It hits you like a brick wall, the humidity engulfing your senses with a mixture of street spices and cold hard cash. The London red double decker buses fly through the twisting streets, paved a century before. Beneath your feet, the MTR snakes through the dirt like an octopus reaches for it’s prey. The sinister connotations that go hand in hand with an international business empire are not lost on Hong Kong.
In Hong Kong, you can only rent a plot of land for 50 years before the bid comes up and you can lose your home, your business headquarters. The Urban Renewal Authority are forever changing the social dynamics of the city ensure that where there was once poverty, there are now the wealthiest 1%. They say they’re helping Hong Kong but all they do is move the problem five subway stops in the wrong direction. It is a city poised on the brink of revolution and unlike the rest of China, they will fight for it.
As the protests started, I watched from my bedroom window what felt like a hundred storeys above. My peers, my colleagues, my fellow human beings asked for the same rights as I. Let us vote, let us make decisions, let us be human. In the streets that evening there was a deadly hum, not dissimilar to the same sickening silence a decade before where SARS ravaged the cities of the main land. Then too, I listened as the most populous country in the world was silenced by an outside predator.
Hong Kong inspires me. Shanghai, Beijing, Xian now swim in an ocean of smog, pollution and dirt. The Bund is no longer recognisable to me, the near-constant make overs ensuring it keeps up to the standards set by it’s cousins New York and London. Hong Kong, though in a state of flux, continues to grip it’s history.
On reclaimed land now lies the Star Ferry port, the buiding once erected by my forefathers. Sitting by the window is the only escape from the summertime heat, the breeze drying the sweat to your pores and yet somehow not clogging them. The same can be said for the old airport, it’s once-terrifying location now moved to a man-made island, ensuring the devastation of the pink dolphin. I caught a glimpse this past year of a candy-pink fin, before the creature escaped back into the deeply polluted waters. I know that my future children will not see him.
Hong Kong inspires me because unlike every other major city, they acknowledge that their system works. It is the youth that demand political change, whereas the everyday persons, exploited by the capitalist regime that ensures stability, lives by their own rules. Smile at strangers. Make jokes with guests. Get the job done and do it well.
The Hong Kongese are a new people, their name not yet reaching western shores. They work on Hong Kong Island in the banks that fund the triads, the cartels and the mafia but also ensure that this tiny island paradise is a force to be reckoned with on a global scale. Nothing will ever inspire me like Hong Kong. For all of it’s faults, it works. Just like the adolescent I once was, Hong Kong is unruly, impractical in it’s social architecture and yet it continues to win. One day I will be like Hong Kong, I will be exactly what I want to be and I will be okay with it.
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