It’s back to school in Hong Kong and the time to take stock of the situation after these few months which saw President Xi Jingpin celebrate the 25e anniversary of Britain’s return of the territory to the People’s Republic of China and overseeing the implementation of a national security law that put Hong Kong back on the right track of “Chinese socialism” a law that tried to eradicate any hope of democratization.
Let’s just say that all pro-democracy people, whether politicians, student movement leaders or trade unionists representing the workers, have been arrested under the pretext of “public order disturbances” – because a political prisoner cannot exist in the Chinese world. Many of them are still imprisoned, awaiting their trials for months.
Over 113,000 Hong Kongers have emigrated
The new local parliament is entirely pro-Beijing and has no opposition parties following a reform of the electoral system that has kept away any aspiring democrats. There is therefore no longer any fundamental debate on the future of the city. The Hong Kong government is now under the leadership of a former police chief chosen as chief executive, and therefore under the wing of the government in Beijing.
This policy has driven Hong Kongers to lands more conducive to free speech and more inclusive education. Between mid-May 2021 and mid-May 2022, 113,200 Hong Kong residents packed up, worried about the future of their children. It must be said that the school books were rewritten to be aligned with a policy and an official history reviewed by the Party and not polluted by that of the West. These emigrants left for the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia or even Portugal or Taiwan.
The “zero Covid” policy has isolated Hong Kong
Another aspect: the very strict anti-covid policy imposed by Beijing, with quarantine measures which initially required confinement for three weeks in a hotel at the expense of the traveler, isolated Hong Kong. It has scared away all tourists and many expatriates, also preventing most permanent residents from traveling, unable to pay these hotel costs on their return.
These drastic conditions are infuriating Hong Kong and foreign businessmen, and chambers of commerce are pressuring the government to implement an easing. According to the latest news, it seems that the government has listened to these criticisms: from this September 26, 2022, a new plan suspends the obligation of quarantine at the hotel and the mandatory PCR test before embarking for Hong Kong. . They are replaced by a PCR test on arrival and the possibility for the traveler to go directly to the hotel or to return home without having to wait for the test result.
This is the most awaited news for two years which, we hope, will allow Hong Kong to resuscitate – on an economic and tourist level at least…
Has the city lost part of its soul?
For this new school year, the city is therefore plunged into gloom, as if the city had lost part of its soul. The demands of the students have been suppressed, the demonstrations have become impossible. Many are sorry for the departure of their family or their friends… And yet, for an outsider, a traveler unaware of these internal problems and this repressive policy, Hong Kong still has its attraction and remains a fascinating and dynamic city with its population. welcoming and its enchanting environment that mixes urban settings, nature and enchanting landscapes.
Chu Hing Hua’s painting: simplicity and beauty
This fall is therefore also the occasion to evoke the new exhibition of Chu Hing Hua, one of those “naive” style painters whose work instantly speaks to all the senses, fills the whole space.
The first thing that strikes the senses in the landscapes and portraits of Chu Hing Hua is a kind of dark luminosity which accentuates the contrasts and cuts out against the background of the night a world whose reality is essentially interior. The artist uses matt inks with dark and deep tones which, penetrating the paper, darken, giving us the impression that the world is bathed in a perpetual shadow.
Whether in his first works inspired by the psychiatric world, where he worked for a long time, or in the most recent, perhaps less oppressive and for some even bucolic, one of the themes that always emerges from the work of Chu is one of extreme loneliness.
In the countryside or against a world of skyscrapers thrown against a dark sky, man is alone there. And if he was, in his first paintings almost invisible, half vanished against the background of a park or a wall like a liquefied bas-relief, giving the impression that he had lost all his own identity, in the last canvases he is always present, but only as a dark shadow, a barely sketched silhouette.
In his group portraits, the individuals are rarely in conversation, each remaining isolated in total silence. Chu’s humanity is a wandering humanity, lost in the city, even when it seems to be busy with ordinary activities such as arranging flowers. It seems that the world is too big for man, that all activity is a mere pretext to maintain an attitude in the face of a feeling of profound absurdity, a little as if it had been deposited in the landscape for the simple effect of decoration.
This impression is confirmed in his large full-length portraits, where the character stands upright, facing forward, exposed in harsh light where he appears in violent interior nudity. It shows no pretension to appear, quite the contrary. His arms hang along his body like useless, with no possible occupation. Even in his later paintings, where Chu ventures into a more abstract world and introduces nudity, this impression remains.
This world, which one could consider as hopeless, is however all illuminated. His colors are of great beauty: browns, greens, dark blues almost black which seem to belong to the night, of which he has an infinite palette and on which grow trees with branches ending in large white flowers. pure, with the black shadow of a man in front, as if frozen by so much beauty.
It is easy to list the elements of Chu’s paintings: man, sky, earth, skyscraper, tree and flower. They are enough to make a world. And Chu Hing Hua is ageless.
• Chu Hing Hua, Bare Life, from October 9 to November 5, 2022, Hanart TZ Gallery, Hong Kong.