Saturday, October 16, 2010

The sound and sight of silence 此地无银三百两

"The Japanese foreign minister begins to outline how they'd be negotiating with China over the sovereignty of a disputed island when-"
A stock standard Hong Kong advertisement appears suddenly on Chinese TV: It's a cantonese advertisement educating the populus about the Hong Kong education system, which is a silly choice since it is not a part of the life of virtually any of the mainland citizenry.
The normal service of the morning news program resumes: "And the bullet fired into the Chinese embassy in Japan is being investigated. It is believed to be a threat relating to the incident which inflamed the whole situation when the Japanese navy arrested a Chinese captain for sailing near the isla-"
Another stock standard advertisement appears. This one is a nicer one: A rather pretty, exuberant lady charges around picturesque Hong Kong scenes swearing her love upon the mountains and the sea, "We'll be together for a life, for an era!" Who is she declaring to? Her teeth! Great concept. The ad also ends prematurely as the ad is cut before we learn how to preserve the relationship with our teeth till death you shan't part when again normal service resumes again:
(A map showing the position of the island): "And on this map the island still carries its original Chinese name."
Such is the quality of a news broadcast on a channel broadcast from Hong Kong into Mainland China. It is one of my favourite channels with the best presenters and the best content. It is permitted freedom to broadcast what it likes but the feed into China is censored as above. The picture of the farewelling pine (on a finer day than the picture above) could be symbolic of the freedoms long since farewelled (actually in mainland China if I think of a longer time frame of history, I'm wondering if there were ever an era that had any absolute freedom of information and media preceding the current powers). I remember first hearing about this pine when I arrived in post-SARS China in 2003/2004 and bumped into some ex-pat teachers who were travelling. They recounted the stories of the pine when they were trying to find out anything about the worrying spread of the disease.
I'm not sure what that does to a local viewer psychologically. In my current events class the topic of the island does come up and most (as usual) will say what the powers that be would expect them to say. I watch it and think that if I were a chinese person I would suspect that "what isn't shown" on a channel unbound by ideology must be something rather devastating to that perspective, and probably doubt it.
Students here are fairly free with their views. You'll hear views against the government quite freely and complaints about certain policies. But on some issues, often points of patriotism or national pride, most people will toe the line. And perhaps there is no voices of skepticism heard.


No comments: