Are Li Ka Shing’s newspaper advertisements meant to be cryptic? #HongKongProtest

 

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Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing urges love in response to growing protests

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong’s richest man, Li Ka-shing, urged people to “love China, love Hong Kong and love yourself” on Friday in his first public comments on the escalating pro-democracy protests that have disrupted the city for weeks and challenged China.

Li’s message in front-page advertisements in major newspapers in the Asian financial hub urged the public to “cease the anger with love” and “stop the violence”. The advertisements were signed “a Hong Kong citizen Li Ka-shing”.

Ten weeks of confrontations between police and protesters have plunged Hong Kong into its worst crisis since it reverted from British to Chinese rule in 1997, and have presented the biggest popular challenge to Chinese President Xi Jingping since he came to power in 2012.

China has likened the increasingly violent protests to terrorism and warned it could use force to quell them, as U.S. President Donald Trump urged Xi meet protesters to defuse the tension.

More mass demonstrations are expected through the weekend. Police tactics against protesters have been hardening and Li, 91, warned that “the best cause can lead to the worst results”.

More than 700 people have been arrested since the protests began in June, and tear gas has frequently been used by police in attempts to disperse protests across the city.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-hongkong-protests-likashing/hong-kong-tycoon-li-ka-shing-urges-love-not-violence-in-first-protest-comments-idUSKCN1V606U

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Hong Kong business leader Li Ka-shing invokes poetry in call for end to protests and violence

  • The 91-year-old publishes a statement in Hong Kong newspapers that ‘the melon of Huangtai cannot bear the picking again’
  • The phrase, a reference to a Tang dynasty poem, is used to suggest something has suffered so much that any further attack would completely ruin it

The message may have seemed cryptic to many, but it is rich in meaning and open to interpretation. It is also not the first time that Li – nicknamed the Superman for his Midas touch – has used the phrase.

In fact, this has become his favourite line in addressing contentious political issues. The last time Li, the city’s most influential businessman, used the line was in 2016, when he was asked whether then-Hong Kong chief executive Leung Chun-ying would run for a second term. Leung did not enter the race in the end.
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The phrase – derived from a Tang dynasty poem – means that something has suffered so much that any further attack would completely ruin it.

The seemingly cryptic advert placed by Li Ka-shing, which read: “The melon of Huangtai cannot bear the picking again.” Photo: SCMP
The seemingly cryptic advert placed by Li Ka-shing, which read: “The melon of Huangtai cannot bear the picking again.” Photo: SCMP

Li issued a statement to media on Friday through his spokesman, who said Li had shared his thoughts because he believed Hong Kong’s prosperity hinged on the principle of “one country, two systems”.

He said the tycoon believed the most pressing issue for the city was to stop the violence and maintain the rule of law.
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“The road to hell is often paved with good intentions,” the spokesman quoted Li as saying. “We need to be mindful of unintended consequences.”
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He said Li believed violence in thought and actions should not be the way to achieve any vision, “because they misrepresent”.
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“We need to cherish ourselves, our identity as Chinese and a Hong Kong citizen, just as we treasure freedom, empathy and rule of law,” Li’s statement said.
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On the surface, Li’s reference to the melon of Huangtai seemed an apt description of Hong Kong, torn by violence and radical views.
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But it also carries another layer of meaning.
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The poem was written by Li Xian, the crown prince of the Tang dynasty who lived between 654 and 684AD.
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The sixth son of emperor Gaozong and the second son of the legendary empress Wu Zetian, Li Xian was known as an intelligent and capable prince. As his brothers fell one by one in a Byzantine court intrigue, he was installed as the crown prince and the heir apparent.
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But his ambitious mother concentrated all of the power in her hands as her ailing husband succumbed to illness. She became suspicious of Li Xian and put him under house arrest.
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In desperation, Li wrote the poem as a subtle protest to his mother.
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Here is a rough translation:

Growing melons beneath Huangtai,

Hanging heavily, many grow ripe,

Pick one, the others will be fine,

Pick two, fewer are left on the vine,

If you want to get yet another one,

That’s where we must draw the line,

For if there is any more reaping,

You will end up with an empty vine.

 

The prince’s lament did not move his mother. The empress accused Li Xian of treason and he was sent into exile. In 684, shortly after his father’s death, empress Wu forced her son to commit suicide.
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The melon of Huangtai, however, became a popular expression in Chinese culture, symbolising suffering in the face of persecution.

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