National Post (National Edition)
Porn mogul and free speech activist
HISTORY IS REPEATING ITSELF FOR MANY FAMILIES WHO FLED BEFORE THE 1997 HANDOVER
LOS ANGELES • Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt Jr., the self-described “smut peddler who cares,” who used his pornography empire and flair for the outrageous to push the limits of free speech, has died at the age of 78, The Washington Post reported on Wednesday.
The newspaper said Flynt's brother Jimmy Flynt confirmed his death but did not cite a cause. Flynt suffered from a variety of health problems since a 1978 assassination attempt that left him a paraplegic.
Flynt loved to aggravate his critics with stunts such as wearing a diaper made from an American flag to court and was involved in several legal battles.
In the most famous, the U.S. Supreme Court made an important First Amendment ruling in favour of Flynt in a libel battle with evangelist Jerry Falwell.
Flynt had published a fake ad in Hustler that depicted Falwell saying his first sexual encounter had been with his mother in an outhouse. Falwell sued for $50 million and won a lower-court ruling but in 1988 the Supreme Court said the ad was a parody and protected by free speech standards.
In his heyday, Flynt lived a life that could have made Caligula blush. He wrote in his autobiography that his first sexual experience was with a chicken and told of having sex every four or five hours during a workday. After he was paralyzed, Flynt had penile implant surgery so he could continue to have sex.
Flynt created a business with an estimated turnover of $150 million at one point. As magazine circulation slipped, he stayed ahead of trends by investing in adult-oriented television channels, a casino, film distribution and merchandise.
He said he never objected to being labelled a smut peddler as long as he was considered a First Amendment crusader, too.
Born in 1942, Flynt grew up in poverty in Kentucky and Indiana and dropped out of school after the eighth grade. After stints in the armed forces and a General Motors plant, he and his brother opened the Hustler Club in Dayton, Ohio, in 1968. By 1973 it had grown to a string of strip clubs across the state and Flynt put out a newsletter to promote them.
That newsletter evolved into Hustler magazine, his flagship publication, which came to be infamous for featuring explicit photos.
He was married five times and had four surviving children.
Asecond generation of Hongkongers is heading to Canada for refuge from political uncertainty, but unlike their parents in the 1980s and 1990s, this time seems for good.
Cities such as Vancouver and Toronto are a magnet for those looking to escape as China tightens its grip on the territory of 7.5 million people. Some 300,000 already have Canadian citizenship after many families initially moved there ahead of Hong Kong's return from British to Chinese rule in 1997.
Back then, many families separated, with one parent staying in Hong Kong for work, usually fathers who were dubbed “astronauts” as they soared through the sky on visits. Among those who went to Canada, many eventually returned, lured by the booming economy and what still seemed to be a relatively free environment.
Things have changed.
With recent pro-democracy protests virtually snuffed out and Beijing enshrining control last year via a national security law, bags are being packed once more.
“Staying in Hong Kong is not an option anymore,” said Maria Law, 39, who moved to Vancouver last year with her two girls ahead of her husband. “I'd rather have a free future for my daughters instead of making money while they have to keep their mouths shut.”
For Law, a former flight attendant, history has repeated itself. She is part of a rare cohort of double political émigrés.
Taken to Vancouver when she was 12, Law remembers daily speakerphone calls from the living room with her father, who was earning the family bread as a hotel chef back in Hong Kong.
Enthusiasm for the calls waned as it became clear he was staying. Yet like many such “satellite” children, separated from one or both parents, Law eventually followed in her father's footsteps to return to Hong Kong herself for work in 2004.
“When I was young, I asked my father why I had to move. But now I am in his position, I understand,” she said. “He sacrificed more than we did. He's the one who had to be alone.”
Thanks to Canada's liberal immigration system, 335,646 Hongkongers moved there between 1984 when Britain's handover was declared and 1997, according to the Canadian International Council think tank. That was most of the half-million exodus.
This time, Britain may take most Hongkongers as it offers visas to potentially 300,000 people.
The flow to Canada may also be large, with existing Canadian passport-holders in Hong Kong from the first wave and new immigration pathways for the younger generation.
A Hong Kong government spokesman said concerns about erosion of freedoms were “totally unsubstantiated” and that the security law had stopped chaos. “People's decisions to remain in or leave Hong Kong, or anywhere for that matter, are based on many factors including job situation, schooling, business and investment opportunities or personal/family reasons,” he added.
China's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, and the Hong Kong Liaison Office, Beijing's top representative body, did not respond to requests for comment.
The scars of the first uprooting are informing the second.
“I'm not going to make the same mistakes as my parents, like having a satellite family,” said Tsang, a 36-year-old legal compliance officer who did not want to give her first name because she was yet to resign from work in Hong Kong.
Her parents' marriage did not survive separation, but Tsang hopes to do better. Her daughter and husband move to Vancouver this month and she is to join them after selling their home.
In Law's case, she is eagerly waiting for her husband, for whom it is a wrench to leave his wider family and career as a university IT officer, to rejoin the family in Vancouver.
In October, she gave him the sponsorship paperwork and urged him not to miss their girls' growing up. To her relief, he returned the forms on Jan. 1. While he waits to travel, he watches his younger daughter's growth spurt via a screen and waits for both girls to say hello before he sleeps.
It is hard to track exactly how many Hongkongers are moving to Canada as so many can travel freely between the two.
New visa applications from Hong Kong rose more than 20 per cent to 10,819 in 2020, Canadian immigration says.
The Hong Kong government did not have data, but the Security Bureau estimated 7,000 people may have emigrated in 2019, 1,300 to Canada. However, that methodology is based only on applications for documents showing no criminal records, which many departing Hongkongers do not in fact request.
Social media posts about paperwork, schools, real estate and jobs abound for Hongkongers returning to Canada.
One frequently-asked-questions group by the “Return Vancouver” Facebook page has 5,800 members.
Miu Chung Yan, a University of British Columbia professor of social work, and himself from Hong Kong, said those returning to Canada were often giving up better-paying jobs at home but had long known they would return for children's education or retirement.
Violent scenes of blazing streets and protesters clashing with police in 2019, plus China's subsequent response, hastened their decision-making.
Pre-handover immigrants created ethnic enclaves with strip malls featuring Hong Kong-style cafés, Cantonese-speaking dentists and Chinese supermarkets.
In Richmond, a Vancouver suburb, 21.9 per cent of residents named Cantonese as their first language, followed by 20 per cent for Mandarin, the main language in the rest of China, in a 2016 census.
In Markham, just north of Toronto, the vast Pacific Mall shares the same name as Hong Kong's centrally-located Pacific Place shopping centre.
Pacific Mall's corridors bear the names of major arteries in Hong Kong, such as Hollywood Road or Hennessy Road.
In nearby plazas, those nostalgic for Hong Kong fare can pick up warm pineapple buns with a cold slab of butter and Chinese-language newspapers Sing Tao and Ming Pao.
Jason, who plans to move back to Canada with his wife and nine-year-old twins, acknowledges he is “a little bit confused” about his identity. His father moved to Hong Kong during Mao Zedong's rule after four of 10 siblings starved to death in mainland China, he said. His parents sent him to high school in Canada in 1993 at 13.
But in 2001, his father's construction company was struggling and he had to drop out of college to return to Hong Kong, where he later became a furniture salesman.
Over the years he noticed Hong Kong transforming: the luxury flats he fitted were increasingly owned by mainland Chinese. Mandarin became the more common language with customers in the famous IFC and ICC commercial towers.
“It's kind of sad,” said Jason, who did not give his full name as he is yet to tell his twins about leaving.
“Every time I have a gathering with friends or chit-chat with colleagues, the only topic is `where are you going to live?'”