Hong Kong is full of buildings, traffic, food and people. It’s a densely populated city with over seven million people on a small peninsula. I was born and raised there, and although I came to Australia in 2013, Hong Kong is of utmost importance to me. There is no other place like it.
Although it’s one of the busiest cities in the world, Hong Kong is full of compassion and humanity. We may be ‘physically’ close in the city’s crowded streets, but we’re also connected in care and support for each other – even if we’re not all originally from Hong Kong, or no longer live there.
In English, the word ‘neighbour’ applies only to people who live near you. But the word ‘neighbour’ (gai fong) in Cantonese applies to everyone you see on the street, and I mean anyone, from the security to the lady at the fish market. My mom loves to bake and often offers some of her homemade bread to the guards. She sometimes carries a few extra sweets in case she bumps into someone she knows on the street. It’s so easy to have a conversation with the vendors in the market; you feel like they’re part of your family, and you even know some of their family secrets.
Other people may have three meals a day, but in Hong Kong, we have six – breakfast, morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner and late-night food (as well as street food 24/7). Food is paramount, no matter your lifestyle. Fusing cuisines from different cultures and making them our own is Hong Kong’s special forte (pineapple buns and milk tea FTW). All meals are placed in the middle of the group you’re sharing it with, and food is forced into one another’s bowls, even if you don’t want it. Food is the source of love and hate, especially in families. The bill at the end is always a cause of ‘polite’ conflict, in which the loser may cut off the rest of the family and refuse to eat with them again. I’m not joking; it’s all out of love.
Such is the simple and humble everyday lives of Hong Kongers. At the end of the day, our only desire is to live the most ordinary life in its fullest – work to raise our families, and come home to food and time with loved ones.
Hong Kong will always have a special place in my heart. Please don’t take this special place from us before its expiry date. Everything has its own expiry date: food, tools, life and even freedom.
What’s guaranteed isn’t guaranteed forever.
What can you do before these things expire?
If you’re sick, you can visit the doctor.
If your tools become worn or rusty, you can sharpen or oil them.
But what can you do when it comes to democracy and freedom?
When you are facing someone who refuses to listen or respond?
We speak up, we stand strong, support one another, hold our brothers and sisters tight, and keep our heads held high. We maintain hope that justice will finally prevail.
The 50-year promise. One country, two systems – that Hong Kong will maintain its own law system, financial and trade agreements, and relations with foreign countries. However, the One country has broken this promise, and our leader is no longer a leader.
We’re under threat of losing our language, culture, human rights and freedom of speech. Since June 2019, we Hong Kongers have been fighting for what is right. We have cried and suffered, stuck in frustration as our government’s promises have been broken over and over again.
During this period, we have seen different roles in society transform.
From protectors to attackers.
From authorities to subdued followers.
From high school and university students to defenders of the city.
From everyday citizens to new leaders of our home.
We’re left to suffer ruthless attacks from the white T-shirt gang – a group of thugs who indiscriminately attack protestors and civilians – and policemen who storm the streets. They keep their identity hidden with reflective masks and no numbers or badges. You can’t even see the eyes of your attacker.
From citizen vs citizen, to citizens vs the state.
But even in moments of crisis, the people of Hong Kong still hold onto their character. They still love and care for one another.
A sense of community is maintained by small generous gestures. People leave free tickets and coins next to the subway ticket machines to ensure others have a safe passage home. They buy meal credits for the next person and volunteer to clean the streets after protests. This community doesn’t just include the people in Hong Kong, but Hong Kongers all around the globe. We are all united together. We keep on fighting and utilising every possibility to stand in solidarity for Hong Kong, because we love and care for our home, our brothers and sisters, and our family. We are all connected and we will never lose the spirit of what makes us Hong Kongers.
I am proud to be a Hong Konger.
Words and photography by Lok
This piece was originally published in Edition 31.