2016 is the time for "Old Seafood" to step aside and let the kids take charge
|Seafood is delicious when it is fresh, and made from my own recipe|
Hong Kong is best known for its outside-the-box Cantonese slang. And as the curtains for 2015 are about to drawn, I can't help giving some new thoughts about “old seafood”.
“Old seafood” obviously isn’t referring to seafood that is old, aged or stale. It doesn’t even have anything to do with seafood to begin with. The pronunciation of “old seafood” in English in fact resembles the Cantonese sound of lo see fut, which actually refers to "old anus" -- an ignorant, arrogant older person who occupies top positions in a society or company but thinks he knows it all and refuses to listen to others, particularly the younger generation.
The past two years of Hong Kong have essentially been a long battle against the generation of old seafood. From last year's Occupy protests aka Umbrella Movement to the controversies surrounding the on going copyright bill amendment, the gap between the young digital generation and the socially and financially established baby-boomers has been growing wider apart. Their differences are perhaps much greater than those between the Martians and the people of Atlantis (oops, can't help dragging in my favourite mythical story here).
While the Umbrella Movement was a political cause demanding for a universal suffrage free from Beijing's interference, the copyright bill row is more than political.
Dubbed “Internet Article 23” — a name derived from the Basic Law’s Article 23 on national security that failed to pass in 2003 — the Copyright (Amendment) Bill 2014 was initially an update of the current copyright law that was intended to offer better protection for copyrighted works - film, music, art, writing, etc - against piracy in the digital realm while offering six new exemptions for derivative works created for the purposes of parody, satire, caricature, pastiche or reporting and commenting on current events. The Hong Kong administration has been under tremendous international pressure, particularly from the US, to update the law since the film and music industries lost the profits amid rampant internet piracy of films and music produced by major studios.
But people - mostly young people - just don't buy it. Not only do young people view this as the government siding with the old seafood who have vested interests in this. More importantly, it is a vote of discontent against the Leung Chun-ying government -- the updated copyright law is seen as a measure to clampdown on freedom of speech and creations in the name of protecting copyright owners and fostering the growth of cultural and creative industries.
The bill has stirred public outcry, especially among youngsters who are habitual Internet users and love to express themselves by creating derivative works based on copyrighted pieces such as pictures, films and songs.
What is worse is that the vast cultural and generational gaps between young people who thrive on the Internet and their senior counterparts who are running our society have been exposed through out the debates.
The “honourable” lawmakers who are supposed to debate and vote on citizens’ behalf at Legco on the copyright bill actually knew very little about not just the details of the bill but also the behaviour of young people online.
A while ago, Christopher "Chirs" Chung of the pro-establishment Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong disclosed in a Legco meeting on the bill that he confused streaming with downloading.
Emily Lau of the Democratic Party was captured on camera saying that she didn’t know anything about livestreaming videogame play (which could put players at risking themselves breaching the copyright law).
Tony Tse, lawmaker of architectural, surveying and planning functional constituency, thought sharing altered pictures on social media was referring to some kind of survey plan.
At least the Liberal Party’s Vincent Fang, lawmaker of wholesale and retail functional constituency, honestly admitted the vast generation gap between the lawmakers and the young generation and hoped youngsters could enlighten him. After all, the average age of lawmakers is about 60.
Even the Chief Executive has gotten himself into copyright trouble by uploading a video of him singing a Canto-pop classic by Hong Kong rock band Beyond on Facebook and his office had to embarrassingly clear the copyright with rights owners after netizens made fun of him.
In fact, age is just a number. It’s the old seafood mentality that is problematic. Just how scary is it to have the decision on passing a law that will affect tonnes of youngsters rests in the hands of these old seafood who thought they knew it all? And this copyright law is only a tip of the iceberg. As Li Ka-shing has put it when he was asked about the election, "having an 85-year-old to define everything for a 17-year-old is very dangerous". But it seems only few has picked up his words of wisdom.
As 2016 is just around the corner, it is time for a change. The old seafood should let it go, lower their guards and be humble — kids don't need old seafood to tell them how they should live their lives in the digital era any more.
An earlier version of this post was published in SCMP.com