Thursday, July 2, 2020

China's attempt to curtail Hong Kong's autonomy: Will it force the people to leave Hong Kong?

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Pro-Democracy protest in Hong Kong | Source: VoA via Wikimedia

The sovereignty of Hong Kong was reverted to China by Britain in 1997. Although it became part of China but enjoyed some autonomy and internal democracy due to the “one country, two systems” arrangement between Britain and with China at the time of handover. This arrangement of autonomy and democratic rights were supposed to last until 2047. However, the Communist Party of China had been pushing for a new security law which would curb the voices of the residents significantly, criminalizing acts of secession, subversion, terrorism or collusion with foreign forces. “This law means that China will have the power to impose its own laws on any criminal suspect it chooses,” says Joshua Rosenzweig, the head of Amnesty’s China team.

This is a part of the agitation that is faced by the Hong Kong residents; the economy is shrinking, the government is more focused on linking the city to the mainland than investing in education and affordable housing, peaceful protests have turned violent and are facing police brutality. This has caused changes in international relations with respect to economy and immigration, and a flurry of Hong Kong residents exploring options to leave the city. Skilled workers are seeking to move out of the city, renewing documents which will provide a pathway to residency in Britain, or ways to emigrate to Taiwan, Canada or Australia.

Britain, which had colonised Hong Kong until 1997, announced that it would extend visa rights for all the people eligible to apply for British National Overseas passport, which includes 3 million people, if China went through with the law. The Chinese foreign ministry said that this move violated international law, and that China reserves the right to take measures they see as necessary.

Taiwan has announced that it will set up an office for those who are planning to leave Hong Kong. Chinese government has said that there has been no stifling of freedoms and providing shelter for “rioters and elements who bring chaos” to Hong Kong would bring harm to Taiwan’s people. The island country had housed Hong Kong’s protesters who feared harsh treatment by the law and enforcement since 2019, with its own history of dissension with mainland China.

USA, on a similar vein, has taken away the special economic status Hong Kong had with them, and that the Chinese plans are a “tragedy.”

Many pro-democracy protesters who were on the radar of Chinese government have started  escaping the country to protect themselves and continue the protests from their adopted countries. The excessive use of brutal force against peaceful protesters led many people to fear for the future of their families for which they started to consider leaving the city . The same fear is also driving more than half of the people within the age group of 18 to 24 towards exploring the option of moving out of Hong Kong..

Even after worldwide criticism, mainland China remains adamant on violating the freedoms of the people of Hong Kong. Amidst a collapsing economy which just lost its preference from a world superpower and living under the constant threat of oppressive actions are driving the well healed parsons to look for greener pastures away from Hong Kong.

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October 23, 2020 3:57 PM

Male gaze, their female guardians and sports-wear

In Helen Cixous’ essay, ‘The Laugh of Medusa’, she urges women to redefine what their body means to them, not just physically but also socially, emotionally and politically. This could happen by re-writing about your body in a way you deem  fit, the expression you identify with and separating it from how your body has been written about by men. The expression could be how you view your body separate from the patriarchal lense.

It is no secret that a woman’s body is subject to critique. While clothing for men is just a tool to cover themselves as per the surrounding environment, clothing for women isa social and political narrative that dictates their life or as we affectionately call it ‘culturally appropriate’.

The clothing style could vary. It could be a woman covered head to toe in a Burqa, it could be a woman who decides to wear sports-wear in a park or it could be jeans and a top. Everything is critically evaluated by men and by women who work towards protecting the male gaze.

The male gaze is a heterosexual way of looking at female bodies that sexualises these bodies into an object. It is a gaze that runs on the self-affirmative notion that the bodies of women, and what they do with it, is directly linked to how they  appear in front of a man.

In a recent incident in Bangalore, India, popular Indian actress Samyuktha Hegde was abused and threatened by senior political leader of the congress party, Kavitha Reddy,  for wearing sports-wear, in Bangalore’s Agara Lake park. She was exercising with her friend.

Kavitha Reddy initially claimed she was in indecent attire and went onto morally police and then later abused the actress and her friend.  A supposedly progressive political leader gets uncomfortable by what women are wearing. It breaks into an argument and a fight where the politician is supported by five to six men. Later on, the police appear to be appeasing the politician instead of the women who were harassed. Although she did apologise, her apology came after her video went viral, and as a protection for her own political reputation.

To look at Samyuktha Hegde’s clothing as a threat is to view her clothing as an act of obscenity therefore bullying her identity and sense of agency and reducing her to sexual object, who, by putting her in public, apparently gives the men present a right to look at her? Nevermind that she was there to workout like everyone else, her actions were confused as to how men look at her. In the video posted by the actress, the politician is surrounded by men who are championing her on. The politician choses to side with the patriarchal figures in shaming these women. Asking to protect from the male gaze is a far stretch but punishing women for the male gaze is where we should draw a line.

What roles does Kavitha Reddy play? She is the guardian of the male gaze. We find her in our mothers, in our grandmothers, in aunties and sometimes our friends. She understands a woman’s body as an object that is there to be looked at by men. She gets angry at women for wearing certain kinds of clothing but she is not angry at men for looking. The agency in this case always belongs to men.

When Cixous asks women to re-define their identity, she urges us to strangle the moral police that comes alive in such instances. It is the moral police that shames women for wearing clothes that don’t flatter their bodies or clothes that do flatter them. She urges us to reflect upon the source of such vigilance. Do we shame other women because we believe in what we are saying or our identity is partially (or  wholly) shaped by the male gaze?

Whether we chose to wear a burqa, or a dress, or variations of the new type clothing produced everyday, the crux of the matter is that it should not worry anyone apart from the one wearing it. The identity of a woman, sexual or otherwise, has to be redefined to be separated from the men and their gaze. We have to draw a line otherwise people in power will continue to abuse their power and preserve patriarchy and male gaze.

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