Generation 40s – 四十世代

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平權爭議 是教育危機還是契機?

信報財經新聞
教育講論
2017-07-15

何偉倫

「莫道你在選擇人,人亦能選擇你,公平原沒半點偏心……」一首老歌,寥寥幾句着實已經把「選擇」的真諦表達得淋漓盡致。在教育的路途上,從官員到前線教師,及至家長到莘莘學子,普遍都對於「選擇」這樣的一個概念並不陌生。

從選擇什麼學校去展開漫長的學術旅程,到報讀什麼課程去豐富其他學習經歷,及至高中到大學課程專注於什麼學科的取捨,在在關乎選擇。然而,近日在台灣鬧得熱烘烘的平權爭議則更加令我們對「選擇」作出了更加深入的認識,同時亦突顯出我們的社會在平等公義精神的培育上還有漫漫長路。

早前,台灣司法院宣告由於現行的《民法》中,並未能容許相同性別的伴侶選擇以共同生活之目的而建立具有親密性及排他性之永久結合關係,因而違反保障婚姻自由的大原則,故此頒令相關單位更新法例,容許同性伴侶締結婚姻。

台灣當局頒令同性婚姻合法化的重要性在於其華人社會背景,因為過往作出法律更改的關鍵地區及其相關的背景,大體上欠缺對華人社會的一些考量。有些人認為同性伴侶婚姻議題在能夠牽扯出如此巨大的風波,或多或少是因為不少人心底仍存有情意結,如針對父母長輩考量對於婚姻之事,過去一直有其特定的模式及潛規則。簡單來說,父母對於子女婚姻的選擇有一定的話語權。時移世易,過去的經驗及習慣好像已經慢慢地變得分崩離析。

為莘莘學子準備資訊

事實上,同性婚姻議題並非什麼新鮮事,個別地區就同性婚姻的發展而言,已具有相當悠久的歷史。因此,所謂支持的意見抑或是反對的立場,其實已經討論得頗為透徹。本文並非希望加入戰團去推動支持或是反對相關議題,反而希望就業界應該如何處理這個燙手山芋來一個討論。

長久以來,華人社會普遍對於一些敏感議題都採取避之則吉的心態,而相關政府部門也往往採取迴避的方式去處理。究竟同性婚姻應該屬於什麼課題呢?究竟應該由校方去安排抑或是由校外團體簡介一下?如果不能夠及早為莘莘學子準備相關資訊,他們又應該如何在關鍵的時刻作出選擇?

比方說,現行採用的《學校性教育指引》,其實已經編訂多年,政府部門也沒有既定的政策及措施去確保學校及前線老師如何去執行這些指引,更加沒有什麼科學性的方法去評估和檢討推廣後的成效。

然而,姑勿論是同性婚姻也好,婚前性行為也好,始終是值得討論的議題。透過該等議題的討論,我們能夠學習如何去理解作出不同選擇的背景、原因及其可能結果。透過這些討論,我們更加可以把學生的視野提升到地區層面甚至乎是國際層次。例如透過討論一些選擇及支持同性婚姻的例子,去探討其背後的社會、文化及歷史因素。同一道理,部分人士堅持不能夠讓同性伴侶作為選擇的理由也並不是無的放矢。因為在討論相關議題的時間,正好提供一個平台讓我們能夠學會為自己的選擇尋找理據,同時也為我們提供一個機會去理解及明白別人的選擇。

應該引入校園作教材

即使個別議題充滿爭議也應該引入校園當作教材,因為莘莘學子才是真正受影響的一群。事實上,將個別極具爭議性的議題引入校園,對學生的思辯能力相信會有頗正面的影響。若個別議題再加多一些因素予學生在思考過程中作出衡量,諸如要求學生就當下中國及美國就同性婚姻的決定作一個比較,用以理解兩個國家在選擇給予同性婚姻及選擇不給授予同性婚姻的議題下,加上一個時效因素,則大有機會把一個原來只是消費一個課節的話題,演變為一個季度課題。

30年前的美國政府單是處理種族問題,已經困擾萬分,並且牽引出不少禍延至今的問題。

筆者刻意安排以美國種族問題作結的原因,主要是想指出任何重大的議題如缺乏全面理解,而急着選擇一個欠缺考量,並且不能夠達到公平的方案,則大有機會為往後的發展留下糾結難解的困難。人生路何其漫長,要作出選擇並非困難;真正的困難在於是否能夠明白每一個選擇對於自己的意義、社會的貢獻及對將來的影響。如果能夠以一個宏觀的角度去看同性婚姻的爭議,我們便會發現根本用不着急急平息爭議,務求平衡各方面的利益,以及達至社會公平,而作出選擇。始終在自身作出選擇時,別人也有如斯權利,當社會還未能夠就個別議題孕育出一個氣氛,我們能夠選擇的結局,亦只會是一個受制於框架內的一個小畫面……

撰文:何偉倫
香港高等教育科技學院語文及通識教育學院特任導師、新力量網絡研究員


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Hong Kong needs a world-class concert hall, not more museums

CommentInsight & Opinion
2017-07-07
Vivienne Chow says the stunning new Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg is proof of how a concert hall can revitalise a city, and holds a lesson for Hong Kong’s new leadership

As world leaders converge in Hamburg for the G20 summit, one of the highlights for the VIP guests will be enjoying Beethoven’s Symphony No 9 in the city’s brand new concert hall, Elbphilharmonie.

The stunning building with a glass facade was designed by Swiss firm Herzog & de Meuron and features advanced acoustics. Located right at the Hamburg harbour, it was built on top of the historic Kaiserspeicher, a former warehouse. The 866 million (HK$7.6 billion) concert hall is a piece of cultural infrastructure that Germany takes pride in.

Since opening in January, it has become a new travel destination in Hamburg, with shows perpetually overbooked. Unlike Berlin, Hamburg is not known as a cultural city, but its people are now thinking about how to reinvent this historic port as a cultural capital.

Concert halls play a vital role not just in a city’s cultural life but also its image on the global stage. Many of Hong Kong’s top civil servants are fans of classical music and concert regulars. But their passion has not led to the development of a world-class concert hall, which Hong Kong deserves.

We only have a concert hall in the Cultural Centre complex. There was supposed to be one in the West Kowloon Cultural District. But, after 20 years of debate, delays and cost escalation, the plan to build the concert hall has been deferred. Instead, we are expecting a Hong Kong version of Beijing’s Palace Museum, with HK$3.5 billion in funding from the Jockey Club.

A protester at the annual July 1 march in Hong Kong holds up a wok-shaped artwork bearing pictures of (top row, from left) NPC Standing Committee chair Zhang Dejiang, President Xi Jinping, former Hong Kong chief executive Leung Chun-ying and Chief Executive Carrie Lam, as well as (bottom row, from left) liaison office director Zhang Xiaoming, former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa and Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office director Wang Guangya, on the 20th anniversary of the handover. Photo: AFP

Culturally speaking, we are in more urgent need of a world-class concert hall than another museum. We already have visual culture museum M+ and the Old Bailey Galleries at Tai Kwun. Government facilities such as the Heritage Museum and Museum of Art have long been showcasing historic works of art.

It will certainly benefit Hong Kong to have the Palace Museum in the long run. But the urgency is intriguing, compounded by the fact that witnessing the signing of the deal was among the first items on President Xi Jinping’s (習近平) agenda when he visited last week.

Beijing is wary of the fact that, 20 years after Hong Kong’s return to the motherland, the hearts of its people are drifting further away. Will the Palace Museum help bring Hong Kong people closer to the mainland culturally? Or will they, particularly the younger generation, find it an arbitrary imposition to revolt against?

Hong Kong has already lost a great deal to regional rivals in the past two decades. The new government must give serious thought to cultural priorities.

Vivienne Chow is a journalist, cultural critic and founder of Cultural Journalism Campus. She is also an honorary lecturer at the Journalism and Media Studies Centre at the University of Hong Kong


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New Hong Kong government, same old lousy attitude towards English

CommentInsight & Opinion
2017-07-07
Yonden Lhatoo asks whether the new administration, in the footsteps of the ones before, is violating the city’s official language law by sidelining English usage

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss, the song goes. Her detractors have always said that about Hong Kong’s fourth chief executive, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, who took the reins last week from the unpopular Leung Chun-ying.

To be fair, she’s already distancing herself from some of her predecessor’s policies, as per that new style of governance she has repeatedly promised, but the signs are not very encouraging when it comes to an old problem – the neglect of the English language.

Quite the contrary, this looks like a new government with the same old lousy attitude towards the lingua franca of the world. All three previous chief executives, with varying degrees of apathy, did not do much about this city’s English standards. Et tu, Mrs Lam?

Just take a look at her new Facebook page, launched last week to, ostensibly, reach out to the public through social media, in keeping with her campaign slogan, “We Connect”. There’s a bit of a disconnect with those of us who can’t read Chinese.

She does not post messages in English, so you’ll have to rely on the default translation tool that Facebook provides if you’re trying to figure out what she’s sharing.

This gibberish is how it translates her description of her question-and-answer session with lawmakers on Wednesday: “When I came to the Legislative Council, I came back to the Legislative Council, and I came back to the Legislative Council, and I was in a bit of a bit of excitement, because I really wanted to talk to members of the Legislative Council. Attention to all sides. After an hour and a half-hour question, my immediate feeling is that I have never been so calm!” Um … sure, whatever.

To her credit, after we reached out to Lam about her Facebook page, she ordered her staff to look into it and we were told they would start posting “important content” in English as well “in future”.

But it’s not just her Facebook page. Her media briefings are also Cantonese-only affairs, no matter how important the occasion, with a token answer in English when someone gets in a question.

Pretty much the only minister in Lam’s governing team who consistently makes an effort to repeat statements in English for the benefit of a non-Chinese audience is Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung. There would have been two if Ko Wing-man had chosen to stay on as health minister.

Under the Official Languages Ordinance, both Chinese and English are “the official languages of Hong Kong for the purposes of communication between the government or any public officer and members of the public”. The law even goes a step further to declare that “official languages possess equal status” and “enjoy equality of use”. Yeah, right.

I’ve heard old hands in the civil service with some context of the language law and past practice suggest that the government is probably breaching the ordinance with Chinese-only press releases, media briefings and minsters’ regular blogs.

The counter to all of it is the old chauvinistic comeback that this is China at the end of the day, not a British colony, and it’s only natural that there is more emphasis on Putonghua than English as the second language after Cantonese.

Way to build a “world city”. But if that is indeed shaping into the mainstream attitude, has anyone thought of actually amending the law to reflect it? Let’s at least be honest and dispense with the pretences and lip service.

I don’t hear much talk these days from Lam, a devout Catholic, about “God” telling her to do things, but if they are still conversing, I wish the good Lord would speak to her in English.

Yonden Lhatoo is the chief news editor at the Post


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Why the West and Japan should stop preaching to a rising China

South China Morning Post
Comment›Insight & Opinion
2017-07-07

Jean-Pierre Lehmann

Jean-Pierre Lehmann says the imperialist powers of old should acknowledge their own bloody history of plunder and exploitation, and work with Beijing to find a path to a peaceful rise, which so far is unprecedented

This year marks the anniversaries of a number of Asian historical landmarks. July 1 was the 20th anniversary of the handover of sovereignty over Hong Kong from the UK to China. August 8 will mark the 50th anniversary of the Asean declaration, the founding document of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. This Friday, July 7, marks the 80th anniversary of the Japanese invasion of China, triggering the Pacific war that lasted until Japan’s surrender on September 2, 1945.

July 7 should be a day for reflection. Such was the case on June 6 three years ago, on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of D-Day in Normandy, when the French president François Hollande hosted, among others, US president Barack Obama, Britain’s David Cameron, Canada’s Stephen Harper, Germany’s Angela Merkel and Russia’s Vladimir Putin. This was one further indication that, while there are tensions in the Atlantic, the breakout of war, as occurred twice last century, is extremely unlikely.

Over the decades since the end of the second world war, there has been a great deal of dialogue, confidence-building and the establishment of solid institutions. Germany, for all the atrocities it committed, has been an exemplary European citizen and is arguably the Atlantic’s greatest guarantor of peace, just as it has proffered unconditional apologies.

Just as Germany has been the solution for peace in the Atlantic, Japan remains a critical problem for peace in the Pacific. In light of the composition and conduct of the Japanese government – with, inter alia, the Defence Minister Tomomi Inada paying regular visits to the Yasukuni Shrine, a sort of mausoleum for Japanese war criminals – it is highly unlikely that there will be reflection, let alone apology.

The Pacific war and its many ramifications tend to be ignored in Japanese education and public discourse generally. July 7 will not be marked by public forums among Japanese leaders, let alone with their Chinese, Korean, Singaporean or Filipino counterparts.

Instead, we hear of Japanese kindergartens spreading anti-Chinese and anti-Korean xenophobic messages and hotel chain proprietors (Toshio Motoya of APA) distributing in all rooms copies of his writings in which he denies the Nanking massacre occurred and claims that the Korean “comfort women” were not sexual slaves but prostitutes.

But the lessons from July 7, 1937 extend beyond Japan. The 21st century is witnessing the rise of another great global power: China. Though there has been a good deal of debate among Chinese intellectuals on the implications of great power rise, illustrated in the seminal 2005 article by Zheng Bijian (鄭必堅), “China’s Peaceful Rise to Great Power Status”, there has been little reflection among the other great powers on how they might contribute.

If one looks at, for example, the current membership of the G7, all the countries, with the sole exception of Canada, achieved great power status through war, conquest, plunder, imperialism, exploitation, enslavement, and so on. Thus, while Japan is a major problem for peace in the Pacific, its warmongering corresponded to a pattern set by other G7 members, including the US, Britain, France, Germany and Italy – and indeed by others including the Netherlands, Belgium and Russia.

While it has become seemingly pervasive for the Western powers and Japan to mount their high moral horses and admonish China that it should “play by the rules”, they fail to explain why at the time of their rise to great power there were no rules or, if there were, they were egregiously flouted.

Thus, the eloquent 1839 letter by the Canton commissioner Lin Zexu (林則徐) to Queen Victoria, imploring her to stop her subjects from forcefully infesting China with opium, was contemptuously ignored. Throughout the 19th and most of the 20th centuries, the “great” powers plundered the planet, including of course China. What rules were the British and French playing by as they pillaged the Beijing Summer Palace in 1860?

Nor is the behaviour of the Western powers just ancient history. American atrocities perpetrated against Vietnamese and Laotians continued into the third quarter of last century. As depicted in the excellent book by Viet Thanh Nguyen, Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War, in fact the US has been pretty much continuously at war throughout the second half of the 20th century and most recently in the 21st, with the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

One of the most compelling recent publications on the rise of China is by Geoff Dyer, The Contest of the Century: The New Era of Competition with China, in which he draws compelling parallels between the rise of the US as a great power in the late 19th and early 20th centuries – manifest destiny, the Spanish-American war of 1898-99, resulting in the colonisation of the Philippines, and so on – and the rise of China in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. The 1823 Monroe Doctrine, seeking to establish a US exclusive sphere of influence over Latin American, ultimately came to concrete fruition a few decades later with, among other things, the metamorphosis of the Caribbean as an “American lake”. This, Dyer suggests, is comparable to what China is aiming to do vis-à-vis Southeast Asia generally and the South China Sea [9] in particular – that is, that it should become a Chinese lake.

The argument that these were different times with different parameters does not wash. The main difference from a Chinese viewpoint was that, whereas then the Western powers and Japan were extremely strong and China was extremely weak, today, the Western powers, the US in particular, remain strong while China is no longer weak. Thus, in seeking to draw inspiration from the methods and achievements of great powers rising, what models are there other than the Western and Japanese imperialist nations? There is no precedent for peaceful rise.

This should not, of course, imply that while previous great powers looted and engaged in outrageous brutality, it is now “China’s turn”. But it strongly suggests that serious and honest reflection is called for, not only on the part of the Japanese, but also on the part of the other great powers, and on that basis to engage in genuine dialogue – not sermons – with China. Instead of getting on their moral high horses, sermonising from the alleged position of liberal values, far more constructive would be to admit – and eventually apologise – that in fact they behaved often abominably, feeling bound by no rules except that might is right.

This would seem the only viable means to engage China in its rise to great power, to contribute constructively to the unprecedented peaceful rise, and thereby to have some hope that peace may reign. Finally, after centuries of warfare, one could hope that great power bellicose rivalry might be relegated to the dustbin of history.

Jean-Pierre Lehmann is emeritus professor at IMD, founder of The Evian Group, and visiting professor at the University of Hong Kong