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In a week when Hong Kong’s universities became tear-gas-scented battlegrounds, the escalating violence has been matched by an intensifying spiral of rhetoric from the governments of Beijing and Hong Kong. Words have always been weapons in conflict, but in the social media age, their potential as tools of mobilization is exponentially multiplied, and the terminology used to describe protesters seems like a signal of tough action ahead.
在香港的几所大学变成战场,弥漫着催泪瓦斯气味的一周里,暴力升级的同时,北京和香港当局的措辞也愈发激烈。语言一直是冲突的武器,但在社交媒体时代,语言作为动员工具的潜力在成倍增长,描述抗议者的用词似乎也预示着未来将采取的强硬措施。
Language has been key to this protest movement since its beginning. In June, Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, characterized a protest against a controversial extradition law as a “riot.” That designation — which echoed a pivotal moment in April 1989 when The People’s Daily, the main newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party, called a mourning assembly by students in Tiananmen Square “turmoil” — was met with fury by protesters. They argued that the gathering had been calm until the police responded with tear gas and rubber bullets. That anger helped swell the crowds of marchers to an estimated two million people four days later, with new demands including the retraction of the term “riot.”
语言从一开始就是这场抗议运动的关键。6月,香港特首林郑月娥用“暴动”来形容反对争议性引渡法案的抗议。这一定性——刚好与中共主要党报《人民日报》在1989年4月的紧要关头,将学生在天安门广场举行的哀悼集会称为“动乱”遥相呼应——引发了抗议者的狂怒。他们辩称,在警方用催泪瓦斯和橡皮子弹回应之前,集会原本是平静的。这种愤怒导致四天后的游行人数增加至约200万,他们也提出了新诉求,包括撤回“暴动”一词。
For the first few months of the Hong Kong protests, China’s state media outlets seemed to be drawing upon the 1989-era playbook. They attributed the unrest to mysterious instigators whom they called “black hands,” and external hostile forces including the C.I.A.
在香港抗议活动的头几个月,中国官媒似乎在借鉴1989年的策略。他们把动乱归咎于神秘煽动者——他们称之为“黑手”,以及包括中情局在内的外部敌对势力。
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By August, state media had stepped up the rhetoric, describing the protesters as “violent mobs” and saying the protests showed “signs of terrorism.” On Tuesday, a day after students lobbed Molotov cocktails and fired arrows at police officers who had trapped them inside Hong Kong Polytechnic University, China Daily, a state-run English-language newspaper, described Hong Kong’s campuses as “fortresses of terrorist activities,” and warned of separatists “conspiring with foreign forces” to turn Hong Kong into a “bridgehead to subvert China.” Another article carried by the state mouthpiece described protesters’ demands for Western-style liberal democracy as a “malignant virus” and an “infection.”
到了8月,官媒加大了措辞力度,称抗议者为“暴徒”,并表示抗议活动已经出现“恐怖主义苗头”。周二,也就是被围困在香港理工大学的学生向警方投掷燃烧瓶并射箭的第二天,官方的英文报纸《中国日报》形容香港大学校园为“恐怖活动的堡垒”,还发出警告,指分裂分子“与外国势力勾结”,要将香港变为“颠覆中国的桥头堡”。这个国家喉舌发表的另一篇文章则称,抗议者对西式自由民主的诉求是一种“恶性病毒”和“感染”
Such comparisons reveal how seriously Beijing views the unrest in Hong Kong, which had long been one of the most stable places on China’s periphery. In a move that was part public relations exercise and part threat, People’s Liberation Army troops that are stationed in the city jogged out of their barracks last weekend to “voluntarily” clean the streets, bearing brooms and plastic buckets. It was only the second time since 1997 that they have been seen on Hong Kong’s streets, and it was not lost on Hong Kong’s residents that these soldiers were from the top counterterrorism unit, a designation emblazoned on their colorful jerseys.
这些比喻显示出北京对香港动荡的重视程度,这里原本长期以来一直是中国大陆周边最稳定的地区之一。作为公关活动同时也是作为威胁,中国人民解放军驻港部队上周末慢跑出他们的军营,扛着扫帚和塑料桶,“自愿”清扫街道。这是自1997年以来,驻港部队第二次出现在香港街头,香港居民并没有忘记,这些士兵都来自特种部队,他们五颜六色的运动衫上印着部队名称。
The mini-constitution that governs Hong Kong, the Basic Law, stipulates that troops can be called out to help with disaster relief if requested by the local government. In this case, no request had been made. Even if the troops remain in the barracks in the future, their presence has now been advertised, and this contributes to the perception of a militarization of Hong Kong’s streets, which nightly — and increasingly by day, too — teem with regular police officers, riot policemen and members of the elite “Raptor” unit, a specialized riot control task force.
香港的小宪法《基本法》规定,如果地方政府提出请求,中国可以出动军队协助救灾。但现在,并没有这样的请求。即便未来驻港部队仍会留在军营中,但他们的存在现已广而告之,这让人感觉香港的街头已经军事化,无论是夜晚——还是越来越多的白天,街头都充斥着正规警察、防暴警察和防暴特遣部队“速龙”小队的成员。
To Chinese readers, mentions of separatism and terrorism invoke Xinjiang, the northwestern province where China is holding an estimated one million members of the Uighur minority in political indoctrination camps. The discourse of pathology is often used in relation to Xinjiang, where Islam is depicted as an ideological illness. One China Daily opinion essay expanded on the comparison, explaining: “The problems of Hong Kong and that of terrorism have similar causes: lack of realistic economic opportunities and misguided ideology. Regarding terrorism, China has shown the world a more effective and humane approach than that pursued by other countries.”
对中国读者来说,提到分裂主义和恐怖主义就会让人想到新疆,在这个位于中国西北的省份约有100万维吾尔族被关押在政治教化营里。关于新疆的报道经常使用病理学论述,伊斯兰教信仰被描述成一种意识形态疾病《中国日报》的一篇评论文章进一步阐述了这一比喻,称:“香港问题和恐怖主义问题有着相似的根源:缺乏现实的经济发展机会和误入歧途的意识形态。在反恐问题上,中国向世界展示了比其他国家更有效、更人道的做法。”
According to this logic, a “weakened immune system” is a vulnerability that can be healed only by the education of “corrigible” but misguided youngsters, raising the chilling prospect of some form of Xinjiang-style ideological re-education in Hong Kong. However, an attempt seven years ago to introduce courses in “national and moral education” to Hong Kong failed after mass protests by students.
按照这个逻辑,“脆弱的免疫系统”成为一个弱点,只有通过教育,那些“可矫正”但误入歧途的年轻人才能被治愈,让人联想到香港也会出现新疆式的某种思想再教育的可怕前景。不过,中国七年前在香港引入德育及国民教育科的尝试,在大规模学生抗议后还是失败了。
These disease metaphors underline Beijing’s view of Hong Kong’s protest movement as a threat to its body politic, with ideological infection posing an existential danger to the Chinese Communist Party. Such discourse could prefigure new restrictions on speech in Hong Kong, a possibility that seems to be inching incrementally closer. An injunction that has been introduced to protect Hong Kong police officers from “doxxing” — releasing their personal details online — has been criticized as overly broad, since it also prohibits “harassing, threatening, pestering or interfering” with the police. Such a law could even technically outlaw singing protest songs about the police. More worrying, one adviser to Hong Kong’s government has already warned that an internet ban has not been ruled out.
这些疾病隐喻凸显了北京对香港抗议运动的看法,认为它是对国家的威胁,意识形态的感染给中共带来了生存危机。此种说法,可能预示香港会出现新的言论管制,而这种可能性似乎正在逐渐逼近。一项保护警察不被“人肉搜索”——即在网上公布他们的个人信息——的禁令被批评管得太宽,因为它还禁止对警察进行“恐吓、骚扰、威胁或烦扰”。它甚至可以在法律层面上禁止人们唱关于警察的抗议歌曲。更令人担忧的是,一位香港政府顾问警告,尚未排除断网的可能性。
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As the arrests in Hong Kong mount, to around 4,500, the language from Ms. Lam, the unpopular chief executive, is hardening as well. In August, she lay the blame for the protests on a small minority with “no stake in society.” Two weeks ago, she denounced the “rioters” as “enemies of the people.” This phrase, alien in Hong Kong, comes straight from the Communist Party lexicon. Chairman Mao once decreed that “enemies of the people” do not actually belong to the category of people. They are, effectively, nonpeople.
随着香港被捕人数增加到4500人左右,林郑月娥这位不受欢迎的行政长官言辞也变得强硬起来。8月,她将抗议归咎于一小部分“与社会无份”的人。两周前,她谴责“暴徒”是“人民的敌人”。这种直接来源于共产党的语汇对香港来说是陌生的。毛主席曾号令,“人民的敌人”不属于人民的范畴,他们实际上不是人。
The dehumanization of Hong Kong’s protesters has been underway for months. In July, when a pro-Beijing legislator, Junius Ho, complained that his parents’ graves had been defaced, a senior police officer, John Tse Chun-chung, said the vandalism was done not by humans but by “cockroaches.” Since then, state media has carried cartoons depicting activists as cockroaches, which has become a term of abuse by the police. A week ago, video emerged on social media of police officers talking about “killing cockroaches.” This language — the rhetoric of genocide — carries an implicit threat for protesters.
对香港抗议者的非人化已经持续了数月。7月,当亲北京议员何君尧控诉父母的坟墓遭到毁坏,香港高级警务人员谢振中称破坏者不是人,而是“蟑螂”。在那以后,官媒就开始用漫画把抗议者描绘成蟑螂,这个词也已经成为警方的辱骂用语。一周前,社交媒体上出现了一段警察谈论“杀死蟑螂”的视频,这样的种族灭绝言论对抗议者来说,是一种暗含的威胁。
The protesters’ language, too, has become much harsher; “dogs” and “triads” — a reference to Hong Kong’s feared criminal syndicates — are among the few printable epithets used against the police. Cantonese is famously sweary, and profane graffiti now spackles Hong Kong’s streets, including provocative terms like “Chinazi,” a portmanteau comparing today’s China to Nazi Germany.
抗议者的措辞也变得更加激烈,“狗”与“三合会”——这原指香港令人畏惧的犯罪集团——是少数几个可刊印的对警察的蔑称。广东话众所周知脏话很多,而这些粗口涂鸦如今遍布香港大街小巷,比如“赤纳粹(Chinazi)”这样煽动性的词汇,把今日中国和纳粹德国合在了一起。
As the protest movement has widened its focus — from one specific law to police brutality and Hong Kong’s own political future — its slogans, too, have changed. A subversive rallying call that was once considered a fringe idea has become a clarion call: “Retake Hong Kong, Revolution of Our Times!” The phrase was coined by Edward Leung, a pro-independence politician who is serving a six-year jail sentence for his role in a 2016 street skirmish that became known as the Fishball Revolution. Its meaning is ambiguous, but officials are publicly denouncing it as a challenge to national sovereignty.
随着抗议活动焦点的扩大——从抗议一项具体的法律,到抗议警察暴行和香港自身的政治前途——其口号也发生了改变。一个曾被认为是边缘思想的颠覆性集会口号,如今变成了响亮的号角:“光复香港,时代革命!”这一口号由梁天琦提出,他是支持香港独立的政治人物,因在2016年参与被称为“鱼蛋革命”的街头冲突而被判六年监禁。它的含义模棱两可,但官员们公开谴责它是对国家主权的挑战。
But Beijing is not trying to counter the protesters slogan for slogan. Its strategy is much broader. Earlier this year, China harnessed Twitter and Facebook to run state-backed disinformation campaigns, directed mainly at overseas Chinese and Hong Kongers, to frame the protests as a separatist plot aimed at undermining China’s territorial integrity. In October, having laid that groundwork for public support, Beijing said that it was planning a “national security” solution in Hong Kong, paired with ideological education. It’s unclear how severe those measures will be, butPresident Xi Jinping has warned that anyone attempting to split China will face “crushed bodies and shattered bones.” The violence of his language leaves little space for compromise or compassion.
但北京并不打算用口号对抗议者以牙还牙。它的战略布局要宽泛得多。今年早些时候,中国利用Twitter和Facebook开展了政府支持的虚假信息宣传,主要针对海外华人和香港人,将抗议活动定性为旨在破坏中国领土完整的分裂主义阴谋。10月,在获取公众支持的基础后,北京当局称将在香港推出“国家安全”计划,与意识形态教育相结合。目前还不清楚这些措施的力度,但国家主席习近平已经警示称,任何企图在中国搞分裂的人“结果只能是粉身碎骨”。他的言语充满暴力,几乎没有留下妥协或同情的余地。