by Heber Huang and Sven Sun

PRAGUE,Czech Republic– Zdeněk Chaloupka walks along the Na můstku Street, a main shopping district in Prague, Czech Republic. He ascends winding staircases, bypasses a casino, and goes ahead to the Museum of Communism.

The museum is located around 600 meters away from the Wenceslas Square, which witnesses the memorial moment that nearly 200,000 Czechs gathered here to celebrate the peaceful overthrow of the communist regime in November 1989.

A statute of Vladimir Lenin stands by a window at the entrance of the museum with a scarlet Soviet-Russian flag in the left hand. A few meters away is a scene reproducing an old classroom where many textbooks are placed on a desk and a poem on the blackboard extols the virtues of tractors.

Chaloupka, a 24-year-old filmmaker on his first journey in the museum, says he is very interested in the communism region and wants to make a film about it. However, unlike Chaloupka, not every Czech is willing to recall that period of time, let alone creating or visiting a museum with such a theme.

Glenn Spicker, the owner of the museum, came from the US and opened the museum in 2001. It is the first of the kind that focuses on Czech’s history of communism. Spicker says when he had the idea, his friends in Prague all laughed at it. “It’s quite ironic, isn’t it?” he says, “An America from a capitalism country built a museum of communism.”

Now the museum has become a very popular scenic spot where many tourists go while local people are less interested in it, said Spicker.

Olga, a Czech who only wants to give her first name pays her first visit to Prague. She drags her English boyfriend to the museum. She says the only reason she comes to the museum is that she wants her boyfriend to know more about what happened when communism regime dominated across her country.

Iva Freyova, another Czech working in Prague showed her friends from overseas to the museum four years ago because they wanted to see what communism was like. However, Freyova says she never thought about going there on her won to learn the history of her own country. There was no need to go there to find more, she says.

“My parents may talk about communism sometimes,” Freyova says, “But I don’t talk with my friends about this topic frequently. We are not interested in it.”

 

 

 

Pulitzer Winner: Reporting Dissents Helps Seek Justice

By Heber Huang

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Clifford J. Levy interacts with journalism students in a class-sharing lecture.

HONG KONG–Journalists’ reports on the dissents can help expose unfairness as a way to seek social justice, a two-time Pulitzer winner said in a Hong Kong university on Thursday.

Clifford J. Levy, a Pulitzer winner and New York Times editor talked about his experiences of writing for the people suffering from the corruption and impunity of Russian government in a lecture to journalism students.”The important thing you need to keep in mind when covering a dissent is,” he said,” that it gives a window and a lens to look at the society.”

Levy referred to one of his reports in 2010, which helped the release of a village’s mayor in Russia after a nearly two-year unjustifiable imprisonment for holding against the security services. Interviewing the dissenters to reveal the major issues that should be concerned could help them get justice, he said.

However, Levy pointed out that a foreign correspondent had the advantage of reporting sensitive issues over local journalists. A local journalist might get beaten up or thrown into prison for reporting while the worst thing that could happen to a foreign correspondent is getting kicked out of the country, he said.

In Levy’s winning stories, a local Russian journalist, Mikhail Beketov was battered by the undercover policemen and lost three fingers for writing stories about officials’ secret profiting from a highway project in 2010. Local journalists faced more dangers when covering such issues, he said.

Levy spent five years in Russia writing for human rights and freedom of speech. His series of reports with his Times colleague Ellen Barry, “Above the Law” led to his second Pulitzer Prize in 2010.

The Club for Media Professionals

by Heber Huang

HONG KONG–The Foreign Correspondents’ Club (FCC) is a hot spot for media professionals around the globe. It is located in Central, Hong Kong. The cream building with stripes of red bricks and a line of round glass windows on the top stands out from the surrounding modern skyscrapers, betraying its age back to the colonial time.

Inside the building, a spiral stone staircase with wooden rails and black-painted iron posts faces the entrance. It leads up to the upper floor where the Main Dining Room and Chinese Restaurants stand. It also goes down to the basement, ending with Bert’s Bar on the right and the Health Club and Workroom on the left.ImageThe staircase winds up with walls decorated with paintings nearby. 

As the heart of the club, the Main Bar is on the ground floor linked by the staircase. At the center, a big bar counter displays all kinds of booze, around which many small dining tables stand. There is a gallery wall at the far end of the bar area, where the pictures are renewed every month.ImageThe gallery wall displays photographers’ works.

The Main Dining Room takes up most of the upper floor. There’s a small bar counter at the entrance. And tables spread in a natural but orderly way all over the room. On the right-hand of the room is a terrace with glass ceilings up high. Dining at the terrace in the evening may be quite romantic with neon lighting the night above.ImageSpeakers stand at the higher stage if there is a meeting or press conference at the Main Dining Room.

Down there in the basement is a jazz bar called Bert’s Bar which is named after the late jazz-piano-player and foreign correspondent Bert Okuley. There are still live Jazz performances at random nights a week at the bar. At the opposite of Bert’s Bar is the Health Club which consists of a gym, changing rooms and a spa. Next to the Health Club is Workroom where journalists can work on their stories with the free computers.ImageThe entrance of Bert’s Bar with the blue-neon B.

According to SK Witcher, who is a senior editor with South China Morning Post, the FCC was built in mainland China and then was relocated in Hong Kong after 1949. It was still one of the most popular correspondents’ clubs on earth, she said.

International Media Salon:Two Female Writers

by Heber Huang

HONG KONG–Two female writers came to Hong Kong Baptist University to talk about writing and social activism in South Asia today.

It was a one-hour writers–to-writers-to-be talk from Bina Shah and Meena Kandasamy, who both shared their unique experiences as professional writers with journalism students on campus.

Bina Shah, a fiction writer from Karachi Pakistan referred to the tragedy of Malala Yousufzai, who was shot by Taliban members due to voicing for children’s education in Pakistan, to show that women issues were still a big concern there.

ImageBina Shah is listening to the questions from the journalism students. 

According to Shah, writing cannot stand alone without interests in one field. Her interests in gender issues, especially female equality and education in Pakistan propelled her to keep on writing. When talking about writing skills, she said, “Instead of being the slave to writing techniques, let the techniques work for you.”

The other writer and also an activist, Meena Kandasamy talked more about being an activist and writing as one in India, which she said was the second largest democratic country but media was still used as a propaganda tool.

Kandasamy said although she was an activist but she never wanted to be a politician, who would compromise a lot. As a writer, she could never worry about any scandal and hit on anyone she wanted, she said.

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Meena Kandasamy is talking about her perspectives towards politics in India.

Masked Life

by Heber Huang

HONG KONG–After cram school classes, the 10-year-old gets back home, where at the time, her father is mopping the floor, trying to burnish every corner as usual. He picks up the dirty uniforms she tosses on the bed and washes them by hand. At bedtime, after tucking her in, he lies down beside her, sleeping on his desperation.

The father, who doesn’t want to give his full name because his biggest concern is the exposure of his identity, is a Chinese insurance agent in his early 40s in Hong Kong. He does really well in insuring his customers while he is unable to insure his marriage due to the lack of the most important clause–love.

Marriage to him is what masks to faces. It is used to cover up his real identity as a homosexual. Under the mask is a face wrinkled by worry and numbed by the so-called normal life.

Not until his early 20s has the father realized he is sexually attracted to good-looking men. “That’s lust.” he said, “I can’t help it.”

Burdened by the pressure from the straight-dominated world and the overwhelming expectation of his parents, he finally gave up to the heterosexual marriage with his wife 12 years ago. Then they had a daughter who is the only bond of the family now. “I don’t have feelings for my wife at all.” He said, “I feel kind of regretted about my marriage.”

As Hong Kong pop-star Anthony Wang and the newly elected legislator Raymond Chan came out to the public respectively early this year, homosexual has no longer been a tabooed topic here. But it’s still not easy for some ordinary people to show who they really are. According to the Hong Kong LGBT Climate Survey 2011-12 conducted by the University of Hong Kong, 97% of the people surveyed know what “gay” means and 58% adopt an accepting attitude. However, Hong Kong, a relatively gay-friendly region, still holds about 22% not accepting the minority group. To conform to the society, some in the group resort to mixed-orientation marriage as a cover-up as the father in question does here.

Now the father and his wife are separated in two different rooms under the same roof for almost five years while they’ve never intended to file a divorce for the sake of their daughter and unpaid-off mortgage loans. Towards his life, he said, “I’m left with no choices.”

Golden Horse Awards Winner Talks in HKBU

by Heber Huang

Hong Kong–Cheers and claps filled the room as Simon Yam, a Hong Kong actor born in 50s, came in. His smiling eyes showed no clue of aging but charm. Hundreds of students and teaching staff took full advantage of the space in Chapel on HSH campus to embrace the advent of the 29th Golden Horse Awards best actor.

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Hundreds of students and staff members attended the seminar

On time at 2 p.m., Oct. 5, Yam showed himself and started the seminar with a “same-nickname-with-Andy Lau” joke. In spite of 35-year acting experiences, Simon condensed his talk into two hours with almost half of the time interacting with the students.

He mainly talked about the inspiration from his performances in more than 200 movies and cooperation with different directors. He said he liked acting and he insisted on what he liked. “I prefer movies focusing on people to 3D feasts for eyes” he said, “because the technology distracts story-telling while I always enjoy the ones that show real people’s life.”

He said to be a good actor didn’t mean skillful performances.

“The authentic expression of the character speaks louder than any good acting. So when building a character, you need to see through his eye and think through his mind. And putting yourself into his upbringings is the most direct approach.”

The unique part of Yam led to his greatness in acting. Being a famous star didn’t add to his arrogance but his honesty and sensitiveness. He encouraged directors-to-be present and promised his help if necessary. The way he talked felt like he was from next door rather than the unreachable big screen.

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“V”gesture indicated ” I need to go to the restroom”. Yam joked during the interval.

 

A Hairdresser In Hong Kong

by Heber Huang

Hong Kong–Rain Pun, a 25-year-old man with a pimply face and yellow brown hair, practices as a hairdresser for almost 5 years. And now he works in Clear Hair Salon in Sha Tin. Sometimes he has to serve up to 20 customers a day while sometimes he gets only one.“Unlike the white-collar workers,” he said, “I don’t have regular weekends.”

After high school, he found more interests in cutting and styling than receiving higher education. So he then started his career by washing customers’ hair at 15. During the first five years, he watched and learned how to cut, and now he makes a living out of cutting.

In recent 2 years, he found it more fun to cut because people in Hong Kong finally can accept an edgy look and a trendy hairstyle. He thinks Japan is where the symbol of fashion lies while Hong Kong is always in a slower pace to catch up with the trend. Instead of rushing to cut, he focuses more on thinking how to cut. Bored by doing the routine, he is really intrigued by cutting to his thoughts. “The most tired part of me is always my brain,” he said. “When cutting hair, I cannot stop thinking.”

Although raised in Hong Kong, thanks to his mother, a Taiwanese, he speaks great mandarin. He used to live in Taipei for a year. “In Hong Kong, you can only dance and sing karaoke in the spare time,” he said. “But Taiwan is a place where you’ve got more room for thinking.”

 He likes his life right now and meanwhile he is waiting for a right timing to open up his own shop. “It takes much more than money to open up a shop,” he said.

He hopes that day can come. Since life right now is content, he thinks there is no need to rush to the next phase.