Teresa Kok’s Chunjie & the Chinese
Yi people, top; Han old style, middle; Han new style, below.
Is Teresa Racist?
Often in China and occasionally in Taiwan and Hong Kong, the question that is directed at the Malaysian Chinese goes as follows: “So you’re 马来人?” Or simply 马来. In pinyin, the hanyu phrases read, respectively, as malairen and malai, either of which means Malay.
On nationality terms the description is correct — malairen being short form for Malaysian — but incorrect ethnically. Umno and Anglophilia Malays, the Malaiyoos, would like the term to work on both counts, nationality and ethnic, and we shall return shortly to this issue that’s at the heart of the Teresa Kok chunjie or CNY video. DAP’s Hannah Yeoh (herself an Anglophile and Christian to boot) and Lim Kit Siang’s Malaysian First would, on the other hand, disown both; they being non-existent; there are no Chinese or Malays, only Malaysians. It reads in pinyin as malaixiya, adding the suffix ‘xiya’ to ‘malai‘.
Here’s the problem with the terminologies: it isn’t in how Malaysians of different stock see themselves, which is after all subjective; to each his own. Rather it is how others, the foreign nationals, see Malaysians. Why? Why do the Chinese (in China) see a compatriot Chinese as Malay? This question is to suggest that they tended to subsume ethnicity into nationality or, in another phrasing, ethnicity is a matter of nationality. Hence, Han Chinese (98 percent of China’s population) and the Yi peoples of Yunnan and the Miao of Sichuan are Chinese in nationality and racial terms, but they are culturally different. This means that, in China, culture is altogether a different thing from ethnicity although in Malaysia the terms ethnicity and culture are synonymous: Lim Kit Siang (also DAP) is Chinese culture and Najib Razak (Umno) is Malay culture.
A Han Chinese is a Chinese by culture and only different from the Yi people by some facets of their cultures — that is, differing in mundane things as village customs, diet and spoken language — but not in other, fundamental ways. Han Chinese and the Yi would therefore share common attributes which are Confucianist in outlook, upbringing, and in Daoist world view; for example, the family comes first, land is important, proper, well-defined social etiquette is indispensable, and hierarchical customs are prevalent and the same across China.
One conclusion to be drawn from this comparison says that China’s way of viewing peoples, which separates ethnics and culture and nationality, is realistic in its root form and therefore more accurate than it is in Malaysia. Hannah and Kit Siang may be Chinese ethnically (they may even speak hanyu and observe chunjie), but their sensibilities are entirely western, the product of the La Salle schools, the Bible, PPSMI, Reuters and the BBC, any of which would extol the English way of life, its god and Christianity in particular. This is not without a counter-effect because, if the West is the preferred way of life, something else, Confucianism and Daoism in the Kit Siang case, has to give way.
Petra Kamarudin exemplifies this western acculturation, the conversion from Malaysian to English, when he, on account of a morality principle, refused to pay off a policeman to get his son out of lockup. On the contrary, he bragged about it to Malaysiakini, Pakatan’s mouthpiece and expert apologist, inferring inter alia that his western morality, that is zero corruption, is greater than his paternal obligation to his son, which is also Confucianist. Hannah’s Christianity calls this conversion, the rejection of an existing set of values for another set as being ‘born again‘; it’s a new life wherein the existing one is spurned, made to look inferior and so spit out.
This explains why, on the first anniversary of Shaariibuugiin Altantuyaa’s death by murder, Tian Chua, ethnically Chinese but like Hannah also an Anglophile, had no problem conducting a public ritual display of invoking the dead woman’s memory, and that was complete with joss sticks and offerings. Tian Chua was all too willing to abuse a Sino-Buddhist ritual for a political cause even though Buddhists don’t do such things. The latter eschew all earthly ambitions and symbols, but if it has to be done then the ritual is held in complete privacy usually at home because invoking somebody’s memory is an intensely personal affair.
Likewise Teresa Kok has no qualms invoking chunjie (CNY), feng shui, shengxiao 生肖 (of which the Year of the Horse is a part) so as to mock and ridicule DAP’s political opponents (who are not only the Malays). This suggests Teresa, like Tian Chua, rejects virtually all vital facets of Chinese culture, think they are voodoo practices that have no place in her Christian life, political or personal, hence fair game for exploitation. Recall, she did not use the day of Christmas to mock the Malays or Najib Razak because Christmas to her is a solemn occasion, a sanctity not to be misused.
Although Teresa’s video presentation might have surprised the party’s heathen rank and file or her constituents — it might instead earn her praise for so-called ‘creativity’ — it follows closely the exploitation of Chinese traditions for a political end by DAP senior echelon, most of who reject Chinese manners and way of life in preference for a western one. Hannah Yeoh is an example. Instead of staying in bed for post natal care or to nurse her six-day-old infant, as Chinese custom would dictate, she was willing to toss out and launder Shay Adora’s diapers in public to score a political and a morality point that the civil service under the Umno government are all racist. When, in countering those who had criticized her clip, Teresa says “we are better than that“, she means exactly it: the DAP leaders with their English Christian ways are morally superior to others, whether Chinese or Melayu.
The above is, as they say, where Teresa comes from in making the clip. Now to her intent….
On accusations she had incited racial hatred against Malays, Teresa’s primary defense, something repeated by Kit Siang, is that of language: the parody had employed Mandarin (i.e. hanyu putonghua) and the Cantonese dialect, although English subtitles were used. (This is for the obvious reason she wanted to rope in the non-Mandarin speaking Chinese, such as Hannah Yeoh and Tian Chua, and they’re numerous.) Such a defense is both curious and disingenuous because, although the contents of the parody are a mimicry on Malaysian hence Umno Malay governance, the parody is on the Chinese, mimicking their chunjie culture and ridiculing feng shui. If she had used, say, English, the parody would fail completely because only in Mandarin (which she calls ‘tiong hua‘; see clip below) can she bring to the fore her mockery of the Malays.
Malai 马来 is, after all, the only phonetic transliteration of the word Malay, just as Malaysia is phonetically rendered in hanyu pinyin as malaixiya written 马来西亚, in literal translation horse/come/west/ya. (Ya is phonetic used as a part of compound words like Asia or yazhou 亚洲.) Any hanyu-conversant or Cantonese-conversant person cannot help but associate malai to the Malays. No matter how much Teresa twists her tongue to escape possible prosecution, malai remains, as it is understood in Malaysia, an ethnic term that refers to Malaysia as a country but not the Malaysian public or nationality. Trying to wriggle herself out of a spot, she gave malai 马来 its conflated and literal translation ‘horse comes’. But, other than coincidence with the Chinese zodiac Year of the Horse, the phrase is rarely, if ever, used. For reference to this lunar new year she could just as well use, without controversy, ma nian written 马年 or ‘horse year’.
All this leaves one question to be answered: what did she say of the Malays or of Malaysia that might be considered seditious? Of Malaysia, its ringgit is cheap, inflation is galloping away, and crime is rampant, all re-hatched stories. Of Malays, the incriminating words are these 马来犀利啊, in pinyin ‘malai xili a!’ Google’s translation: ‘Malaysia is sharp’. Teresa’s translation: Kuda datang hebat. Common meaning translation: Malays are gungho.
In the last is the catch because Teresa rendered xili 犀利 in Cantonese (malai saile ah!), adding the exclamation 啊 (a!), both for dramatic effect. Hiding behind the Chinese zodiac Year of the Horse, the phrase malai saile ah! was evidently intended as sarcasm with an opposite meaning — the Malay government is useless — because what flows from the phrase clearly backs up a malice in the intention: the ringgit’s depreciation, galloping higher prices and so on. Hence, the opposite of saile ah! — that is, trashy — can only elicit its effect if the preceding phrase malai refers to Malays and not to the noun-verb, ‘horse comes’, which is instead her claim.
Teresa was evidently mischievous in her chunjie parody, but was she malevolent with the intent to cause racial animosity? In other words, did she intent to wish hatred towards Malay?
Because the question stems from a (bad, white man’s) law, the answer is as evasive as it is elusive: on the one part, it depends on who feels injured and, on the other, it is so difficult to verify ‘intent’, unless Teresa admits to it. Chinese (but not Anglophiles) ought to be injured because here is a Christian conducting a travesty of Chinese culture which, ordinarily, no Chinese would commit to. Yet few Chinese are offended. They may dislike it but they (unlike Christian Spain) won’t burn her on the stake; Chinese culture is far, far more tolerant than Teresa’s Christianity. Chunjie is also a joyous time for celebration, yet here is a Seputeh DAP Christian witch who turns it into a Festival of Mockery and then is shielded by the like of Steven Gan and N Surendran, all Anglophiles pretending in their CNY wishes for peace and harmony among peoples.
Malays? Only they alone can sort out their own emotions….
Two paradoxes arise. (a) Although Chinese culture is abused, the Chinese, as represented by Teresa and her portrayal of Chinese culture, are interpreted as spitting at Malays. The Christians win. (b) Although the Malays are not the only target of Teresa’s spite, the Malays retaliate which, in turn, are interpreted by the Chinese as touchy and malicious. The DAP wins.
Putar belit? Really? 谁扭曲, 郭素沁？
If Teresa is guilty of racism, Ridhuan Tee, below, would be equally guilty, a man who has made anti-Chinese polemics and racism into an academic specialization and a mini industry (Peter Petra the Piper is the online MT promoter).
Believing Chinese culture to be inferior to Islam, Ridhuan launders his racism with virtual impunity because of his use of the Malay language, his protection by the Malay establishment and his Islamic credentials and because his target, Chinese group is easy to pick on and can’t get even with him — and that he knows.
Teresa, on the other hand, would abuse her Chinese MP position and background to ridicule Chinese traditions as voodoo (by playing on chunjie or CNY; playing on feng shui culture; playing on the Chinese shengxiao 生 肖 or Chinese zodiac, the Year of the Horse) and so exploiting Chinese ways to mock Malay power as superior in spite of the economic record in recent years (the ringgit, inflation, crime, etc). After which, the Malaiyoos would attack the Chinese in revenge; Chandra Muzaffar’s peace plan would be shot to pieces, never mind its good intentions, because he attributes way too much to economic causes for inter-ethnic harmony rather than the other way around.
In this way, slicing and dicing ethnicity, DAP politics, mirroring Mahathir politics, would triumph in a land that its honcho Lim Kit Siang, an Anglophile like Teresa, says should eschew race politics. Kit Siang’s duplicity is incredulous: promoting Malaysian First while openly backing his underlings to offend anything and everything Malaysian: Chinese customs, the malai word, even the hapless ringgit. All this explains why Ridhuan, Teresa and Kit Siang (count in their apologists Steven Gan, Josh Hong, KTemoc) are alike in countless ways although their names differ linguistically and all, according to Malays, are Chinese.
Ridhuan and Teresa So Sim: two names, two religions, two languages, one bigotry.