Prof Chung Ling, The Hong Kong Jockey Club Distinguished Visiting Professor of Modern Chinese Literature at Lingnan University 2013, spoke on “Passion that Breaks Through Hong Kong’s Mercantilism” on 20 March.
Prof Chung pointed out that for many years Hong Kong society has been dominated by commercialism and materialism. The value system of Hong Kong people is also built on how much wealth an individual possesses. However, there were several occasions on which such a stereotype of Hong Kong people was defied. For example, the Hollywood film Somewhere in Time was a romantic love story that had been screened in Hong Kong for more than seven months, breaking ticketing records of the time. Local film Echoes of the Rainbow not only achieved great box-office success but also brought about the government’s conservation of Wing Lee Street in Sheung Wan. Prof Chung believes the time- and space-transcending love story of Somewhere in Time is similar to how traditional Chinese folklore has been adapted in Hong Kong films and television dramas, hence it was more acceptable to and welcomed by the local audience. The success of Echoes of the Rainbow is not only attributed to its refined, heart-warming sketch of familial love but also its presentation of the objects, street views, value systems, neighbourhood sharing and mutual help of the 1960s, which stirred up nostalgia among Hong Kong people.
Hong Kong people’s unprecedented enthusiasm and support for the pro-democracy movement on Tiananmen Square in 1989, characterised by three separate million-strong street protests, also attracted Prof Chung’s attention. She said this reflected the anxiety and resistance of Hong Kong people only eight years before the sovereignty handover, as well as their indignation over injustice and commendation for the students’ idealism and pursuit of democracy. However, Prof Chung believes that Hong Kong people are born with a strong sense of justice and the power to act. There were plenty of examples of Hong Kong people planning, supporting, taking action and martyring for the Chinese Revolution in 1911.
On the three occasions cited above, Prof Chung believes that the emotions of the Hong Kong people, be they romantic, heart-warming or blood-boiling, were released, thus striking a psychological balance under the siege of mercantilism and materialism.