Upon my previous conference trip in Kazakhstan and study trip in Germany, I attended another photography class at Communication University of China in Beijing. Considering China as a country that everyone talks about but only a few really understands, I shall analyse the current situation in China according to my 7-day stay at this A-list university in terms of its popularity in broadcast media development.
Throughout the week in Beijing, I found out several issues worth discussing, namely Hong Kong-mainland conflict, interpretation of broadcast media history, attitudes of the local mainland Chinese, university policies on foreign students, standard of teaching journalism and impacts of entertaining news to the general public.
Staying in one of the oldest capital on the planet, students from Hong Kong Baptist University and Chinese University of Hong Kong along with several volunteers from Communication University of China visited the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, and dozens of tourist spots which were less well-known. Irrelevant it may sound, the photography training course was of mostly promoting Beijing instead of teaching genuine photojournalism. There were only one lesson focusing on basics of using camera, while another one for evaluation of students’ journalistic work. Eliminating day one and seven as the day of arrival and departure, the officials scheduled first three days for intensive sightseeing, only one and a half day for free time.
As my journey started, I witnessed a deep-rooted cultural difference between mainlanders and Hongkongers on the Hong Kong Express airplane–shouting is accepted but nothing rude. When the Mandarin-speaking passengers (who I considered as mainlanders) left their seats while the captain announced the plane might not be stable due to fluctuating air current, the flight attendants simply yelled at them and ordered them not to leave their seats with authority. Given the civilised behaviours of the mainland passengers, it would be somehow rude to serve the uncivilised in such manner.
It all began with a one-fourth mixed Russian-Chinese volunteer at Communication University of China and several passionate buddies from Hong Kong Baptist University. For the first night upon arrival, the volunteer brought the Hong Kongers to a restaurant which sells grilled meat and insects.
The second day kicked off with simple food and propaganda in museum, showing how Beijing students live their harsh lives without having a decent access to information. When we visited the museum of broadcast history of media around the world, it emphasises nothing but China. While a tiny part mentioned how British Broadcast Corporation started as a pioneer, the rest was about how Chinese develop their broadcast media. As the Mandarin-guided tour lasted for an hour, we left without much surprise and amusement. So I explored the modern Beijing with my group mates, checking out if there is a bar street comparable to the one in Lan Kwai Fong. The place is called Sanitun, literally means “a land of three kilometres”. But perhaps we went there in the early evening, there were several bars to choose only. The night wrapped up with bad place but good conversation with a group of buddies studying at Hong Kong Baptist University.
With a crazy trip by wearing my flip-flops literally everywhere, we went to the greatest symbol of China–The Great Wall, and a short visit to a rising art industry in 798 Art Zone. Being the one of the most breath-taking world heritage listed by United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) since 1987, the wall attracts about 10 millions of visitors per year. Yet, not everyone respects the national architecture in this Communist Party-ruled area. There were several European waiving the Chinese national flag as an imitation of bull fight, letting the one who acted as bull and crashed over the red flag. It was hilarious but insulting at the same time.
And the cultural progress in China has changed my mind at large. The 798 Art Zone depicted the fact that Beijing is now Westernised and the government tries to import art works as a means for internationalisation. While Beijing is still far behind from Hong Kong in terms of trading of artworks, it’s not surprising to see if Beijing could catch up with Hong Kong within a decade.
My hectic third night ended in a high class restaurant called Element Fresh. Picked up by the sports journalist who I met in Hong Kong Rugby Sevens in 2013, we met up with another buddy whom we knew each other in the Cross-border Four Regions Sports Journalist training camp two years ago. The Beijing fellows talked about their different lives after marriage, I realised that I am still a young kid–a guy who didn’t want to think about any committed relationship before the age of 30. Fearless I must confess, I turned on the laptop and shared them the information about the Umbrella Movement and my journey in Kazakhstan and Germany. The photo gallery was a taste of wine. We split after several hours of deep discourse, shaping the best day ever in Beijing.
But the momentum of liberating my Chinese fellows didn’t stop as my laptop turned off. We visited Tianamen Square, the place where an anti-corruption protest bursted out and ended with countless innocent souls killed by guns and tanks on June 4, 1989. I did a stand-upper in front of the Square as I’m a believer of truth and justice. I didn’t get arrested but the Chinese censorship was horrific indeed. With soldiers marching around the Square, none of our Hong Kong fellows shouted out anything related to the Umbrella Movement and June 4 Massacre. After hours of chaos in the Forbidden City and getting lost in Wangfujing, a tourist spot where spiders and scropions are served as snacks, I spent an hour to relax in the hotel. Then I met a French student in the student canteen and it was my first time being able to speak in English in Beijing. We made out and wandered around the Communication University of China, sharing thoughts about her life as a foreigner in the capital of China.
For the last 48 hours in Beijing, I still couldn’t feel my nationality as a Chinese, but a Hong Kongese who started to realise that one day, Hong Kong should take over China again as the leader of the red dragon.