Cosmopolitanism, civil disobedience and the global legacy of Martin Luther King

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Organised by the Department of Cultural Studies, Lingnan University; Co-organised by Hong Kong Arts Centre

Event Title

Lingnan University 50th Anniversary Lecture Series (2017-2018) : Inter-disciplinary Lectures on Culture and Society x HKAC Art Shop Inspiration Series

Document Type

Public Lecture




6:45 p.m. -- 8:30 p.m.


Eric Hotung Studio, Hong Kong Arts Centre (2 Harbour Road, Wan Chai)


Through the 19th century, the motor of China’s geopolitical change shifted from Eurasia to its southern coast. The impact of the West on China, while resulting in disastrous territorial concessions, also gave rise to a Southern Cosmopolitanism, with Guangdong native, Kang Youwei, becoming a cutting edge figure. 120 years ago, Kang led the first major drive to modernize China in the ill-fated Hundred Days Reform. Three years earlier, in 1895, he organized Gongche Shangshu, the first Chinese “student movement” to petition the royal court for political reform. For many, this activist lineage’s latest manifestation was the Umbrella Movement, Hong Kong’s 79-day Occupy demonstration for universal suffrage in 2014. Following the Arab Spring and a worldwide economic justice movement spearheaded by Occupy Wall Street, the Umbrella Movement originated as a civil disobedience campaign called “Occupy Central with Love and Peace.” One crucial document that inspired Benny Tai, law professor and conceiver of Occupy Central, is Martin Luther King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” (1963). The Occupy campaign used the “Birmingham” essay as the foundation for an outstanding civic education initiative drawing upon a global legacy evolved from Thoreau and Gandhi. Evans Chan, New York-based film critic and director of “Raise the Umbrellas” (2016/2018) and acclaimed documentaries about Kang Youwei, explores this early stage of the Umbrella Movement to survey the continuing relevance of King’s legacy in the US, Hong Kong, and the world today.


Born in Guangdong and grew up in Macau and Hong Kong, Evans Chan is an internationally renowned critic, librettist, playwright, and filmmaker. He received his Master’s degree from the New School for Social Research in New York and PhD in Screen Culture at Northwestern University, USA. Currently based in New York, Chan is one of Hong Kong’s leading independent filmmakers. His award-winning films have been shown at the Berlin, Rotterdam, London, Moscow, Vancouver, San Francisco and Taiwan film festivals, among others. In his dramatic and documentary films Chan explores the challenges confronting Hong Kong before and after its return to Chinese rule in 1997. To Liv(e) (1991) was listed as one of the 100 Greatest Hong Kong Films by Time Out Magazine in Hong Kong. Raise the Umbrellas (2016–2018) documents the 79-day massive democratic protests known as the Umbrella Movement in 2014. As a playwright, Chan developed in 2015 his award-winning film Datong: The Great Society (2011) into the libretto as Datong: The Chinese Utopia, which was presented by the Hong Kong Arts Festival and staged in London in 2017. Chan is also a writer whose work has appeared in many Chinese and English publications. His English-language play, adapted from Chinese writer Eileen Chang’s novel Naked Earth, was staged at New York’s Bank Street Theater.


To Liv(e) (1992), Crossings (1994), Journey to Beijing (1998), Adeus Macau (2000), The Map of Sex and Love (2001), Bauhinia (2002), The Life and Times of Wu Zhongxian (2002), Sorceress of the New Piano: The Artistry of Margaret Leng Tan (2004), Makrokosmos I & II (2004), The Maverick Piano (2007), Datong: The Great Society (2011), Two or Three Things About Kang Youwei (2012), The Rose of the Name: Writing Hong Kong (2014), Raise the Umbrellas (2016), Death in Montmartre (2017).


Leo Ou-fan Lee is currently the Sin Wai Kin Professor of Chinese Culture at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. He received his Ph. D. degree from Harvard in 1970 and has taught at Harvard, UCLA, Chicago, Indiana, and Princeton Universities in the United States, as well as the University of Hong Kong and the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology as visiting professor. His scholarly publications in English include: "Shanghai Modern: The Flowering of a New Form of Urban Culture, 1930-1945" (Harvard University Press, 1999), "Voices from the Iron House: A Study of Lu Xun" (Indiana University Press, 1987), "The Romantic Generation of Modern Chinese Writers" (Harvard, 1973), "City between Worlds: My Hong Kong" (Harvard University Press, 2008), and "Musings: Reading Hong Kong, China and the World" (Hong Kong: Muse Books, 2011). In Hong Kong, he is known as both a scholar and cultural critic and has published more than 20 books in Chinese across a wide spectrum of subjects: literature, Hong Kong culture, film, classic music, and architecture.


Stephen Ching-kiu Chan is Professor of Cultural Studies at Lingnan University. He is the current Chair of the international Association for Cultural Studies, and the Chair of Board of Directors, The House of Hong Kong Literature.

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Recommended Citation

Chan, E., & Lee, L. O.-f. (2018). Cosmopolitanism, civil disobedience and the global legacy of Martin Luther King [Video podcast]. Retrieved from