It was a presentation given by a delegation from China. For the last couple of days, the delegation of about twenty people had caught the attention of everybody by its high profile presence, with banners and a film crew doing shooting, reporting, interviewing and all that. I supposed that with China gaining more and more prominence on the international stage, the organisers realised that it was only appropriate that the group be given some air time. After all, it was suggested that China might bid to host the congress in 2010.
After attending the presentation and having observed the activities of the delegation in those few days, I couldn't help feeling that the whole thing was a futile affair. As is the case in other international occasions, be it sports, culture, art or politics, the country is desperately trying to show the world that it is a great, honourable nation worthy of respect. But the sad truth is that it is still so out of touch with the standards and values of the civilised world that the sheer propaganda attempts, coupled with some eyebrow-raising behaviours at times, produce exactly the opposite effects as what are intended, and those who are engaged in the game are fooling nobody but themselves. Seeing the poker-faced, Putonghua-speaking woman reading a long speech extolling the merits and historical significance of Chinese vegetarianism stretching back to as far as 2000 BC, with an interpreter standing beside her reminded me so much of the countless other equally exaggerated but soulless public speeches made by Chinese leaders and officials. It also reminded me of what Prince Charles said in his diary entries about his feelings towards the show put on by the Chinese in the 1997 handover ceremony: the "Great Chinese Takeaway", "appalling old waxworks", an "awful Soviet-style" performance, "propaganda". It was most unfortunate that such words were just as applicable here. Also, after all that was said and done, the few people I had spoken to in the congress knew only too well that it's a country in which dogs and cats are eaten, and I was not ashamed to tell them that in fact we have a saying in Cantonese that "anything with its back facing the sky can be eaten" and that effectively excludes only human beings.
(I was to learn later that the delegation's participation in the congress, as well as some of the messages in the presentation, was reported in a China Daily article that can be accessed online at http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/cndy/2006-09/14/content_688454.htm.)