The Pickering Public Library launched what is hoped to be the first of a series of presentations to help people better understand current major news stories and events. The inaugural presentation was “Hong Kong: One country, Two Systems,’ on November 19.
Martin Leung, host, emcee and producer of the presentation and a Hong Kong émigré himself, was splendid in navigating what could have been a volatile and fiery event. He handled the sensitive and potentially explosive topic with a deft hand, stick handling adroitly through the question and answer period which followed.
The history of Hong Kong
Leung opened the video presentation with the history of Hong Kong from the days of colonial control by Britain after it defeated China in the 1800’s to the return of Hong Kong to China’s control in 1997. The formal presentation described the current situation in Hong Kong, 6 months of demonstrations which grew out of the initial ones known as the Umbrella movement.
The videos presented a poignant picture of the violence and ferocity of the the demonstrations. Again, Leung managed his way through a minefield of potential pitfalls avoiding declarations of blame or culpability. Instead, he stressed the threat to democracy and freedom for the citizens of Hong Kong. Furthermore, he explained that the basic goal of the demonstrators is to regain the contracted liberties and political freedoms they were promised with the 1997 handover but which have been progressively eroded by China in the subsequent two decades since.
Freedom of the press questioned
A sidebar to the presentation was the address by Remington Booher, a former General Motors engineer who quit the Oshawa corporation after disagreements with the organization relating to his freedom of speech. GM, according to Booher, tried to quash his discussions and explanations relating to his Hong Kong in-laws. Booher further explained how the media rejected reporting his story when he tried to have it published.
Canadians try to be well-informed
The question and answer period of the presentation demonstrated the level of familiarity and support Canadians have of the Hong Kong situation. Many Canadians support the demonstrators. Many recognize the challenges, difficulties and political threats to Western democracies that China represents. The urgency of opposition to China’s suffocation of human rights is growing. More and more Canadians are seeing that the ‘rule of law’ is a fragile concept to China. Increasingly, Canadians are responding to this erosion of freedoms in Hong Kong. They recognize that this is a real threat to all supporters of human rights and western democratic freedoms. The growing opposition to China is demonstrated in the retail industry. As China’s footprint expands relentless in economies throughout the world, consumers are buying progressively less of Chinese goods.
The concluding message of the Hong Kong presentation was that Canadians are faced with a clear-cut political threat from China and they need to educate themselves, become even more informed of the situation there and act according to their personal philosophies and political views.
The Hong Kong demonstrations are for democracy, freedom and retention of human rights. Where we stand is a matter of personal conscience.
If the Hong Kong presentation is an example of what the news events series as presented by the PPL will be, then the people of Pickering are in for some very educational and very engaging library presentations. This presentation offered a bigger and clearer picture of the events taking place in Hong Kong. The PPL did not argue any particular political position but rather, it presented a case to explain and clarify this news event. The library, its acting CEO Kathy Williams, its staff and City Councillor Maurice Brenner should be acknowledge for their support in going forward with this this presentation. The presentation was a very challenging one and could have been very disruptive were it not handled as well as it was by the library and by the presenter, Martin Leung. Kudos to all those who worked on this presentation.