From the Editor

Judging the past

Bismarck was commonly known as the key to German unification in 1871. However, many historians believe that he actually did it out of self interest. A. J. P. Taylor even said that he essentially “separated Germany instead of unifying it”. The apparent reason for Britain’s action in the First World War was the violation of Belgium neutrality, but, actually, history tells us that Britain took part because the German advance was obviously directed towards the British Isles.

The lesson from these various interpretations of comparatively recent European events is that, although history unfolds continuously around us, we can only make a fair and sound judgement long after events have passed into the dusty pages of history books.

The same should be said of recent political events in China. This is not to defend what the Chinese government has done in the past few years, but the thought comes to mind that only history can make an impartial judgement. Please remember that during the hectic period of the June 4th Movement, the media overwhelmingly portrayed the student leaders as heroes and, to a certain extent, provoked their bloody sacrifices. Of course, it was no “illusion”, but the actual situation was much more complicated than what outsiders could see. The audience of the recently released movie Tiananmen will certainly understand.

Consider these questions: What would it have been like if the Communist government had been successfully overthrown by students? What kind of government would they have established? How would this have affected the Open Door policy and the ongoing economic reforms? What about the confidence of foreign investors in China? What would the foreign policy have been for the new China? These are the problems student revolutionaries have to consider before taking any action.

The most puzzling recent issue in Chinese policy concerns the Diaoyu Islands. It is completely ridiculous for the Chinese government to pay lip service on the one hand – Jiang Zhi Min claims that China has authority over the islands — and arrest Tong Zheng on the other hand. Thus, are the Japanese the only sinners in the event? Is it right for the government of China to claim the ownership of the islands when so many private groups are united for the “holy land”?

History seems to be just a collection of different truths when interpreted by people of different backgrounds and times. Who knows what people in the future will think about current events?

Letters to the Editor

Bus addiction

One of the most common complaints heard around The Chinese University — possibly the most common complaint — concerns the bus service, especially from the railway station.

People often complain that there are not enough buses. They also complain that the buses do not operate with enough frequency.

I disagree, however. It is my view that the bus service on the campus is excellent. And I believe that the solution to people’s problems with the bus service lies within their own powers.

The solution is simply to walk. It takes less than 10 minutes to walk from the railway station to mid-levels on the campus, and only 20 minutes to New Asia College.

Nevertheless, at almost any time of day, you can see almost 100 people waiting in line for the next bus. Meanwhile, almost no one is walking.

On weekends, because buses are less frequent, you can see long queues of people waiting in line up to 45 minutes at a time at University Station for the next bus going to Shaw College — even though they could walk there in almost half the time.

Perhaps unknown to the bus addicts, the University administration has deliberately landscaped the campus in order to make it “walkable”. There are pleasant footpaths along streams, as well utility roads covered in deep shade, that make for very pleasant strolling. But people who never attempt to cross campus on foot are likely to be unaware of these places.

Aside from alleviating the pressure on the campus transportation system, walking would have a number of other salutary effects. For one thing, it gives you peace of mind, because the campus is quite beautiful. For another, it strengthens your cardiovascular system. And finally, it puts you in touch with nature.

By the way, before closing, I personally would like to thank the bus drivers, who are models of patience and tolerance in the face of hordes of people and unpleasant working conditions. They must have the most thankless job on the campus, but students never so much as say “Good morning” or “Thanks”.

Well, this is one appreciative rider (yes, I myself do ride occasionally) — so to the Transport Office and all those gracious drivers, I say, “Thank you very much.”

Name withheld by request

Reflections on Diaoyu

These days the media seem to cover a lot of the progress of the protest over the Diaoyu Islands. I have no clear view, but only confusion.

I went to the march on 15 September. I read newspapers, watched television and listened to people’s opinions.

But I had no “patriotic” feelings when marching.

I went not because I have a strong sense of being Chinese and to fight for the return of the Diaoyu, but to look at people’s responses and to use this limited forum to express my objection to Japan’s action.

The occupation of the Diaoyu by Japanese cannot be justified with any reason. But it is odd to shout “protect the holy region of China”.

Some said that “a piece of land belongs to a country simply because they discovered and occupied it first” is not something righteous, but it just indicates that every country wants to extend their powers to the maximum.

So the “autonomous” Tibet issue is also discussed in this context, for it is ridiculous to criticize Japan just when China is doing similar things.

Perhaps the saying “history records the desires of human beings” is actualised here.

Following the doubt that a piece of land may not belong to those who claim to occupy it first could break the myth of “holy land”, but still could not solve the political reality today.

Who should own a region with nobody there before? Should we redistribute the landscape?

But this is of course impossible.

Some said that the conflict should be settled diplomatically, yet the public have no chance to get involved.

From the reaction of the Communist and Kuomingtang Governments, those wanted to regain the land have little confidence that the matter could be dealt with satisfactorily.

I personally feel that maybe “patriotic” should be redefined.

One friend said that nationalism could be easily turned to militarism if politicians handle the situation improperly.

I think people had better rethink their standpoints before action, to think more of the consequences of their actions and the implications behind them.

Kay Kwok

Letters to the editor should be addressed to: The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Room 204, Humanities Building, New Asia College. Letters may be sent by email to All letters must include names and addresses.

November 1996

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