Thursday, 28 August 2014

Lai: How Did I Get on The Nerves of Postgraduates from Mainland China

How Did I Get on The Nerves of Postgraduates from Mainland China
Translated by Carmen Li, Edited by Karen L., Written by 黎德怡 (Lai Tak-yee)


Recently, I have consecutively published three articles about some ridiculous behaviours of postgraduate students from mainland China 7 years ago when I was teaching Master of Arts in English in the Chinese University of Hong Kong ("CUHK") as a visiting professor. Some readers asked me what explicitly I had said to trigger mainland students' anger in the lesson. To respond to this, helplessly, all I can say it's that I was too ill-starred to escape from the group of over-sensitive mainland students, of whom are easily offended.

In one of my lessons, rarely, there was one short Chinese article among the English materials. That time, I prepared also traditional Chinese version along with the simplified one as a translation reference for the few Hong Kong students in class. I showed on the PowerPoint first the traditional Chinese version and then the simplified version. It is always a safe bet to be thoughtful of students' needs, even there was a slight confusion in my head that it might be a redundant move as mainland students who have had higher education would have learnt traditional Chinese.

When I look back, the dissatisfaction on me then might had been generated by my displaying orders. I still remember to the day after the lesson, some students came to me. The Hong Kong students spoke in Cantonese, so I did that same. And with those from mainland China, we spoke in English, which I assume as a normal case as that was an English course. Supposedly speaking in English wouldn't be counted as an offence to mainland students, however, on an ordinary school day soon after that, I overheard one student from mainland China who grumbled about me, "She doesn't even speak Putonghua!" It appears to me that even if I spoke in Putonghua, it’s possibly of me being charge of "no awareness of precise pronunciation”. Doesn't it make sense?

The second bomb was The Good Women In China, a famous book written by a British-Chinese author Xue Xinran, narrating several extraordinary life stories of common modern women facing disasters such as Cultural Revolution and Tangshan Earthquake. Rumour has it the book is still on the blacklist of China's book censorship, whereas I believe not all mainland Chinese are blocked outside the wall.

The whole piece, filled with soul-touching incidents, is a glorification of Chinese women, driving me to add it to my teaching materials. Even so, I have my consent on the potential existence of credibility gap towards it, therefore I would prefer students to treat it as literature focusing on the analysis of its narrative methodology and the image the author has built in her work. Still, I wouldn't survive myself from the hatred.

For that, I did regret of channelling this into my teaching materials. In the meantime, invaluable as this type of work is, especially for mainland students given that it's short in China, I have fews question on my mind: Isn't it a precious opportunity to acquire out-of-the-way insights? What's the point choosing some mainstream works whoever could get access to? How would it be if CUHK was to open a course directing to 4 June imitating Harvard University? Could these mainland students with such narrow-minded stand it?

As for the third issue, it was about Hong Kong Culture. The first to be discussed, was, and is the 1997's changeover of sovereignty. It doesn't necessarily relate solely to Hongkongers, but also mainlanders. Yet, clearly it was there the dissent over my thought seeing their poker faces in that lesson. But then through some certain channels, I was able to know what their poker faces interpreted. It turned out to be a matter of translation: They thought "hui-gui" or "return" should be adapted instead of "changeover" or "handover".

And they did not agree my usage of "nostalgia" when it came to the connection between Hongkongers' identity and their "nostalgia" discussing Hong Kong's political culture. Their stand were as such: What’s worth nostalgia? Hong Kong has already been a part of China, which is supposed to be for the whole time. Isn't it a great honour returning to motherland's embrace?

I can say it's a practical lesson I'd had experiencing what precisely erasement of freethought is, rubbing out even the right to owe one's favourite. I mentioned in class once towards my yearning of England, where I had been receiving education and had lived for some time. Back then this sort of affection stood for no political implications. Instead, it is more than normal for someone who had stayed in somewhere a long time to establishing belongingness and favourable sentiment, however, it brought on contempt unexpectedly. I was told that in their minds, I was living in the the good old days, refusing the reality that Hong Kong belongs to China. Worse still, cherishing England somehow be distorted as indirect and symbolic belittle upon them.

Fast forward to today, the HK-China relationship has worsened. And my fond feelings towards England has grown stronger. To the politicalisation trend, let me catering it a bit with a realistic metaphor which might be seen vulgar to some educated: England back then was like bad lover conquering the love of a inexperienced village girl Hong Kong. His richness in manner and knowledge turned the girl's unwillingness into motivation to upgrade herself as a lady. Enjoying the bad lover's company, the lady doesn't care if the man truly loves her or not even he has generally faded his charm. As for mainland China, it's like a redneck who has brought solely insults followed by invasion.

No matter what the future of this lady leads, thanks to the Qing government's contribution which blossomed her beauty, I am, and will be keeping on my blessing over the sea.

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