our Constitutional Affairs and Human Rights Committee and the Public Policy Committee, held numerous meetings including a specially convened meeting on 30 April to carefully discuss the numerous drafts and finalise our submissions on this important subject.
I would like to thank members for their responses to the survey and all those who have worked so hard behind the scene, including members of the 2 aforementioned committees."

'Superfluous' is surely a question of fact. 'Vacuous' is, I grant, insulting but also, arguably, fair comment.

foamier said...

From this week's e-mail newsletter from the President of the Law Society.

"Press Conference on 5 May 2014
Reflecting on my work as President of the Law Society during the past year, facing the media is perhaps one of my most challenging duties. I must admit that I am still not used to handling the press. The recent Law Society press conference on constitutional reforms was well attended. Many questions were raised and I was keen to answer as many as possible within the limited time allocated for the conference. To save time, I declined to repeat my answer as I hoped to give more time for different questions on aspects that had not been covered yet at the conference. It was unfortunate that this had created a storm in a teacup."

I guess this could be construed as either an apology or a realisation that he got caught out.

Private Beach said...

Having proved already that he's ill-mannered and arrogant, Ambrose Lam's subsequent support of China's white paper demonstrates that he's also a Beijing bootlicker. Nice guy, huh?