Date
23 October 2017
John Tsang (inset) has referred to the song "For What It’s Worth", performed by Buffalo Springfield in 1967, amid the current civil protests in Hong Kong. Photos: Youtube, HKEJ
John Tsang (inset) has referred to the song "For What It’s Worth", performed by Buffalo Springfield in 1967, amid the current civil protests in Hong Kong. Photos: Youtube, HKEJ

John Tsang is a hippie at heart

Forget the accusation that John Tsang Chun-wah likes to stay in the dark rather than engage with reporters. The Hong Kong finance chief, it now seems clear, cannot help but be a hippie at heart.

In his latest blog post Sunday, Tsang referred to an American folk song that was inspired by the Sunset Strip Riots some 50 years ago, sending his followers guessing as to what the top official feels about the political turmoil in the wake of the Occupy Central movement.

In the post titled “What a long week!”, Tsang ended the blog with a reference to his hosting a music program where he chose “For what it’s worth” by rock group Buffalo Springfield, a song that came at the peak of the US civil rights and anti-Vietnam war movement.

“When I listen to this song again and think of Hong Kong, it reminds me of my college days when I would speak up without hesitation on issues with which I am dissatisfied,” he wrote.

“But is there a clear black and white in what is right or wrong? Forty years later, I still believe we should cherish the passion of teenagers. But I also hope we can all stop and listen to the different voices around us. Is there only one way to see this world?”

Stephen Stills’ song “For what it’s worth” became an anthem for social and political protests in the 1960s after the so-called Sunset Strip Riots saw the closing of Pandora’s Box, a popular nightclub in Los Angeles, as the police department tried to enforce a new curfew law.

A local radio station called for a rally to protest and immediately attracted over a thousand young men, leading to some violence that included smashing of windows and damaging of some cars. 

The Buffalo Springfield classic, on which Stills spent only 15 minutes for the lyrics, makes a repeated refrain: “I think it’s time we stop, hey, what’s that sound? / Everybody look what’s going down.”

Tsang said it was hard to interpret what Stills really had in mind in the song, but he praised him for his vivid description of the demonstration, which was a part of life in the 60s.

So what is on Tsang’s mind? From his previous blog posts, it is very clear that he didn’t like the violence seen at the Legislative Council and on the street, given that the fencing expert was once hit by an egg at a public forum last December.

Does he see even more violence in the Occupy Central? We have no answer, but then can take a closer look at the song that began like this: “There’s something happening here/But what it is ain’t exactly clear/There’s a man with a gun over there/Telling me I got to beware”.

So, did he hear people sing? Or did he also hear a gun shooting? Instead of another blog, we would very much like to see what he has to sing next week.

Buffalo Springfield – For What It’s Worth 1967

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BK/JP/RC 

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