Political Gallery of Sino-Idioms (4): Reed Pipes and Hot Air

Political Gallery of Sino-Idioms (4): Reed Pipes and Hot Air

Hong Kong’s political situation can be confusing at times as events whirl about in a never-ending maelstrom, but when seen through simple classic Sino-idioms, the absurdity becomes clearer and more understandable. These idioms are often in the form of short narratives, sometimes historically based, which explain the meaning behind the idioms, their origin, or sometimes the historical literature from which the phrases were coined. Below is an example which highlights a pressing issue in Hong Kong’s politics, especially for the pro-democracy factions. There are variations to the stories, but the example used here goes by the version used in an old Hong Kong cartoon show known as the Animated Gallery of Sino-Idioms (成語動畫廊).

“Faking as a Piper to Enter an Orchestra” ( 濫竽充數 )

During the Warring States Period, the Kingdom of Qi’s King Xuan was a lover of the reed pipe ensemble. One day a scholar by the name of Nanguo applied for the position of a reed piper, except that he did not know how to play the instrument. Fortunately for him, the king didn’t bother to check his qualifications and admitted him into the royal ensemble, giving him a royal musician’s salary. This scholar faked playing the reed pipe each day amongst the other actually talented pipers until the day the king died and was succeeded by his son, King Min. The new king, however, preferred solo performances, so the fake piper made his quick exit before his masquerade was exposed. The moral of the story is that imposters will eventually be exposed.

On Tuesday, 14th August 2018, Andy Chan from the Hong Kong National Party gave a speech at the Foreign Correspondent Club (FCC) luncheon on the controversial topic of Hong Kong’s independence. Prior to the event, the Chinese regime and its lackeys in Hong Kong – including the former chief executive CY “689” Leung – made a great ruckus against the FCC hosting Andy Chan and allowing him to promote the push for Hong Kong’s independence, with the Hong Kong media making out Chan to be someone of note. However, the following day after the luncheon speech, TIME published an article titled “Just Who Is Andy Chan, the Leader of Hong Kong’s Independence Movement?” The writer Casey Quackenbush recounted her interview with Andy Chan at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel and her impression of Chan’s speech at the luncheon. Anyone who has the most basic, high-school-level literacy in English reading comprehension will be able to tell that the author sees Chan as a waste of time.

After an introduction on the history of the call for Hong Kong’s independence, Casey Quackenbush wasted no time in flattery as she immediately mocked Andy Chan as the unlikeliest of leaders for such a movement, by describing him as “charisma-free” and incapable of making an impression on anyone if it wasn’t for the Hong Kong SAR regime’s attack on the fellow. Quackenbush also made a point that activists in Hong Kong had called the Hong Kong National Party (founded by Andy Chan) a “statement party”, meaning that it talks the talk but has yet to walk the walk. To illustrate, Quackenbush revealed that during her interview with Chan, he was unable to name what and who inspired him to take on this path, when his “eureka moment” that convinced him to take up the cause for Hong Kong’s independence was, or what his future goals and directions are. She also revealed that Chan has little to no true understanding of what Hong Kong is about, nor does he have a battle plan. When further asked by the journalist why he is doing what he is doing, Andy Chan could only come up with the answer “I don’t want to waste my life”, to which Quackenbush responded with the punch line at the end of the article: “It might be too late for that”. In other words, the impression that Quackenbush got from Chan is that he is simply a load of hot air.

Andy Chan’s lack of ability had been revealed in a prior BBC interview before this Time article was published. In the BBC interview, the journalist described activists in the Umbrella Revolution as “descending into violence”, and asked Chan if his Hong Kong National Party would do the same. Anyone worth his or her salt in the China-resistance camp should have immediately objected to the BBC journalist’s claim, as the violence was never incited by the demonstrators but rather orchestrated by the SAR regime, via their use of police and triad gang members to harass and attack the protesters. Yet Chan never made the effort to counter such a false accusation; instead, he attempted to distance his party and himself from any sort of “violence”.

Why is there such a massive difference between the image of Chan as portrayed by the Hong Kong media and Quackenbush’s description of Chan? Simply put, it is because Chan has taken ideas from somewhere and someone else, and then claimed them as his own or his peers’. When put on the spot and he has to think on his feet, however, he becomes tongue-tied. He faked being a piper, only to be exposed high-and-dry when the tide turns.

For the rest of us, we should take heed of Saint Peter’s advice in his epistle to churches in Asia Minor during his time:

“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do it with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.”
(1 Peter 3:15-16)

How we are to do this is given in Deuteronomy 11:18-19,

“Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”

In other words, we are to constantly think about why we are fighting for Hong Kong. We should mull over our opponents’ arguments and ways to respond to them. We should mull over our own arguments and ways to respond to those who challenge us.

Don’t waste your time the way Andy Chan might have.