Two local ‘heroes’ this week. Ding Zhen featured in our news of 21st December last year as the boy who captured the hearts of Asians on the Internet. This week, sadly, his image is tarnished by a video showing him smoking. This happens everywhere these days. The second hero is a Hong Kong man who has returned to the City from Afghanistan. He contrasts the helpful spirit of the Afghans in adversity with the troubles Hong Kong has experienced.
Chinese Tibetan youth Ding Zhen became popular on the Internet because of his simple appearance. But recently he was exposed in a smoking video, which is inconsistent with the previous innocent person who “does not smoke or drink”.
The video of Ding Zhen smoking broke on the Internet recently. This immediately aroused discussions among netizens. In the video, Ding Zhen is smoking an e-cigarette, inhaling, and spitting out. They were a set of actions that looked very skilled, just like an old smoker. It was very different from his previous simplicity and temperament.
Ding Zhen’s “no smoking, no drinking, no beverages” is a label that Litang (tourist company) strongly promotes to the public. However, the article pointed out that the company which intends to promote the long-term development of local cultural tourism through Ding Zhen’s good image, needs to take responsibility. Ding Zhen’s skilful smoking behaviour indicated that he was an “old hand”. The article criticized Litang for its desire to cover up the crisis.
According to the CCTV, it is not illegal for adults to smoke in private spaces in accordance with the law, but it is well known that smoking is harmful to health. Therefore, in terms of public order and good customs, public figures smoking in public is a kind of “bad taste”, which will always be criticized by the society and damage their own image.
In the past two years, people have often described Hong Kong’s society as torn apart and fighting. Jason Yip, who has been engaged in humanitarian relief work for nine years in the ‘land of flames’, said that people have never been as torn apart in Hong Kong as they were in Afghanistan. When the Afghans fled, they still supported each other. But Hong Kong does not share the same spirit.
A year and a half ago, Jason Yip left the war zone and returned to Hong Kong, where “smoke” is everywhere. He wanted to break the shackles of disagreement between the older generation and young people, and even more wanted to break the shackles of the binary opposition between globalization and localization. Therefore, he resigned from the post of International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Regional Marketing Manager and joined MWYO, an independent think tank that focuses on youth issues in Hong Kong.
Since 2011, as the only International Committee member of the Red Cross (ICRC) stationed abroad in Hong Kong, Jason Yip helped with humanitarian support and post-disaster reconstruction in war zones and disaster-stricken areas far away from Hong Kong. These have included Palestine, Afghanistan, Jordan, Syria, Myanmar, and others. He witnessed the gunfire of the Taliban militants. In rescuing 33 Afghan teachers and students, they encountered a bomb attack at the ICRC office in Jalalabad. They also witnessed the passion and helplessness of the “Arab Spring” in Afghanistan.
Prior to this, Jason had never left Hong Kong.
To join the ICRC, he first studied International Relations at Waseda University in Japan, and then went to France to improve his French. Later, he joined the Hong Kong Red Cross and went to Wenchuan, Sichuan and Zhouqu, Gansu to participate in post-disaster reconstruction.
Even in a war zone, Jason Yip did not forget to uphold his professionalism while continuing to break many established frontline rules. For example, he loved playing volleyball as a child. He used to play “volleyball diplomacy” with the Taliban liaison who also loved to play volleyball on the streets of Afghanistan, where people threw petrol bombs or fired guns from time to time.
Jason mentioned that although he was not in Hong Kong in the past few years, he paid attention to the hot discussion of “local thoughts.” The think tank “MWYO Youth Office” headed by Vice Chairman Liu Mingwei of the Youth Development Committee is just the right way for Jason Yip to show off his talents.
The anti-extradition campaign triggered a social tear, which has not healed yet. (Profile picture)
Friends can’t help but jokingly say that he has walked from one battlefield to another. Many people even hope that he will stand on the front line of this battlefield, “What can I really do for the young people in Hong Kong.” Jason Yip smiled bitterly and said that foreign wars have not been so torn as Hong Kong. At least the Afghans still support each other when fleeing.
Photo by Zheng Zifeng
Break social restlessness
Talking about how to resolve disputes, Jason Yip shared a short story. In 2018, he invited Peter Maurer, President of the International Red Cross Society, to visit the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology to have a dialogue with President Shi Wei on the challenges and opportunities of technological innovation for humanitarian action. During the meeting, students challenged Peter Maurer and pointed out that international organizations are very backward. Peter Maurer responded, that they are indeed “big elephants.” They also need to learn from the new world of young people.
But young people should also remember that the world will always contain many different generations. When confessing our shortcomings here, I also hope you have the courage to know the old generation, because the old generation is not over yet.
Regarding the value pursuit of “democracy and freedom” that young people never forget, Jason believes that when people go to extremes, good things turn into bad things.
When he was stationed in Afghanistan in 2014, an older colleague was a member of the Taliban when he was young. When he finally had a chance to vote for the president, he frankly confessed that:
It felt very strange. When I was young, I participated with the Taliban against the Soviet Union. Later, after the Afghan Civil War and the American invasion, I participated in humanitarian work. Of course, I hoped I could decide the future of my country. I also thought that my vote would be very important and make me very happy. Now I am in my 60’s, but there is still no way I can sit in the park with my children and sunbathe without fear of bomb attacks. What do you think this vote means to me? In the totalitarian era of the Taliban, I was able to walk freely on the street, but it is no longer possible today.
This made Jason Yip reflect on which mode of governance can bring the most opportunities to the people in that place. Unfortunately, the current answer in Hong Kong is no solution. Yet:
Even if there is no way to achieve unity at the moment, we should still try our best to build bridges between the various small worlds and connect them together.
If you want Hong Kong to restore stability, you must endure the phase of arguments and be compassionate towards different groups. There will be many unsatisfactory feelings in the process, but to move on, we don’t need extreme or grandstanding voices to represent us.