© 2019 by LEE KAI CHUNG
 

"History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce." 

Karl Marx

 

 

The British Hong Kong Government took away all the prominent and confidential records before the Handover on 1st July 1997; consequently Hong Kong is left with a series of mysteries on the past historical events, and how these events were documented and archived becomes the biggest challenge to the post colonial government, under the situation that it no longer possesses authentic internal records during that specific time frame.

 

The 1967 Leftist Riots is one of the most controversial and important events in the history of Hong Kong, not only because the colonial government reformed its organizational system as well as the political and diplomatic strategy towards mainland China after 1967, but also, it was a watershed when local politicians and general public were forced to take sides, and being enlightened to recognize various ideologies, and later developed a sense of indigenousness in the next 40 years.

 

I am impressed by this particular historical event because the nature of history was highly manipulated, various media made distinct commentaries, and media became the major political and propagandistic tool to attack the opposition; in addition, due to the fact that nowsadays many of colonial government official records are no longer available, therefore, the "history" doesn't represent the "past".  Since Hong Kong government refuses to enact Public Records Law/Archive Law, the general public will never know the truth. I constantly browse through the disclosed public records in the fragmented collection at Hong Kong Public Records Office (HKPRO), while I discover that majority of the collection is old newspaper clipping and incompleted enquiry letters from local newspapers. The objectivity of the event has never been established, therefore, I decide to start the project as an ongoing research on how the records survive in both colonial and post-colonial era, and they are presented in front of Hong Kong citizen.

File no,: HKRS70-3-483

 

The History of Riots (The Stalker)

Digital print on archival paper

59(L) x 75(W)cm (Image size)

2013

 

File no,: HKRS70-3-484

 

The History of Riots (Shoulder Number)

Installation

Dimension variable

2013

File no.: HKRS70-1-313B

 

The History of Riots (The DJ)

Video projection (6 mins 43 sec)

2013

​​

Lam Bun (林彬), a DJ worked in commercial radio station, was assassinated due to his critical commentary on the leftist on his radio programme "Can't Stop Striking" (欲罷不能). Lam and his cousin were set on fire in the car, when they driving home on 24 August 1967.

 
This piece is a tribute / re-enactment of Lam, who is dare to speak out under social and political pressure.

The History of Riots (2013 - )

File no.: HKRS70-3-483

 

The History of Riots (The Pen Pals)

Photographic documentation

32.9 x 48.3 cm (each)

2013

 

In May 1967, Ta Kung Pao (大公報) accused The British Hong Kong Information Service Department (ISD) of sending a blackmail letter to their office, the editor claimed that letter was marked with a engraved logo of ISD.

 

On the next day, ISD denied and declared that was a political defamation. I make two letters with their logo engraved on news print paper, and sent to each others’ office address.

File no.: HKRS70-3-485

 

The History of Riots (The Table)

Wood table and photography

Dimension varibale

2013

​​

Thousands of bombs were discovered in public space in 1967, but only a small fraction was real explosives. Newspapers put the bomb threat or discovered incidents on their headlines every day. Later on, The British Hong Kong police force started to take advantage of the situation, once they found suspected explosive materials, they summoned hurt locker and set up a typical office wooden table in the middle of street, and then started to disarm the bomb. In fact, moving the explosives to a prominent spot violates the rule of bomb disposal, the action was considered to be propaganda against the local leftist. I found an image on Ming Pao daily (明報), which is a classic example of that “performance”.

File no.: HKRS70-3-485

 

The History of Riots (The Scale)

Wood

155 (H) x 40 (W) x 40 (D) cm

2013

File no.: HKRS70-3-485

 

The History of Riots (The Anonymity)

Installation

Dimension variable

2013-15

 

In August 1967, The British Hong Kong Government put wanted circular orders on different newspapers, with mug shots of law breaking suspects, but the government didn’t provide their names. I juxtaposition their portrait with the quotes from “Message to Scientology” by a hacker group ‘Anonymous’; both of the above parties are described as “villain” by the authority, in the western culture, people never commemorate “villain”, however, when time goes and the situation changes, villains become heroes.

The History of Riots (The Movies)

Installation (Three single-channel video, sculptures, photography)

Dimension variable

2015-

 

A large number of scholars and intellectuals escaped to Hong Kong after May Fourth Movement (五四運動), and they participated in local creative industry, hence, film industry became the biggest melting pot for those movie- makers to promote  Communist patriotic ideology. Due to British Hong Kong government censorship, Revolutionary opera (樣板戲) from Mainland China were prohibited to be screened in cinema, as a result, instead of making film as propagandistic tool to promote communist ideology, local leftist film companies compromised, and changed their strategy to create popular melodrama that emphasized ethnic virtues, bourgeois taste, love, family relationship. This new film genre was called “Soft Communist film” (軟性共產主義電影), which carried a high degree of historical and cultural context, and those leftist movies were successfully exported to Southeast Asia countries such as Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Philippines; consequently, it explored overseas market and nurtured communist within local communities.

 

However, during 1967, Mainland China forced Hong Kong Leftist filmmakers to copy dogmatic revolutionary opera to movies, local audience was not fond of movies with strong tone of Cultural Revolutionary and patriotic ideology. Such dramatic politics driven was resulted in losing the trust of local audience and diminishing production lines.

 

I aim to build an archive of signature scenes from those leftist films. By cataloguing such time-based media has already underlined the political agenda within a specific context. By justaposing props, slogan, acting lines from the leftist movies, with the recent pro-government demonstration in Hong Kong, the strategy doesn't change too much, but the narrative of such political propaganda was severly deprived and become an unintentional exaggeration.

 

The project comprises of video, photography, sculptures and installation.

The History of Riots (The Commodity)

Installation

Dimension variable

2015

 

During the 1967 riots, local leftist made a lot of homemade weapons out of domestic materials, in order to initiate raids and oppose police force, specifically handmade explosives was widely publicized by local media. After 47 years, Umbrella Movement was taken place in multiple venues in Hong Kong. Protestors made protective gears out of umbrella, disposal raincoat, plastic vinyl…to protect themselves from pepper spray, baton, tear gas adopted by Hong Kong police force in the front line of occupied areas. Police later announced that protestors were manufacturing highly dangerous “weapons” that would harm public safety, therefore, they elevated their  suppressive force to an “optimum” level. I would like to investigate the above handmade “weapons” in both social movenment, and further transform them into an alternative archive; by juxtapositioning them under the modern context, the objects deliver a statement on how authority frames demonstration in such diverse attitude.

The History of Riots (The Relations)

Hand-drawn Context Diagram on wall

300(H) x 500(W) cm

2015

 

 

File no.: HKRS70-3-485

 

The History of Riots (Dates and Nigths)

Digital print on archival paper

54.4 (L) x 84 (W)cm (Image size)
10 (L) x 7 (W)cm (Image size)

2015

 

On 9 September 1967, Hong Kong Stars News reported that a couple went on a date at night, while curfew ordinance was still enacted, they were later arrested because of such violation.
I create a series of photographs based on this short narration.