The first thing that I noticed about Hong Kong people is that they don’t do morning well.
Alex and I woke up our first day in Hong Kong, hungry and looking for breakfast. We wandered the streets of Kowloon for quite some time, searching for someplace to eat. We found one upscale café that would have blown our budget immediately, a stand selling foul-smelling meat jerky, and McDonald’s. McDonald’s it was.
I found it strange that a city of this size and modernity would not have more breakfast options at 9 am on a weekday, but McDonald’s turned out to be an interesting option nevertheless. We sat next to a Japanese man (whose name is on a piece of paper that I’ve since misplaced) who had been living in Hong Kong for awhile, and he struck up a conversation with us.
Alex steered the topic of conversation to Occupy Central, the movement toward democracy that has been erupting across Hong Kong. Here is the condensed version: When the United Kingdom handed Hong Kong over to China in 1997, they were promised free elections in 20 years. This means that Hong Kong is meant to hold elections in 2017, and is petitioning for the freedom to (gasp!) choose their own candidates. China has said that they will allow Hong Kong to hold elections but will unsurprisingly restrict them to a selection of Beijing-approved candidates. Although the movement was just gaining momentum when we were there, it has since erupted into a full-scale occupation of Hong Kong’s business district.
I haven’t met too many people who don’t support Hong Kong’s movement toward democracy, but my sample size is admittedly quite small. The guy we met presented a different point of view, discussing how Hong Kong people already have far greater freedom than those from the mainland (which is true) and that Beijing is simply trying to maintain the unity of China as a whole by not offering Hong Kong total autonomy. In many ways, it is a clash between the old and the young: those who want to maintain the status quo and those who want to change it.
Though I enjoyed hearing his opinion, I strongly disagreed with most of what he was saying. I fully believe that Hong Kong should continue to petition for democratic rights, though I don’t think Hong Kong has a chance of achieving full autonomy in their 2017 elections. China would sooner send in the riot police than let that happen (though with the world’s eyes upon them, they have been resisting such a Tiananmen Square-esque action). However, I think that this movement is symbolic of a greater tide of change that is sweeping across China and its territories. Tibet, for example, has been watching the Hong Kong protests closely. Even those on the mainland, whose information is heavily censored, are not ignorant to what is happening. While the issue of suffrage is certainly significant, Hong Kong supporters of this issue are also illustrating, through the very act of protest, that they realize just how oppressive the CCP is.
China likes to claim that these protests are driven by Western provocation, yet as the Hong Kong’s former Chief Secretary Anson Chan said, “Nobody from the outside could possibly stir up this sort of depth of anger and frustration.” This is very much a Hong Kong, and a Chinese issue.
In any event, it’s always nice to meet people with different points of view than your own. After all, that’s kind of the point of traveling. After we enjoyed a little political banter, he made some recommendations for how we might want to spend the rest of our day. Since I’ve already rambled on far too much for this post, I’ll just show you some pictures from our day. I know this post was a little disjointed, but having visited Hong Kong right at the start of all of this, I felt compelled to offer my opinion (lucky you).
I have a couple more Hong Kong posts planned, and then it will time for my closing remarks on Malaysia and this whole experience! Hard to believe, but just one week from now I’ll be in Kuala Lumpur and shortly thereafter (okay, a week in Thailand and a wedding in Indonesia later), I’ll be back in the good ol’ US of A.