2017 SUSS Cultural China Public Lecture


The 2017 SUSS Cultural China Public Lecture featured renowned Hong Kong author and academic Ma Ka-fai who shared his analysis of the changes in Hong Kong’s cultural landscape since its handover in 1997.

Speaking at a packed Singapore Press Holdings News Centre auditorium, Ma Ka-fai explained that to understand the impetus for Hong Kong’s cultural transformation over the past 20 years , one needs to understand four key concepts which he termed variously as "Identity Markers"(身份坐标), "Social Change"(社会变化), "Rise of China"(强国崛起), "Internet as Catalyst for Paradigm Shift"(网络游移).

Dr Ma began appropriately by defining 1997 as the turning point for the island from “British Hong Kong” to “Chinese Hong Kong”. This not only marked a change in government, but also in the social and cultural identities of the island’s inhabitants who now had to re-position themselves as part of greater China. In addition, not only did the rapid influx of new mainland Chinese immigrants cause tensions resulting from differences in language and lifestyles; it also led to conflicts of interest over limited resources such as living spaces, jobs, and education. Another key concern that faced postcolonial Hong Kong was the fear of censorship and loss of freedom of expression. Lastly, Dr Ma highlighted that consumer technology has seen a big paradigm shift in China with the advent of social media networking platforms and online content distributors such WeChat and Weibo which are able to reach out to millions of users, posing stiff competition, especially to Hong Kong’s TV and film industries. To illustrate, Dr Ma pointed out that annual box office revenue for Hong Kong films decreased drastically from approximately SGD200 million in 1992 to SGD70 million in 2015.

Countering this bleak outlook, Dr Ma proposed that China’s growth as an economic and political power has provided and will continue to offer new and emerging opportunities for Hong Kong. Dr Ma also maintained that the increased competition and challenges facing Hong Kong have stimulated creativity and innovation. In short, what was perceived as a negative issue could be turned into a positive outcome through negotiation and compromise.

During the question and answer session moderated by Associate Prof Yung Sai-Shing, a member of the audience sought Dr Ma’s comments on the recent pro-independence protest by Chinese University of Hong Kong students (CUHK). In response, Dr Ma highlighted that such tensions are inevitable as Hong Kong continues to negotiate its relationship with China. The critical question was response, at both the individual and societal levels, to such tensions. For Dr Ma, mutual respect for each other’s freedom of expression is the key to Hong Kong’s progress as a civilised and cultured society.

This event was jointly organised by Centre for Chinese Studies @SUSS and Lianhe Zaobao.









最后在由容世诚副教授担任主席的对谈和提问环节,马博士应要求总结了香港文化的精华:同很多“必然、肯定、一定、必要”等形成了鲜明对比的“百无禁忌”和“Why Not”。他还强调了如何去判断一个社会的文明程度,不应以它所发生的个别现象而一概而论。文明应体现在一个社会或群体如何去回应“坏的事情”。他用:“如何回应不善良,才表现了你的文明和善良”这样画龙点睛的佳句暗喻了香港的未来和希望,从而结束了本场讲座。


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