Actual, physical mail arrived the other week, addressed to 'Tze Ming Mok, Public Address'. Like this is my job. Opening the envelope, the crest of the Chinese Communist Party stared out from the centre of a creamy summons - AAAAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!
Lefties in the West enjoy the tongue-in-cheek adoption of Communist paraphernalia - Mao caps, Lenin beards, hammer and sickle flags, red star tattoos, portraits of Che, etcetera. Hell, I've done it myself, with the requisite blackness of humour - it is my family history after all. Funny how history comes back to bite you in the ass.
There it was - the Party crest. The Consulate-General of the People's Republic of China. They know where I live. They read my blog. As they say... it 'gave me pause.' Or alternatively:
It scared the crap out of me.
Turns out all I should have been afraid of was two-hours-that-seemed-like-four of government-sanctioned movie (read: sentimental tragic-romantic drivel with a lot of slo-mo petals falling and curtains billowing) at the opening night of the Chinese Film Festival last week.
But no, I didn't go for the pre-film cocktails at the Consulate.
A World Without Thieves on the weekend was a hell of a lot better, although it's the second consecutive Andy Lau film I've seen where he's wearing a bad wig.
I was planning on going back to China again for a while next year, but have decided against it. You know, bird flu, mounting print & net-censorship, violent supression of organic civil-society democracy movements, the Campaign against Public Intellectuals (yeah, hilarious I know - in New Zealand would it be a Campaign to find Public Intellectuals?), systematic use of torture, urban migrant poverty, Beijing air pollution... these things do weigh heavy on the soul. It's not the same for all Chinese people, even ones from China. But I'd rather not be there right now, in a place where there is too much wrong, and too little that I could put right with my presence.
I am somewhat loathe to test whether I'd have any trouble getting in, or whether I'd get in trouble without meaning to (me and my little pink bicycle were briefly detained by a variety of security forces, my film exposed, my camera broken, and my residence permit 'misunderstood' on the first day of the Iraq war the last time I was living in China - it was an accident, honest!), or get my relatives in trouble (none of whom have any name that is related to mine if anyone is looking). So yes - there are some personal things at stake for me in terms of whether or not the Chinese government and its representives know who I am, what I care about, who I've worked for, and whether they are of a mind to make things difficult for me in entering or leaving or living in China. If they do choose to in the future, I suppose I brought it on myself. You make your bed, you lie in it - I didn't have to blog occasionally about human rights and democracy in China from the safety of New Zealand, especially for an audience that's probably more interested in amusing anecdotes about my mother and Hot Asian Guys or all that 'new New Zealand' shit anyway. I mean, I really should have thought about whether it might inconvenience a holiday or an arts residency one day.
Reminds me of the time I attended a Free Tibet rally in Aotea Square in 1997. The Chinese Consulate would generally send its informants or spies or whatever to Tibet rallies, and photograph the activists. There was this hippy dude I knew who was introducing the speakers, and I asked him not to mention my name, as I was travelling to China later that year. What do you know but ten minutes later, "and speaking for Amnesty International on Campus, Amnesty president Tze Ming Mok - cheers Tze Ming!" "Uh... yeah, thanks."
You can't do much in a situation like that but go "ah, fuck it," and take the mic. It's a free country. It didn't affect my visa that year.
It's possible that only the people marketing the Chinese Film Festival know who I am. But when I received the letter from the Consulate last week, and faced the other possibility that they really are reading this, I had to think for a moment whether this would affect what I write. Whether, if I know what's good for me, I should refrain from referring to things like: "the Chinese Coprophagist Party's colonic irrigation", and break off my blog-alliance with Glutter, and stop linking to Reporters sans Frontieres, and turn down opportunities to hang out with Jung Chang unless I write that she's 'a running-dog bitch', or hold my tongue instead of saying that the movie Hero and its subtitling of 'tianxia' as 'our land' instead of 'all under heaven' was a big fat Zhang Yimou sellout to shitty Chinese Government nationalist propaganda, but that he redeems himself in House of Flying Daggers with a philosophy of individual freedom standing against the inhumanism of mass movements and state absolutism, even though Andy Lau has a bad wig.
Nah, fuck it. It's a free country.
On the local front, I just missed the Millennium Tree 'planting' ceremony in the Domain. It's a 6.5 metre high stainless-steel tree-sculpture that is a present from the Chinese New Zealanders Millennium Trust to the City of Auckland. They're calling it a present from "the Chinese Community" to Auckland, but we all know there isn't one. And it's not from me. But it is to me, so sweet as I suppose. Sun Wukong's staff? I dunno. From the photos, it kind of looks like a washing-line, harking back perhaps to the laundry-based heritage of the Old Generation Chinese in New Zealand. Probably looks different in real life. You know, like way bigger and super-impressive. The residents from the original site, the Parnell Rose Gardens, threw it out of their 'hood on aesthetic grounds. What did they want from "the Chinese community", a fucking pagoda? I'd prefer this sort of weird 80s shiny-pipe Wall Street modernism to that crap. It reminds me of a certain David Bowie lyric, with those helicopter pans of Hong Kong: "I'll give you television/I'll give you eyes of blue/I'll give your men the tools to ruuule the world!"
Okay, I'm coming round to the Sun Wukong staff idea.
Additional notes to previous glossary.
Nagi' is etymologically more akin to 'ho' than 'nigga', meaning specifically 'naked ladies' (thanks Manisha), though it seems that in certain diaspora usages this morphs contextually to 'South Asian naked ladies/slutty ho's/fine hotties/hardcore beeyatches from da Hood'. Which is kind of like saying 'my niggaz' but for girls. Unless you're neither South Asian nor naked. You can spot an example of this contextual diaspora usage in Anoop Dogg's 'Drop it like a FOB'.
Vic Chou (who only ever writes in to correct me) reckons 'Nanyang', according to the all-knowing Wikipedia, doesn't have the 'Yangtze' Yang. Vic is Hongkie I think. Yes, most people know that Nanyang is conventionally spelt 'Southside', not 'South of Yangtze', and the Yangtze is nowhere near Southeast Asia. However, collective Nangyang community wisdom has suggested to me that there is an aurally conflated historical meaning, referring in an embedded homonymical way to the old Chinese view that anything south of the Yangtze was 'barbarian' country. As the borders of China moved with Han colonisation of the South, 'barbarian' country moved even further South. Then again, collective Nanyang community wisdom is notorious for being rather cut-adrift from proper and refined Chinese historical knowledge. 'Coz we Nanyang, muthafucka! So, if we make shit up, it's probably alright as long as it's about ourselves.