9th February, 2016
The Old Hong Kong We Can’t Go Back
I miss the Hong Kong under British rule.
Are the Brits particularly good? No – at least they did not give Hong Kong the well-deserved right for independence; they failed to make Hong Kong a democratic society; the alien passport, BN(O), the Brits created out of thin air for Hongkongers was a betrayal. However, I still miss the old Hong Kong under the British rule. On the first and second days of the Lunar New Year, many people drive to visit their relatives and friends, making it hard to find parking spaces, but they never used to receive tickets during this festive season. On the first and second days of the Lunar New Year, unlicensed hawkers would be selling local delicacies in an orderly manner on the streets (just like the night markets in Taiwan!), yet Food and Environmental Hygiene Department staff and police officers would not arrest them.
Since last Lunar New Year, people started getting parking tickets when parking spaces were all occupied and they had to park on the street. This year, one of Hongkongers’ remaining enjoyment of the year – to snack away in particular areas, was snatched. The current HKSAR Government simply doesn’t want to give one day of joy to the people of Hong Kong!
The media are largely siding with the police, condemning citizens who fought back in Mong Kok, and label them as “rioters”. I would not label these people as “rioters” – at most they are “protesters”. Since the Umbrella Revolution, there have been protests all year round. The source of all problems remains – conflicts have not been resolved but instead intensified (due to the lack constructive responses from the government). Those who took part in the Umbrella Revolution know the frustration resulting from one of the largest protests in Hong Kong’s history: the police force exercises law selectively, it perverts the course of justice, it abuses its power. All of these are deeply embedded in protesters’ hearts.
Violence is mutual. Since CY Leung took office, the police force’s equipment and degree of violence against protesters have escalated: military grade pepper spray, tear gas, batons and fire-arms on 8th February. What about the protesters? Hong Kong protesters have transformed in response to the police’s consistent escalation: from being mellow and tame like sheep – returning home after a rally or silent sit in, to occupying streets for months, to wearing goggles and masks and using umbrellas to fend off pepper spray, to building roadblocks and shields, to burning garbage and throwing bricks.
Will I condemn the protesters? No, I won’t. Hongkongers have tried every peaceful and rational way possible to express themselves, to no end. If we are to save Hong Kong, what can we do? What are the alternatives? The people on the street on the night of 8th February 2016 have probably found an alternative route.
The police firing two rounds of bullets and then pointing the gun at the protestors only made the situation worse. Just like the teargas the police deployed on 28th September, 2014 during the Umbrella Revolution, which made people even more angry. God bless Hong Kong: no one died in the Mong Kok conflict. However, I know from the bottom of my heart that day will eventually come.
I wish dearly that we could travel back in time: to when Hong Kong was ruled by the British government, to when there was no Sino-British Joint Declaration, and to when everyone could enjoy a stick of fish balls and a plate of random snacks on the first day of Lunar New Year. Yet, every Hongkonger hopelessly knows: we can’t go back and all the precious memories are long gone.