Hong Kong. An asphalt jungle lit by neon lights. The brutal trek up the Tiger’s Head and down towards the beaches of Discovery Bay. A mere cog in the global economy machinery. For me it was all that and more. But somehow six thousand miles away from the city I called home, I’ve now come to realise I never knew it at all. This my dear reader, is my confession.
In September, I boarded the flight CX251 and left the only home I had ever known. I must have dropped my heart and soul somewhere on aisle C because it was gone by the time I got here. I like to think it’s debilitating powerlessness that I feel, because the alternative – a detached numbness that comes with not caring enough – is far worse.
I wished for a thousand sleepless nights, and upon a dying star I found guilt to keep me company at night. When the lo-fi beats are left on playback it comes knocking on my door. Traitor, traitor… You have no right to speak of your home. I welcome it in with open arms each night. It reminds me that there is no joy, only guilt.
In exchange I am relieved of duty. I only read the headlines each morning. I skip the videos and skim the updates. So little time to spare. So little time to care. Yes, I shed a tear when I watched the video where a teenager was shot. But then I moved on. I had lectures to watch. Problem sheets to hand in.
Have you ever been to that small, muffled bubble that lies just out of sync with reality? Where the world speeds by at an incomprehensible pace? There should be a word to describe it if there isn’t already. It’s where I went to leave the world behind. I stayed there for a day, a week, a lifetime. Until a chirp-less robin visited me and made roost on my parapet.
It sought company in silence. But the silence was mine and mine alone.
From the fragrant harbour it had come, and back to the harbour it went. I pitied the bird that flew six thousand miles just to lose its voice. And so, I followed it out of the bubble, if only just to mock its unfortunate circumstance. Like Melpomene on a new year I laugh.
The fragrant harbour it came from is long gone. Once a small fishing port where the sea met the sand. If you wandered out too far from the shore, you’d catch the siren call of pink-flushed dolphins. It was poor before it prospered. It too, bled in the war. It too, has had its share of sickness and disease.
My home lost to the winds.
I mourn the death of Hong Kong as we once knew it. It is far too late, and far too easy to talk about right and wrong. That line has been buried under the blood, sweat and tears or both sides. Protestors, they lash out in desperation. The police lash out in frustration. Fake news tears wider the rift between the two sides. Misinformation cheapens the sacrifices that have been made. Emotionally charged videos spread through the internet, preying on the high tensions and volatile emotions. But only in their respective algorithmic bubbles. Why look to the US when we are but a bargaining chip? They won’t have HK’s best interests at heart.
Hypocrisy in action, and in inaction. Blind unity in the factions allowing injustice to thrive. Dishonourable tactics and irredeemable actions have lost the police force any respect they had built. The no-compromise stance adopted on both sides. Protests and gatherings being banned, forcing protestors to embrace illegality in the movement. Dehumanising the enemy to justify the slow descent into full out brawls. Lone, independent actors with senseless actions that have pervaded any moral ground either side held. The general mistrust of the PRC and now by extension the Hong Kong Government. Even the sanctity of free press has been called into question.
Perception is far more potent than the truth. Whether or not the government is a conniving bastard doesn’t matter. The fact that the people see them as such does. Negotiations and talks have no meaning without trust.
Therein lies the dilemma. How is resolution even possible without a complete crackdown or complete reform? Further convoluting the situation is the leaderless structure of the protests. No structure for official negotiation. I believe the government is trying, but rhetorical appeasement has proved insufficient in the face of all the bottled-up frustration.
All of the violence is merely a symptom of a wound left unattended. For an blissful 20 years we treated 2047, the distant date of total reunification, as a bridge to be crossed when we get there instead of confronting the inevitable redintegration back to the Mainland. Perhaps I should reword it, for 20 years we have given the control of our future to the Mainland government.
They wasted no time with “national security reform” in 2003, to “national re-education” in 2012. We protested in defiance. Defiance, not revolution. We simply said, no. Bootleggers crossed the border causing severe milk-powder shortages. Middle-aged women came to perform for lonely men in the parks for money. Disappearances of book vendors with “politically incorrect” publications. And in 2010 a whole 36.9% of the babies born in Hong Kong didn’t have a single parent that was a Hong Kong resident. That’s not even to mention the forced construction of the high-speed rail connecting the mainland and downtown HK a whole different can of worms. I mean, who’d have guessed half an hour bus ride is no deterrent? Not even the Sonoran Desert would stop them.
2014 was when we tried to take the steering wheel with universal suffrage. We came, we saw, we lost. In the subsequent years many of those who participated were silenced, sentenced and jailed while society moved on. The gears of economy never stopped for the little harbour. Housing prices continued climbing, the average property in HK costs $1.2 million. For 430 sq ft.
Here we are today in 2019, the situation ever so dire. My aim today is to show you how complex the situation is. Each sentence could be an article, each article an essay. There isn’t a one size fit all. I’ve heard people say, “Let the army storm the city to restore order!” Just as I’ve heard someone say, “We can go full revolution with Hong Kong Independence!” Asinine remarks thrown around in ignorance.
I don’t have the truth, nor does anyone else who claims to do so. Maybe we are foolish for fighting, maybe we are wrong. At least we fought knowing we are in this together. For those who have chosen to continue the good fight with their hearts fuelled by righteous faith, I quote to you Dylan Thomas “Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” As we wield our sword (or pen) in the name of justice, let us carry a healthy dose of cynicism and self-critique lest we forget that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. If my article has incited anger, then I have failed.
To stop and listen, is to give voice to those who cannot be heard over the crowd. Blue. Yellow. On the fence. I ask for simple reprieve. An interlude of last green in waning light. A moment of silence for those that have died for their ideals; officers injured in the line of duty; teenagers who have made this their fight; parents who just pray for safe returns; and children that will grow up in a divided family.
The battle has long ago turned into a war of attrition. And while the city still burns in the background, I think it is time to take off the collimator. Away from the fragrant harbour… Westwards to Lebanon, Egypt, France, Chile, Peru… In fact, all the other places that have fought in the dark. My heart goes out to every single one of you. This world is far too small of a place for us to not give a damn.