quarta-feira, 21 de junho de 2017

A 1967 Escapade in Macau

Hugh Davies foi um diplomata britânico (reformou-se em 1999) que viveu de perto as consequências da 'revolução cultural' chinesa em Hong Kong e Macau na segunda metade da década de 1960. 
Quatro décadas passadas sobre esses acontecimentos, em 2007, Davies escreveu um artigo - "An Undiplomatic Foray: a 1967 escapade in Macau" - onde relata esses dias 'quentes' (ver outro post) que viveu de perto numa viagem 'especial' ao território onde chegou como turista e ficou hospedado no hotel Caravela (demolido na década de 1970). 
A fotografia acima, onde se pode ver o hotel, a partir da zona da "meia-laranja", não surge no artigo publicado no Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society Hong Kong Branch - Vol. 47 (2007), pp. 115-126 de que apresento alguns excertos.

(...) This short account records a minor diplomatic happening in Macau in which I was involved in 1967, as Hong Kong endured some of its most challenging times in the shadow of the Cultural Revolution then wreaking havoc on the mainland. Macau for me already held a special place in my past. As a young man trying to grasp the history of British involvement on the China Coast, one of the books that had most captured my imagination was Maurice Collis’s Foreign Mud, telling the story of the origins of the Opium Wars. Macau had played a central role in that period. (...) 
In the 1960s, as a young diplomat, I was studying Chinese at the language school attached to the University of Hong Kong. To escape the rigorous rotelearning of long lists of Chinese characters set by my teachers, I had already visited Macau on more than one occasion. At that time the town showed barely any alteration over the previous 150 years. George Chinnery would have easily recognised all the main features and would have found the back streets and alleyways surrounding the ancient façade of the Church of Sao Paulo almost as he had known them in his day. Undoubtedly, however, my most memorable visit was in the autumn of 1967. The Cultural Revolution in China was in full swing. By late 1966 the Red Guards and pro-Communist zealots had effectively assumed power in Macau, at the expense of an enfeebled Portuguese administration powerless to resist. It was at this time that Portugal is said to have told the Chinese government that they were unwilling to continue as the administering power if the Red Guards were not called off. An uneasy compromise was apparently reached, and Macau’s colonial status was maintained. It has always been assumed that those still capable of rational decisions, in a Peking then gone mad with Cultural Revolutionary fervour, saw the danger of taking over Macau in such circumstances. Zhou Enlai, the consummate international diplomat, was the only one capable of bringing some sense to the situation. The obvious fear was that any precipitate action in Macau would provoke an immediate panic in Hong Kong that the same fate awaited the British colony and, with the Chinese economy crumbling around them, the last thing that men such as Zhou Enlai wanted was the loss of all the financial and other benefits accruing to China from Hong Kong. So, while Portugal was humiliated in that period, the trappings of colonial administration were preserved. The Governor remained, and all the senior civil service posts were still kept for Portuguese. The police remained predominantly Portuguese-officered and the junior jobs were largely held by Macanese. Superficially all was as it had been. But the influence of the local Chinese left-wing leaders was now paramount. (...)
O consulado britânico em Macau no ano de 1967. Imagens do artigo
In Macau at that time, Britain still retained a Consulate. The unfortunate Consul, a man no longer in the prime of life, became a soft target for the revenge of the Red Guards. By late May they had paraded daily past his office and residence and made increasingly aggressive demands. This culminated in obliging him to stand for hours outside his office in the heat of the midday sun while their adherents streamed past and screamed abuse. They attacked his office and his residence, both being attractive white-stuccoed, villa-style buildings on the banyan-tree-lined Praya Grande fcing Macau’s outer harbour. Both houses were plastered with Da Zi Bao (Big Character Posters), and besmirched with painted slogans in Chinese and English. ‘Down with British Imperialism’! they screamed. ‘Long live the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution’, ‘Death to all Running Dogs’, and other encouraging suggestions. (...)
At the ferry terminal, a smartly uniformed young policeman took us under his wing. He welcomed us and confirmed the arrangements. We were booked into the Caravela Hotel on the Praya Grande, and he had tickets for all three of us for the ‘Lovely Paris’ show in the floating casino on the far side of Macau that night. He would pick us up from the Caravela in time for the show, where we could have our dinner too. Emrys and I took a taxi to the Caravela. Sadly, this lovely little hotel no longer exists, a victim of the rush to ruin and rebuild the best of Macau’s architecture in the 1980s and 90s. It really was a jewel of a building. It stood alone in its own neat garden, no doubt for long the residence of some wealthy merchant, grown rich on the pickings of the China trade in the 18th century. It was an exquisite example of the best Portuguese domestic architecture, painted an almost shocking pink outside, with all its decorative lace-like eaves and window recesses picked out in white, and a roof of traditional Mediterranean tiles. Inside it was just as attractive, with a fine mahogany staircase sweeping down into the central hallway and a series of elegantlyfurnished bedrooms around an open balustrade upstairs. It was a privilege to stay there. After checking in, we decided to go out and explore the town. The first thing we saw, from our taxi window, although we determinedly showed no interest in it, was the British Consulate, which stood nearby, absolutely covered in its demeaning graffiti of Red Guard slogans. We made for one of the main hotels for lunch and were gratified to note that one long table was packed end to end with extremely attractive young ladies enjoying their own lunch and smiling demurely in our direction between delicate mouthfuls. Macau was already living up to its reputation. Unknown to us then, we were to encounter them later. Aftet lunch we headed into the centre of town, to do the tourist bit. So we wandered around kr a couple of hours, taldng in some of the usual sights, including the old parts around the famous façade of the Sao Paolo Church. (...)
As we wended our way back along the Praya Grande, we again passed the Consulate and the Consul’s house. Approaching that area, still on guard against the possibility that our presence as representatives of British imperialism might have been detected, we came on a stretch of road under repair. It must have been a considerable excavation, because as we came abreast of it, one of the workers, looking up from his digging, suddenly grinned and held aloft in our direction a piece of dynamite. He brandished it in mock threatening mode, smiling broadly all the while, gold teeth flashing. (...)
For me, that storm-tossed night on the roof of Her Majesty’s Consulate in Macau in 1967 had a particular poignancy. I have often told friends of the time that I helped to haul down the flag on a British outpost in the East.

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