Friday, June 4, 2010

"Six Four"

First I'm sidelined by the flu - now I'm mesmerized by our new iPad. Or rather, Man Yung's enraptured by the iPad* and I'm busy filling it up with apps and videos and teaching Man Yung how to use it.

I've been looking for a touchscreen computer for Man Yung for some time. Man Yung is kind of like the terrifying Great Old Ones of the Cthulhu mythos - lurking, fearsome, ancient; capable of unfathomable feats of tango step combination beyond sane human comprehension... but utterly baffled by the concept of keyboard and mouse - not to mention dazzled and blinded by the refresh rate of a laptop screen.

When the iPad was finally released in Toronto, I rushed to get one. Or rather, I wasn't able to land one right away as the model I was looking for was sold out everywhere. However, by some strange happenstance I stumbled on a cache of iPads at a nearby Future Shop that everyone seemed to have missed on Monday - and I quickly nabbed one.

Man Yung thought I was just feeding my geeky electronic gadget addiction and was very skeptical when I said I had bought the iPad "just for him". "You're just using me as your enabler!" he said. But honestly, I did buy it just for him (see, our iPad is absolutely match-3 game free!) Why? Because it's a computer that is so consumer-friendly and intuitive, even mushy tentacled computer illiterate leviathanic Cthulhus could use it. And Man Yung could finally get access to the World Wide Web - and see for himself what's going on.

He could look at tango videos, he could read tango blogs, he could visit tango websites. He could read the latest breaking news. He could access all this information that is now on the web - and not available in print or on television. Man Yung is stepping out of the dark ages at last.

Man Yung wasted no time. Yesterday he spent hours watching videos on Youtube. But not of tango, as you may be expecting. What was he watching? The recent legislative session in Hong Kong in which the pro-democracy members made a motion (as they never fail to do, year after year) for the government to officially recognize that the Tiananmen Square massacre of June 4, 1989 was wrong.

The pro-democracy legislative members made passionate, articulate and forceful speeches. They demanded justice for the victims of the massacre. They listed the ongoing human rights abuses in China. They railed against the corruption of the government officials - in the most corrupt government in Chinese history.

Above all, they called for the end of the "one party, one regime" totalitarian rule in China. They exhorted: Democracy in China, Now.

The legislative hall was eerily quiet, and echoed with the sound of the impassioned speeches. Why? Because the majority of the legislative members were missing. Those supporting the government and their allies had decided, en masse, not to show up.

The absentees knew in their hearts that the Tianenmen square massacre was an atrocity by the Chinese government that had to addressed. But they were cowardly - caught between their fear of offending the communist party and fear of offending the Hong Kong public, they didn't dare show up to vote against the motion. Instead they deliberately failed to attend. The motion could not pass if there was no quorum. And without the attendance of the missing members, there can be no debate. It was a motion for justice that was stonewalled and ignored.

In China, the internet is tightly controlled and anything anti-government or pro-democracy is censored. Hong Kong has not yet fallen completely in the grip of censorship, but the freedom of the media is succumbing to pressure from the Chinese government.

The motion in the Hong Kong legislature was barely mentioned in the chinese media overseas. Even the announcements and reporting of the annual June 4 remembrance event at University of Toronto were minimalized and subdued - probably at the behest of the beleaguered media head offices in Hong Kong. "There is no more real news coming out of Hong Kong," Man Yung said. "All they report on are traffic accidents, sports, and the Shanghai 2010 expo - all the circuses and not the substance. The communists are closing in on the freedom of expression."

Living every day in freedom in the West, we sometimes forget how precious the freedom of expression is. By contrast, a search for "Tiananmen Square massacre" or "Six Four" (the numerical form of June 4, the date of the massacre) on the internet in China and you will get - Nothing. The whole incident has been wiped out of the history books and the text books for a generation of chinese people.

The very fact that we have mentioned "Tiananmen Square" and "Six Four" on this blog means that this blog cannot be accessed from the internet in China. If we are living in China right now - writing this blog and voicing some of the opinions we have in this blog - we risk being "disappeared" into the night.

Tango seems such a trivial, frivolous thing. But don't forget that it once was a subversive force that was feared and suppressed by a totalitarian government. Now, after so many years and monumental struggles, it can be danced in freedom.

But not yet in China.

In Tango and in life, it is important to keep our differences - and voice our different opinions whenever possible. Dancing the way we dance and writing the way we write are all acts of freedom. So tango bloggers everywhere - blog on. We may agree, or agree to disagree, but the act of writing perpetuates our freedom wherever we are.

* The iPad is not exactly uncontroversial. It's mass produced in the Foxconn factory in China that had ten employee suicides since January 2010.

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