ABSTRACT

In the smoke-filled meeting room of the two-storey village council complex in Wang Toi Shan, one of the best known walled villages in Hong Kong, 45 men of Hakka origin are holding their customary village council meeting; an activity that is still dominated by men and from which the women in the village are excluded. The air conditioners on the first floor are humming at full throttle and the doors of the balcony are wide open to facilitate villagers going out to smoke. The attendees have split themselves up and sit at two adjacent tables. Some sit there and whisper into the ears of their neighbours. Others pace the floor purposelessly. Some walk across the room to have a word or two with other villagers. They then take the microphones and start to voice their opinions loudly. Sometimes they scream at each other in Hakka dialect, incomprehensible to me as a Hong Kong resident and speaker of Cantonese. At other times, they shout in Cantonese. Whenever the argument becomes heated, they yell obscenities in a mixture of both Cantonese and Hakka.