I left off in my last blog in a state of thankfulness, having just returned the day before from Malaysia with a bandaged head and surmising how lucky I was that the fall had not apparently inflicted more serious injury. Prompted by my post on FB, Su posted another follow-up blog, the graphics and narratives in these blogs had since attracted more than 200 visits and reactions. We can never thank our FB friends and well-wishers for their concern and advice, for which we deeply appreciate, I in particular. I went to the clinic this morning to have the sutures removed after which I had a proper and thorough shampoo at home, the first in more than a week. I felt great afterwards. The nurse at the clinic had warned me though that I should be gentle with washing the newly healed scalp and avoid too much pressure in the next few days. Meanwhile, I am pondering whether I should go for a more thorough examination to make sure there was no blood clot or vessels blocked in the brain, as some friends had suggested.

We had a family year-end lunch at Su’s parents’ place at Laguna City last Sunday which day marked the official arrival of Spring, and Su’s mother suggested that people in Hong Kong these days were generally worrisome and dissatisfied and somewhat unhappy. In response, I said in a broad-brush Buddhist speak that happiness was a state of mind and the choice of the individual, and turned to ask her whether she was worried by the strained relationship between Xi and Biden or between the two countries. She responded in the negative; and I congratulated her that she’s OK and should have no problem then.

Hong Kong has always been a one-issue community, meaning that most of the people can only deal with one issue at any one time. Indeed, I believe the phenomenon applies to most other communities. Taking the past decade in Hong Kong, for example, we began with anti-government protests on electoral reforms following a decision issued by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, which could well have been an aftermath of the 2012 protests against a school curriculum proposed by the Hong Kong Education Authority to strengthen national education. The 2014 street protests turned into the infamous Umbrella Movement which blocked key areas in Admiralty, Causeway Bay and Mong Kok for 77 days. Anti-government protests persisted afterwards though not in as large scale as before, but culminated in the civil unrest in Mong Kok on 8 February 2016 which ran into the next morning, which led to official crackdown on unlicensed street hawkers during the CNY holidays, and resulted in the worst outbreak of street violence since the 1960s. The Legislative Council election which followed returned all-time high numbers of candidates from the pan-democrat and more radical camps evolved from the Occupy Central movement, threatening the orderly conduct of businesses within the Council. Then came the Hong Kong extradition bill in 2019 which turned into open violence of an unprecedented scale, aided and abetted, and, now proven, financed by overseas interest groups. By then and even before that, the United States Trump Administration had imposed sanctions on China and later Hong Kong, collectively and individually.  Things got from bad to worse until the imposition of national security laws for Hong Kong from July 2020, when in one stroke, normality was restored for those who are law abiding and patriotic. Then we had three years or more of Covid pandemic, ended coincidentally with the introduction of new election laws and procedures for election of candidate to the legislature and at the district level, followed by the introduction of Article 23 legislation in accordance with the Basic Law.

Looking back, Hong Kong was pre-occupied with anti-government movements most of the last decade. School children had no time to learn or learn properly. Those who made the most noise against the authorities would win most votes at every level. The Government had been reduced to reaction level and portrayed as incompetent and ineffective. It became fashionable to knock the administration, which became a sitting duck for anyone to take pot shots at.

The very recent messy Messi incident is tale telling and speaks volume and is another example that the average person would conveniently pick the Hong Kong Government for anything or the cause of anything which didn’t work out. It is not inconceivable and indeed the theory has since been widely discussed and wildly accepted that Messi was but the poor pawn in an elaborate scheme calculated to humiliate and undermine Hong Kong and China. Alas, many people’s first reflex was to put the blame solely on Hong Kong Government for aiding and abetting the scheme or for not having seen through it in advance. Even a few of my high school classmates some residing in North America had put the blame solely on the Hong Kong Government and Su had taken great pains to educate them that what happened was simply a commercial venture that went sour.  I can say the same on the media discussion and frenzy over the delayed garbage disposal scheme, but that would take up more space.

Continuous anti-government movements have inflicted serious if not vital damage and grievous body harm to the collective morale in general and to the morality of the individuals in particular. The minds of the young and children in the formative years are particularly vulnerable. And we haven’t yet begun to discuss the positions and mindsets of the providers of education and social services.

This is where education should come in and play a vital role in the trying years of a community. Education sets universal standards at every level. At the basic and primary level, it teaches the differences between right and wrong, instils respect for others, fidelity to the seniors, filial piety to parents, and allegiance to the sovereign of one’s native land. At the secondary level, it teaches students to learn how to learn, to assimilate facts, and to choose by discerning. At the university level, it encourages continuous education and learning on liberal arts and sciences, promotes original thinking, and above all, teaches one to learn the difference between an argument and a quarrel and the importance of tolerating other people’s opinions.

I have adopted the “argument and quarrel” and “tolerating other people’s opinions” bits from the letter dated 26 January 2024 to Professor Irene Tracey, Vice-Chancellor of University of Oxford from her Chancellor, The Rt Hon Lord Patten of Barnes. Christopher Patten has just announced that he will retire as Chancellor of the University of Oxford at the end of the 2023-24 academic year, an office he has held since March 2003. He would reach 80 in May 2024 and he has decided that 21 years on the job is sufficient and that it would be in the interest of both the University and his that he resigns now than wait until he dies in office, which was what happened to his immediate predecessors, in succession, from Lord Halifax, Harold Macmillan to Roy Jenkins. He even cited the resignation or retirement of a Pope as precedent. The University’s Convocation will in due course elect his successor and details have yet to be announced. I have discussed before in my blogs Patten’s recent views on China and Hong Kong and his last days as Governor of Hong Kong. I don’t always agree with his views, but his letter to his Vice-Chancellor was very well written, particularly on the role of university education and I commend to your reading pleasure. It can be easily downloaded on the internet. I received it as an Oxford alumnus.

I started off meaning to let all my friends know that I am still alive and kicking, to update all those people who had known about my mishaps while on travels and to thank their concerns and blessings. I ended up with some random thoughts on education. Meanwhile, the Year of the Dragon would arrive in three days, and I hope things would turn for the better, for me and everyone. And I wish you all a happy and prosperous, harmonious and mindful year ahead. God bless you all.

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