Popular Protests in the Age of #MilkTeaAlliance - Transcript

Edited- C2

Fri, 6/25 7:06PM • 37:57


hong kong, thailand, protests, myanmar, movement, people, thai, china, protesters, demonstrations, nsl, alliance, shared, solidarity, milk, chinese, tea, mai, internet, similar


Elisabeth Pecorari, Jingle, Mai Corlin Fredriksen, Wasana Wongsurawat


Jingle  00:02

This is the Nordic Asia podcast.


Elisabeth Pecorari  00:08

Welcome to the Nordic Asia podcast a collaboration sharing expertise on Asia across the Nordic Region. I'm Chiara Pecorari, a student of social anthropology at the University of Bergen, Norway. Over the past two years, a number of countries across East and Southeast Asia have seen a wave of youth led anti-establishment protests. Protesters, most of whom are Gen Zeddeers have actively turned to online platforms as central sites on which to continue their resistance. An alliance under the name, or #MilkTeaAlliance, has brought citizens from Taiwan, Thailand, Hong Kong and Myanmar, just to name a few, together in solidarity. Originating in their country's tradition for drinking various forms of milk tea, youth have found solidarity with their fights for democracy across the region. Since, the #MilkTeaAlliance has been used to taunt critics, to spread artwork and memes, mobilize movements, and share information. Just recently, Twitter launched an official #MilkTeaAlliance emoji along with ones for the Black Lives Matter and MeToo movements signaling through increasing recognition that the movements are gaining. To join us today to discuss the Alliance we have two guests. The first Wasana Wongsurawat is an associate professor at the Department of History at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Thailand. Her research has focused on the Chinese diaspora and Thai nationalism. Our second guest is Mai Corlin Fredriksen a Carlsberg Foundation postdoctoral fellow at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark. Her current work focuses on the role of protest walls and the use of visual material in the 2019 Hong Kong protests. To begin with, I would like to thank you both for agreeing to do this podcast.  Let's start with a bit of context. Wasana, how did the Milk Tea Alliance start, and what is it?


Wasana Wongsurawat  01:50

Actually, there's two parts of it. First was the event that took place, and second was the people who started calling it the Milk Tea Alliance, and these are two very different groups. It's very interesting that they come together and intertwine, and that over one year on from when that event first took place, it's still going on. I find this quite amazing. So the event itself happened around mid-april 2020. What happened was that there's a famous Thai actor, a young teenager who is very popular in this genre called "Boy Love dramas". This Boy's Love drama is very popular across East and Southeast Asia, and much of it is produced in Thailand. And so this is a Thai star, and he was tweeting back and forth with his girlfriend, and they were mentioning Hong Kong and Taiwan. I guess a lot of people would say it's a gaffe, like he and his girlfriend expressed something that could be taken as them suggesting that Taiwan is a sovereign nation, and Hong Kong is a country. So this received like an avalanche of attack from Chinese netizens, who felt that this was very offensive. Initially he, just hours after this attack came about, he deleted that tweet, and he apologized. But then he also had a huge fan base in Thailand as well, so what happened was that the Thai fans who were mostly Gen Zedders—like you would call them—got into this Twitter war with the Chinese netizens and started hurling insults against each other. And basically, the Thai netizens were saying that there's nothing wrong with saying that Taiwan is a sovereign nation, then it would be better if Hong Kong could be free from China. And then the Chinese netizens were very upset, and they hurl insults against each other. The following morning, actually, there was a very long statement from the People's Republic of China's embassy in Bangkok, basically reprimanding the Thai netizens for damaging the good relations between China and Thailand. And the post was in Chinese, English and Thai. And that only attracted even more insults from the Thai netizens, and so on. So it went on for a few days.  And then I believe there's a Hong Kong student activists and a Taiwanese politician who came out and thank the Thai netizens for their solidarity [in] supporting the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement and supporting Taiwan sovereignty. And I think the term Milk Tea Alliance came out from Hong Kong and Taiwan together, not from Thailand. And from then on, it crosses over from this Boy's Love fan, anti-fan Twitter war into becoming a symbol of solidarity among Taiwan, Hong Kong and Thailand. Because you also have a rising pro democracy movement in Thailand at the end of 2019 and for the entire year 2020, and it's still going on now. And well, more recently, at the end of 2020 there was a coup in Myanmar, and then you started having protests in Myanmar. And it has become increasingly violent, as we would have heard of the news. So people were starting to call for the Myanmar movement to join the Milk Tea Alliance as well, because they also consume milk tea. And you see similar kind of gestures, like the three-finger salute that is being used, and the tactics of flash demonstrations, and a lot of shared information, shared tactics between the movements in Hong Kong, in Thailand and in Myanmar. And that has been going on since.  And I think one interesting thing is that in all this, it would appear—aside from the fact that all these countries, all these people drink milk tea in some form—another interesting thing is that the pro-democracy movement in these areas that we're talking about Hong Kong, Thailand, Myanmar, and Taiwan to a certain extent, sort of poses China as the common obstacle against democratization in these countries. And I think that is the key of why all these movements could continue to link with each other up to this day. So I guess that's a very long introduction.


Elisabeth Pecorari  06:21

Thank you. Mai, do you have anything you would like to add to that?


Mai Corlin Fredriksen  06:24

The last thing Wasana said, with like China as a common obstacle against democratization, I think the Milk Tea Alliance and the solidarity that came with it definitely sort of represented that need that already existed in Hong Kong for common ground against China, because they were definitely seeking solidarity on different levels. And they had difficulties finding solidarity within China against the Chinese state. So I think that the milk tea Alliance sort of provided an outlet for Hong Kong protesters.  And perhaps I should also place the the Milk Tea Alliance within the timeline of the Hong Kong protests here. Milk Tea Alliance did not start until the Hong Kong protests were already over—I think it was like April 2020. By then, I think we still talked about the protests in Hong Kong is ongoing. But looking back, I think they were already over at the time due to the pandemic. Like basically, they [the protesters] couldn't go on the streets. And not long after that the National Security Law was introduced; the draft version was introduced in May. So the protesters in Hong Kong were definitely in need of an outlet of a place—they could no longer go to the streets in the same manner, they could no longer produceall  visual materials that they had posted on the streets in the same manner. All these outlets that they had for expressing their dissatisfaction with the Chinese rule of Hong Kong, they were out and suddenly then the Milk Tea Alliance arose to sort of fill this void. And I think Hong Kong in this way, also, like there was both a need for Hong Kong and definitely it was also the Hong Kong protests of 2019 as an inspiration for some of the ongoing movements in Myanmar and in Thailand, as Wasana mentioned. And I think this is very important that the information sharing and the role that the Hong Kong protests have played in the region for democratization.


Elisabeth Pecorari  08:22

So I suppose that one could argue that the manner in which material was shared during the Hong Kong protests, set as sort of a standard for how things have developed with the Milk Tea Alliance. How was visual material shared online, versus the physical material that was shared on walls and such, and what sort of imagery was used in the Hong Kong protests, Mai?


Mai Corlin Fredriksen  08:40

The manner in which the visual material was shared had a digital presence and a physical presence in the space of Hong Kong. And if we start with the protest walls, they have physical appearances in the city of Hong Kong, and there were more than 150, and probably much more than that, across the territory of Hong Kong. And they played a crucial role in the protests, because every day they were renewed with new images, new protest posters from the movement. Sort of following the events of the movement constantly reacting to the police, to the government to what was happening on the streets. So this protest was they became like a territoralization of the territory of Hong Kong, by the movement. So they were constantly showing that they were there, and that what they were willing to work for a Hong Kong that they dreamed of. And these protest walls, the material for the walls were produced, of course, usually digitally.  To begin with it was done by hand, but later on digitally, and it was shared via all kinds of media platforms. So this was like the process: It was shared in a space like Telegram or Twitter or Facebook or Instagram, but predominantly Telegram actually. And then it was shared and then anybody could take that material and put it on the walls. And then people would take images of the walls, and then that would be reshared in space, sort of constantly reproducing all the messages of the movement, because of course, the movement is is fragmented. It's not one opinion. It's a very fragmented movement.  But this was the way that visual material and the ideas, and the thinking of the movement was shared in physical space and of course also in digital space. And I think this use of visual material was definitely something that has been taken on. It's also—actually early on in the Hong Kong protests, we saw that they use the three-finger salute that is so famous in the Thailand context. And it's not something that was very used in Hong Kong—I went back and looked at images of protests, posters from the movement, and I saw protest posters with a three-finger salute. So the region definitely shares imagery and ways of expressing dissatisfaction with the regime. And also with creating some sort of coherence within their own protest community.  Then also in terms of imagery, what kind of imagery was shared, I think we have definitely different categories of imagery for the Hong Kong protests. We had the main figure of the protester, like this black dressed protester with a gas mask on, and an umbrella or a flag with the most well known slogan of the movement "Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our time". This imagery was repeated in so many different versions, like [where] they were conquering the moon, they were conquering the street, they were conquering territory, they were alone, they were in the middle of a group of all the characters of the movement. There are many montage posters where you have examples of all the different characters of the movement. [Where] you have the elderly persons, you have the school girls, you have the front-liners, you have the doctors and the paramedics at the back. And you have all these different characters in the movement of course all describe within this idea of a Hong Kong of the dreams, which is a Hong Kong that is not under Chinese rule.


Elisabeth Pecorari  12:02

I was wondering Wasana, have you seen these similar sorts of imagery in the Thai context or in the general Milk Tea Alliance context?


Wasana Wongsurawat  12:08

Yes! Well, aside from what has been elaborated already, I think one important thing is that the authorities share tactics as well. And this leads to the protesters using similar tactics to fend off the aggression from the state. And I think in the case of Thailand, it's very clear—I think that demonstrations in 2019, especially 2020, it was the first time that you have the state using chemical water cannons. And it was very much reminiscent of what we saw in the news of happening in Hong Kong. And then tear gas was also used a lot and rubber bullets as well. So as the demonstrations, gathered steam and came more regular and more people joined, the state started to clamp down on the demonstrators, and they were using the same techniques. It was like we all suddenly were reliving what we saw the Hong Kong protesters going through in 2019, in 2020. And so all of a sudden you have this, like, everyone goes to the demonstration with an umbrella. And then there would be like a kind of like an assembly line; like, okay, the water cannons are approaching from that end of the road so we want all umbrellas and hard hats being sent up front and all that. And it's like so very similar tactics being used. And of course, the black outfit and everything is also very similar.  And I'm very proud of this. If you look behind me on my shelf, there's a political cartoon. And this is kind of like I think a development from the version in Hong Kong is that well first of all, there's the color yellow. But then I believe some years ago, there was an art exhibition that involved a yellow duck. And this exhibition actually went to Hong Kong as well, or it was started in Hong Kong—but there's something about the yellow duck. And what happened was [that] after a while, the umbrella was not strong enough to fight the water cannons. And the demonstrators came up with the idea of using inflatable ducks. So these are, you know what you would play [with] at the beach or in the swimming pool would be big inflatable ducks that youn normally would sit on and float around in this swimming pool. And they would bring like five dozen of these huge inflatable ducks and they would use it as a shield against this chemical water that was being sprayed by the water cannon at the protesters. So this inflatable duck became the symbol of the protesters as well. And so in this cartoon in [behind] me is—you know I'm the Star Wars generation, right, so the the artist drew these inflatable ducks as the rebels spacecraft fighting with the Death Star in Star Wars. And there's this idea of these inflatable ducks being our weapons, or our utensils or whatever you use, to fight with the dictator. And I think the idea of the duck also carried over to the demonstrations in Myanmar as well. So you have these development of imagery as well, I mean, taking over the the yellow from the being the color of the demonstration. And at the same time, this playful image of the duck, and the development from using the umbrella to fight with the water cannons, and then carry it on to using the inflatable ducks.  Another very important characteristic of the Milk Tea Alliance is that it carries through the online generation and it's the online culture. So it's kind of like the culture that they share, the youngsters in Hong Kong, in Myanmar, in Thailand, communicating through Twitter, and Facebook, and all these online cultural products; being fans of these Internet TV dominance and using the symbolisms from the online culture and communicating with each other. And this is very important for places like Thailand, and Myanmar. And I think it's become increasingly important in Hong Kong as well, because places like Thailand and Myanmar, all through the Cold War, people have been very heavily controlled by state propaganda. And the state controls the [news] media very heavily. But when you get to the post-Cold War, when you have the internet and people can get to the internet, this is when the state cannot control the internet. And even when they try to like infuse their propaganda into the internet, they don't understand the kind of online culture this generation Z are consuming and are trading. They don't understand the art that they consume, they don't understand the culture, they don't understand the dramas. And so the internet is something that is out of control. And it's beyond the reach of state propaganda, at least in places like Thailand, and Myanmar. And now that it would appear that Beijing is becoming more controlling of Hong Kong, I think the internet will continue to be a very important tool for protests in Hong Kong as well.


Mai Corlin Fredriksen  17:11

Yeah, definitely, I think this is a very important observation. And I think this is also what we have seen in the Hong Kong protests in the use of memes and the use of other youth culture icons, from films, and from music, and from computer games. So this is like, very predominant in the visual material of the movement, and where you can see that it's also very youth based. And it's produced by young people who use all the references from their daily lives to put into the movement.  Yes, so that also shows that the developments are so fast. Like one image can change into so many different kinds of versions of the same image within a very short time. And I saw that happening very much in the movement, like when big events happened, there would be like so many people reacting visually—also physically in the streets—but reacting visually by producing visual material that used an abundance of references from their daily lives. Everyday objects is definitely also predominant in the visual material of the movement. Like that the use of everyday objects as the movements weapons against the authority is very important for them to state. Because it's the state that has the monopoly on the use of weapons. So they use these everyday objects, like the tennis racket, or the traffic cones, or the umbrellas of course, and the crutches, as we also see in Hong Kong context. And I think this is a very important symbol for them, because it shows that they are sort of fighting with whatever they can what they have at hand, and not organizing into using weapons in the way the state does.


Elisabeth Pecorari  18:54

So the next is question to both of you, do you see any trends or common experiences that youth across the region share? We've mentioned the anti authoritarian sentiments, but are there other similar generational experiences that are shared?


Wasana Wongsurawat  19:09

Maybe I can go first from what I know. At least these three movements in Hong Kong, Thailand, and Myanmar, they have their own very specific issues at hand—of course, as we see it—but certain things they do share. Thailand and Myanmar, you can see very clearly, we have been under a military dictatorship for a long, long, long, long, long, long time. So I think in that sense, the youngsters kind of understand the need to get rid of this military dictatorship. But I think one thing that maybe youngsters in all these three places share in common is, I would call it opposing the Cold War capitalist culture. And this is related to the clientelism or the patronage system between the dictatorial power of the military dictator. Or in Thailand, it's the military dictator and the monarchy as well, in Hong Kong it might be the predominant influence of the Beijing government, and the influence that these political dictatorships have on the big businesses. So we have this—and this is my moment of shameless self-promotion—the main title of my book is "The crown and the capitalist". I write about the history of the alliance between big businesses, corporations, and the dictatorial power, which is made up of the monarchy and the military together. So you have the political elite working with the business elite, and then they kind of help each other, or help set things up so that the rich are always so much richer than everyone else, and the middle class and the working class have it really difficult. And this is the base of the increasing gap between the rich and the poor. Aocial inequality, which in the case of Hong Kong, inequality has gone way up since the hand over to China. And I think the situation is similar in Thailand and in Myanmar. So I think the younger generation in all these places are not seeing their future because they're feeling that the dictator and the business elite are just going to get richer and richer. And the common people, especially the younger generation, it doesn't matter if you have a university degree, it doesn't matter how hard you work, you will not go anywhere if you cannot get into this system of patronage. So it becomes a struggle against big businesses that cooperate with the dictator. And I think this is the everyday struggle that is similar among these three groups. And at the same time, I think that is why you see people who come out and criticize or attack the demonstrators, at least in Thailand, and in Hong Kong are the big businesses. So that's my take on it.


Mai Corlin Fredriksen  22:01

And I think in Hong Kong, we definitely see some of the same. And the first thing that came to mind when you post the question was also this depression, I definitely sense between the youth in Hong Kong, which is, of course connected to the fact that they perhaps feel that they failed in their uprising and the introduction of the NSL. But [it's] definitely also connected to the social inequality and the sense that they have completely lost their future. I think they both battled Chinese businesses in Hong Kong also through the movement, and now that it's somehow over and nothing good really came out of it, besides solidarity across the world, they are definitely somewhat depressed generation, I would say. And we see of course serious trauma within the protest generation. Yeah.


Elisabeth Pecorari  22:51

And have you seen that these teams have been brought into the protest are that was made?


Mai Corlin Fredriksen  22:56

Well, during the movement, it was definitely—there was like these different strands of protest posters. And one strand was definitely about this depression and about taking care of yourself in the midst of this very violent time. So I definitely see these protest posters that dealt with having to take care of like a heart that was broken, because they somehow felt they lost their future, and they lost their country. So I definitely see this in the protest posters is, of course, I see a lot less protest posters now than we did before. I think up till actually February around February 2020, and perhaps even earlier, it definitely cooled down in terms of protest posters. But this idea of having to take care of yourself after the protests is definitely also something that arose from the 2014 Umbrella Movement, that also sort of saw a big hope and depression afterwards. So they have somehow also learned from themselves. I see, when you look at the Hong Kong protesters in 2019, you definitely have to look at the way things were done and things played out in 2014, to understand why they do and react the way they do. So this post protest depression is definitely predominant, I think, in Hong Kong.


Elisabeth Pecorari  24:12

And so how have things changed under the NSL? Or how things are shared online versus offline?


Mai Corlin Fredriksen  24:22

Well, because the NSL also cover internet space. In some sense. You can say if you're a Hong Kong, living in Hong Kong, sharing something in space that's also on the internet, that's also potentially violating the national security legislation. So what we saw immediately after the introduction of the legislation, I think, in June 2020, was that people would—I don't know how broadly this was—but people did start deleting social media posts that they felt somehow could perhaps violate the national security legislation. And of course, as with all other similar legislation in China and Hong Kong, the red line, as they call it in Hong Kong, is very fuzzy, we don't know where it is. Nobody knows where it is. And we see a lot of things and exhibitions, and objects, and slogans being claimed as perhaps violating the national security legislation. But we actually haven't seen that many trials of it yet. So we need to see how they actually play through the judicial system before we can see how it will actually play out. But of course, if somebody from the government or pro-government or whatever suggests that something is violating the national security legislation, that is often enough for people to step back and say "Okay, then we won't produce a yellow face— what's it called? Face masks!" So in Hong Kong, there was a company that made yellow face masks, but then it was suggested that it violated the national security legislation and then they stopped producing yellow face masks. And of course, also plenty of examples of people continuing despite the legislation, but definitely not in the same manner. If you were in Hong Kong in 2019 it was a spectacle, in some ways. The entire territory was plastered with protest posters. It was like a very visual experience. Of course, that's my eyes looking at it. And I'm concerned with visual culture, and that's what I see. Of course, the protests were very violent, but they were mostly there in the weekends. So during the weekdays what we saw what the protest was in Hong Kong—and what everybody saw, because they were everywhere, if you were moving around Hong Kong from one place to another.


Elisabeth Pecorari  26:29

All right, so we've seen the development and the traction that the Alliance has been gaining in terms of freedom of expression, we've seen the NSL being implemented in Hong Kong, as we just talked about. And do you think that such NSL-like laws might pop up other places that ultimately may influence this Milk Tea Alliance?


Wasana Wongsurawat  26:47

Well, this is the thing. I was listening to Mai and I was like "Oh!" This is a difference between Thai protesters or—I'm not sure about the case in Myanmar—but the difference between Thai protesters and Hong Kong protesters is that Thai people have been living with what Chiara calls NSL-type laws forever. We have this Lèse-majesté law than just a law, we have Article 44, which was used during the coup government. Article 44 essentially says the Prime Minister can shoot you in the head, if he wants. Before Article 44, in the 1960s, it was Article 17. And then most recently, they just issued this Computer and Internet Act, which is essentially like if someone sends you an email [with] like any sensitive material on it, and you open the email, you can be charged with the Computer Law. And in fact, anything that goes on the computer that might be a threat to national security, then you can be charged under the Computer Act. So even myself being on this Zoom session with you and calling the government and dictator, might end up, if they want to take me away and put me in jail for 15 years. It is very possible.  So we have been living under this all through the Cold War period and up till now. And we see very clearly, at least I see, that there's a politics of enforcing these laws. They only enforce it on people that they see as a threat. But then what happens is that recently, especially since you know this new wave of demonstrations, many, many more people are willing to speak up. And then when you have a tweet that is insulting of the monarchy, but then it gets retweeted 2 million times, you have 2 million people sharing these things on Facebook. You can't go and charge all of them under the Computer Act  or under the Lèse-majesté law. So there's a certain sense of safety in numbers in the case of Thailand. And there's also these people who have been arrested and denied bail, or they've been charged under the Lèse-majesté law article 112.  We organize major demonstrations in front of the courthouse, in front of the prison, in front of the police precinct every time someone's arrested under this law. So there's a sense among the younger generation, I think it's pervasive through much of the environment, that these are unjust laws. We cannot live under this kind of law. But of course, me saying that, I don't think I would go back to Hong Kong again until the NSL is scrapped. Because I'm more afraid of the Beijing government than I am of the Thai government. So that's the case in Thailand.  And I think for Myanmar it is similar in that I think the military dictatorship in Myanmar has been using these kinds of laws with the population for a long time already. This is not a new experience for us. But of course for Hong Kong enjoying the rights and liberty under the British for so long, this is definitely going to be a new experience.


Mai Corlin Fredriksen  29:46

Yeah, I think this is actually important to point out that the generation in Hong Kong has grown up under British colonial rule and under the new system, but still in a school system that has taught them about democratic rights and about the Tiananmen massacre, and other abuses by the Chinese government. So this is definitely a generation that is different from the ones that will come after the introduction of the NSL because the school system is something that they target directly with the NSL. So it's definitely a very particular generation that's behind the Hong Kong 2019 protests. And then also another thing you mentioned Wasana, about these 2 million people, or how many it was that would share or like something on Twitter—that would never happen in China. Because if 2 million people reshare something that the government didn't want him to reshare then it would get deleted, it wouldn't be there, it wouldn't exist.


Wasana Wongsurawat  30:34

That's another thing; China has the world's best internet policing technology, the authorities in Thailand are very slow, and they just do not have the capacity that the Chinese government have in policing the internet.


Elisabeth Pecorari  30:48

So the Milk Tea Alliance, despite having shown to have a tangible impact, is still an online phenomenon. And to the two of you think that there's a risk of missing out like so many online phenomena do?


Wasana Wongsurawat  31:00

I think one interesting thing is that, and Mai has mentioned this, is that the Milk Tea Alliance came about right at the tail end of the Hong Kong protests. And then as the protests were dying out in Thailand, you have the coup in Myanmar. And then with the movement in Myanmar, that definitely rejuvenated the movement in Thailand. And so now the movement in Thailand is getting back, gaining steam again. And I think you will definitely see more demonstrations this year as we very slowly survive this coronavirus pandemic. And I think it being an internet movement is very important, at least for a country like Thailand, because the elite relies on a global image and the fact that it's an internet movement, and it tarnishes the global image of Thailand, and it affects the image of the military government, it affects the image of the royal family; it is not good for business. And so I think at least for the case of Thailand, getting our voice out into the world and you know, having Europeans like you people being interested in what is going on in Thailand, is important because the elite in Thailand care what Europeans think. They care what Australians think, they care what Americans think more than they actually care about what the grassroot people in Thailand think. So at least for the case of Thailand, it's still very important to keep the international pressure on.


Mai Corlin Fredriksen  32:26

In terms of Hong Kong, I think I see... I have a bit more bleak outlook. I don't see the Milk Tea Alliance as something that is particularly powerful in Hong Kong anymore. It was—it had like a moment where it was powerful and where was shattered a lot. O course, I do still see activists and other political groupings, re-shareing things under the Milk Tea Alliance hashtag. But I think it's something that I see less and less of. And think the outlook for Hong Kong in general is different from Thailand, also because the leadership in Hong Kong does not look towards the Europeans for judgment; They look towards China. And that's where they place their importance. So I don't see the multi alliances equally powerful in Hong Kong actually. Though, of course it has meaning it's not unimportant, that's not my point. But it's different in Hong Kong.


Elisabeth Pecorari  33:18

So over the next few years, how do you expect that the respective movements in Thailand and Hong Kong may develop? And what role do you think online activism like Milk Tea Alliance may play in this?


Wasana Wongsurawat  33:30

In the case of Thailand, I think either the regime falls very soon, and we will democratize within the next couple of years, or I will be in jail before the end of this year. So, you know, either we win, or we are dead, that's the situation. So I think supporting the movement and adding steam to the movement, and everything at this point is very, very crucial. And as I mentioned, before we started recording, just today one of the most prominent student protesters who has been on a hunger strike for over 40 days, has finally been granted bail for charges of Lèse-majesté under article 112. And recently, in the past week, we have seen more and more activists being granted bail. I think we are at the brink of something. So yeah, I hope for the best.  And I would like to say a bit about Hong Kong with my perception of the situation in Hong Kong—which might be wrong—but I'm thinking that at this point, it looks like everything is quite bleak and hopeless. In Hong Kong, it looks like the fight in Hong Kong is over and that Hong Kong has been conquered. But I think the promulgation of the National Security Law is a cure that might be worse than the illness, in the sense that I think in years to come and even right now—at the university, I teach modern Chinese history, and I have colleagues in Europe, in the UK, in the US complaining about "How can we teach modern Chinese history and how can we not talk about Taiwan, not talk about Tiananmen? Not talk about the issues in Hong Kong? And if we teach this, then could we change flights in Hong Kong? Would we be safe? And could we still take students from China? What our students be safe? And are we going to compromise academic freedom so that Chinese students can come and study at our place?" And I think, well, of course, SOAS just announced that it will compromise academic freedom, which is kind of sad. But I think this is going to have an effect on the overall outlook of the world towards China. And I think most definitely it would have an effect on Hong Kong's status as a International Finance and banking Center and businesses money coming in from the outside world. You already see media offices, or quite a few foreign businesses—American and Europeans—that are moving their base from Hong Kong to Korea, or to moving their factories to Vietnam or places in Southeast Asia. I think in the long run, this national security law is the law that will shut China out from the outside world. You cannot have a law that says that anyone at all that says anything that we don't like, we're going to put in jail as soon as you get into our territory. That cannot work in the long run. So it has to affect China somehow, but maybe not today, tomorrow or even the next five years.


Mai Corlin Fredriksen  36:27

Yeah, of course, I see what you say Wasana and I hope that you are right. Being a China scholar, I know that we all thought that it was going to get better since, but it didn't. It got worse in China. I'm unsure about Hong Kong. Every time I look at the facts, I'm like "Okay, these are depressing facts." Basically, it's worse than it was, it's not going to get better. I do think that they will flatten out at some point once they have arrested and prosecuted all the protest leaders and political opposition in Hong Kong. Once they sort of are done with all the people involved in the movement that they don't want to be a part of the political life in Hong Kong, I think perhaps we will see some sort of flattening out and maybe they'll become more space again for political utterances that disagree with the government. But at this point, I'm unsure of the future of Hong Kong. And it looks like it's going to be more and more like the rest of the Chinese mainland. Of course, I don't think the Chinese government is interested in obliterating all the benefits that Hong Kong people have compared to mainland Chinese. But yeah, I'm not sure how it's gonna play out.


Elisabeth Pecorari  37:31

Well, then ending it on what seems to be a very positive move, I would like to thank you both for joining us today and to the listeners who will be listening to this.


Wasana Wongsurawat  37:41

Thank you. Keep the faith.


Mai Corlin Fredriksen  37:45

Yeah, thank you.


Jingle  37:47

You been listening to the Nordic Asia podcast.