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6 August 2011

Dear Netizen Friends,

How are you? It’s been more than a year since I last wrote my first e-letter to you. Thank you again for visiting my website. As shown by the latest server records, you are likely to be from the USA, Russia, Hong Kong, India, the UK, Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands, France, China, Canada, Finland or Norway (in a descending order of the numbers of visitors by country/region in July) or from Nepal or Israel (new visitors in August).

Today is again a very special day. It is a day also known as the Chinese Valentine's Day which may be more famous than the one on the 14th day of the first lunar month in the Chinese calendar. There is a love story about this special day which is familiar to all the Chinese in China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan and other parts of the world.

Legend has it that in ancient China, there was a love story like this. A beautiful weaver girl who was the 7th daughter of the Emperor of Heaven married a handsome cowherd on earth. They then became a happy couple with two daughters but were soon separated by the Emperor. The wife was forced to live on the star Vega (the brightest star in the constellation Lyra) while the husband was sent to the star Altair (the brightest star in the constellation Aquila). Vega and Altair are actually separated by the Milky Way. They were allowed to meet only once a year on the 7th day of 7th lunar month when the magpies built a bridge over the Milky Way so that the husband and wife could meet each other… 

This day is also special for me because many years ago I was born in Hong Kong on this special day. Every year on this day, I thank my mum for all the things she has done for me over the years.  I also like to recite my beloved Tang poem “An Autumn Night” by Du Mu (the original Chinese verses are given in parentheses) as follows:

DU Mu - An Autumn Night (杜牧 - 秋夕)

A candle flame flickers against a dull painted screen on an cool autumn night (銀燭秋光冷畫屏),
She holds a small silk fan to flap away dashing fireflies (輕羅小扇撲流螢).
Above her hang celestial bodies as frigid as deep water (天階夜色涼如水),
She sat there watching Altair of Aquila and Vega of Lyra pining for each other in the sky (坐看牽牛織女星).

On this special day this year, I am thinking of Liu Xiaobo, the Nobel Peace Prize Winner of 2010, and his wife Liu Xia, who have been separated by another “milky way” and will not be able to meet each other for some time to come. I wonder if tonight the Lius can see the starry skies above. I hope China will free Liu Xiaobo—a prisoner of conscience—as soon as possible.

Hong Kong continues to be the only place in China where we can enjoy freedom of speech and freedom of assembly but it seems that the road to democracy has become increasingly more difficult despite many Hongkongers are still working hard to demand universal suffrage as soon as possible.  The emergence of the post-80s generation has become more obvious as they make their voices heard through more aggressive, though largely non-violent, protests, particularly in their protests in support of detained mainland artist Ai Weiwei and call for the vindication of the June 4 student movement. As for the so-called pan-democrative camp in Hong Kong, it has become less united than before as there has been some disagreement over the resignation of five pan-democrats from the Legislative Council of Hong Kong that triggered a by-election in response to the lack of progress in the Hong Kong government's reform package towards universal suffrage. Some pan-democratic parties wanted to use the by-election as a de facto referendum for universal suffrage and the abolition of the functional constituencies.

To mark the centenary of China’s republican revolution led by Dr Sun Yat-sen in 1911, my artist friend Fong So has been working for almost two years on his project entitled “The Centenary of China's 1911 Revolution”, in which he has created 12 woodcut prints and 23 Chinese brush-and-ink paintings (see the web page via the link on the homepage). His works portray Dr Sun Yat-sen’s lifetime and his legacy in an attempt to explore what China has been through over the past 100 years, and what the future holds for Chinese people, including what has happened in mainland China and Taiwan after 1949 and the unique role Hong Kong has played over these years for bringing change to China.

Sadly, in the centenary year of China’s republican revolution, China has carried out more crackdown on dissent than in previous years through a waves of arrests and detentions of dissidents who are fighting for democracy and freedom of speech or for social justice. The detention of artist-activist Ai Weiwei has drawn the strongest reactions and received all kinds of support from around the world, particularly from Hong Kong. Ai Weiwei was detained without persecution or trial for 91 days, and according to his recent interview with Hong Kong Apple Daily reported on August 2, he had been interrogated for 52 times (twice daily). He was detained, incommunicado in an unknown location in Beijing, before he was released in June on bail for alleged tax evasion.

Hong Kong's South China Morning Post continues to faithfully report on the realities in China and critically comment on them. The following from its editorial on 9 April 2011 is thought provoking:

A century after a revolution aimed at bringing change to China, the central government is cracking down on voices for change. The result is a paradox: as the nation grows stronger and more confident—it is now the second biggest economy—it feels the need to crack down even harder on dissent to maintain stability.

I still believe Hong Kong will continue to make more contributions in many ways for building a better China of tomorrow.

I continue to live in Hong Kong enjoying a leisurely lifestyle here for some more time. Apart from my work as an online editor for overseas science educators and as a peer reviewer for academic journals, I have been busy editing my own book with Professor David Treagust and supporting my friends’ projects. Over the past year, I still have had some time to read new books. I also take part in weekly hiking and but now I seldom play badminton with friends.  

Wish you all good health and happiness !