Young people in Hong Kong today can hardly associate themselves with the Cultural Revolution that took place 50 years ago, but our city has remained the international hub for the study of that catastrophic event even to this day.
In the eyes of many overseas historians and academics, Hong Kong has remained the Holy Land in the study of Cultural Revolution.
Because of its historical, political and geographical uniqueness, the city has long been the world center for the study of the Cultural Revolution, according to Professor Yin Hongbiao of the Faculty of International Relations at the Beijing University.
As far as the historical and declassified material on the Cultural Revolution is concerned, the library of the China Research Center at the Chinese University of Hong Kong has been regarded as a place of pilgrimage for academics and historians specializing in this field from around the world.
As I mentioned in my previous article, prominent novelist and founder of the Ming Pao Daily Louis Cha Leung-yung, better known by his pen name Jin Yong (金庸), is the undisputed pioneer in the study of the Cultural Revolution.
During the late ’60s to the mid-’70s, he continued to denounce Mao Zedong and the Gang of Four in his paper’s editorials.
He used Ming Pao Daily as a self-censorship free platform for academics and journalists to publish their work and news reports on the Cultural Revolution in order to offer the Hong Kong public a rare glimpse into what was going on in the mainland at a time when China was basically under a nationwide news blackout.
To Jin Yong, revealing the horrors of the Cultural Revolution and calling on the public to stay vigilant against the conspiracy and infiltration of pro-Maoist and ultra-left fanatics were not just his job as a media mogul, but indeed his calling.
Cheng Shu-sen, a former professor at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, has offered a rather accurate and fair comment on Ming Pao’s role during the Cultural Revolution in his recent article in a local academic journal.
In the article, Professor Cheng said: “Like other gutter press at the time, Ming Pao Daily in its early days was also a tabloid that tried to appeal to average readers with pornographic content, horse racing news and sensational stories about celebrities. However, the year 1966, during which the Cultural Revolution broke out, marked a watershed in the history of Ming Pao.
“It was from then on that the paper started to undergo a transformation from a tabloid into a mainstream newspaper that focused primarily on social and political issues.
“It was during those days that the paper began to establish its credibility and reputation as one of Hong Kong’s leading Chinese newspapers with its in-depth reports and analyses of the on-going political turmoil in the mainland.
“And under the leadership of Louis Cha, the paper’s unwavering and fearless denunciation of the Cultural Revolution had earned it widespread support and respect from readers in Hong Kong.”
Being perhaps the most vocal critic of the Mao regime, Cha made the most of the relative freedom of speech in Hong Kong during the ’60s and ’70s, and used Ming Pao to expose the atrocities committed by the Red Guards and debunk the myth about Mao pitched by pro-Beijing propaganda in Hong Kong.
In 1968 Cha founded the Ming Pao Monthly, a periodical that focused on serious social and political discourses concerning Hong Kong, Taiwan and the mainland.
In an interview back in 2006 on why he founded the periodical, Cha said he did it because he wanted to stand out against the Cultural Revolution and prevent the public from being contaminated by the fallacies pitched by Beijing.
Apart from founding the Ming Pao Monthly, Cha also published a series of historical commentaries under the pen name of Hua Xiaomin (華小民) in a special feature segment in the Ming Pao Daily known as “Free Talk”.
In his commentaries Cha strongly condemned the Communist Party for promoting personality cult and pressing ahead with reckless economic policies that led to a nationwide famine.
Above all, Cha also introduced to readers modern ideas such as libertarian ideals, humanism and the concept of civil rights in his articles, the set of universal values that we all take for granted today.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Dec. 29.
Translation by Alan Lee with additional reporting
[Chinese version 中文版]
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