Stand Up for Chechnya

*I wrote the following piece after the anti-LGBT purge in Chechnya in early 2017 and performed the following at a “Hong Kong Loves Chechnya” Fundraiser event.

This is a fight
For basic human rights
Our brothers in Chechnya are being tortured JUST because they are gay
They have been stripped naked, detained, tortured and electrocuted

The authorities are DENYING they exist, but we cannot stay silent and we must resist

We will NOT surrender
Because love
Is about love
NOT about the gender of who we love
Here tonight
We stand TALL
We stand PROUD
We will NOT let them STRIP US off our identities
We will NOT let them BEAT us down

We have to break this cycle
The cycle of hate
And the cycle of oppression
We need to break it in Russia, in Hong Kong, in Indonesia and the rest of the world
So may we ask you tonight
STAND UP for what is right
Help STOP Homophobia

Society must learn this:
IGNORANCE is a choice
HATE is a choice
Love should be a free choice

One that we should all respect

To DSE candidates

It probably is a very nerve wracking day for all you DSE candidates and parents out there. My sincerest wish to you all for achieving your target results and getting into your dream schools.

No matter the outcome, just remember life is full of change and uncertainty. Life itself presents us with questions and challenges that we might have never imagined. Loss of a loved one, betrayal by your best friend, discrimination for your religion/sexuality/race/socioeconomic status. Facing life requires a very different skills-set than coping with standardised tests, and sorry, no there is no marking scheme or syllabus in life, and no markers to judge whether your life is more “successful” than others. You, are the one who is making the most out of it.

No matter what academic/career path you will choose after today, embrace the opportunity and equip yourself with the right tools to face life’s many challenges.




Believe in yourself and all that you are

Dear Students,

I started grading students back as a teaching assistant in college, and as a student I had been through all those standardised tests such as TOEFL, SAT and GRE. Now part of my job is to write assessment tests and plan assessment camps for students. Yes, I am one of those evil people who create tests for students, but that doesn’t mean I believe tests are accurate measures of one’s worth.

There are things that assessments cannot measure. Character, Integrity, Passion, Humility. These are things that makes one special and unique. There are things that will stick with you for life and things that will make your friendship long-lasting and your life fulfilling. Regrettably, our society has at times created assessments that devalue you as a human being.

Though I am not a full-time educator and I am not a parent, I know standardised tests are hard and have many blindspots. I feel sorry that you students need to spend endless hours studying and attending tutorial class to meet those “standards” and attend “elite” universities. While I go back to my alma matar every year to give workshops on interview preparation and personal statement in hope that students can choose the “best” universities based on their potential, I do believe that in this time and age, there are many alternative paths in life. One should not be obsessed that a better life can only be ensured by obtaining a “professional degree” . Who can guarantee a “bright future” when you get a uni degree? The world is advancing with so much velocity and complicated dimensions now that for some people being school drop-outs may offer them many more new avenues leading them to more adventurous and fulfilling future.

Go. Dream. Explore. Fail. Take courage in whatever you do. We need comedians, singers, dancers, athletes, chefs, writers … in life along with lawyers, i-bankers and doctors too. Go find mentors and supportive people in your life to tell you that you can make it and not be bounded by the 600 sq. feet dream in HK. It’s not easy, I know – most adults are struggling with that too.

We all will have those moments of doubts and inner struggles. Please know that you are not alone, many support and help is available if you care to reach out to them.

You are unique and irreplaceable to all those who love and know you.

Coach Ben