I visited Hong Kong on the way to China many, many moons ago in 2004. Having spent six months travelling around India, the land of the holy cow, I was pretty certain I could handle whatever China, the land of the rising sun could throw at me.
How wrong was I? Firstly, Hong Kong smacked of British colonialism. The British handed back Hong Kong to China in 1999 yet regal buildings and British paraphernalia were everywhere. Secondly, it was an absolute rip-off. Thirdly, a rather mean restaurant waiter tried to serve me dog noodles. Thankfully, my neighbouring diner stopped me just before I took my first mouthful by making barking noises.
Finally, my most enduring memory was the land border crossing between Hong Kong and China.
As I entered the building and headed into the queue to pass through immigration, I was surrounded by signs saying, turn back and you’ll be shot. Gulp. I know. Hardly for foreign tourists but scary nevertheless, especially when you think about how many may have been shot.
By the time I reached the end of the queue and patiently waited, I’m not embarrassed to say that my knees were knocking slightly.
An immigration officer barked at me in Chinese to stand on two footprints while they carried out a full-body scan unlike anything I had ever seen before and I was told to go to the desk.
This was when things started to get really hairy.
Once at the desk, the officer asked me a question in mandarin which I couldn’t answer so I shook my head and said no.
He continued to scream and shout at me in mandarin, pointing to go back in the direction of the shoot-to-kill signs. Crickey. Eventually, a kind fellow traveller shuffled to the front of the queue, hands held out in a passive gesture, and told me I should have picked up an immigration form. Phew. The drama alone nearly killed me.
Form in hand, I returned to the desk and sailed through with a sign of relief straight into the strangest two months of my life, as I travelled the width and breadth of a country that continued to remain an enigma.
I’m one of the first to say that the British should hand back all territories robbed during their colonial quest to take over the world yet I fear they made a mistake with Hong Kong.
When Honk Kong was handed back in 1999, the treaty made certain provisions that Hong Kong enjoy significant autonomy from the communist government for fifty years to allow a transition period as the region and China narrowed their divisions.
China didn’t stick to the agreement with the draconian laws forced onto Hong Kong’s residents and resulting crackdowns that began in 2018, less than twenty years after the treaty was reached. Revolts and violent protests have since followed.
Most saddening of all are recent reports out of Hong Kong that confirm five members of a Hong Kong Union behind a children’s book series about sheep trying to hold back wolves from their village have been arrested for sedition.
While the books may sound and appear harmless, the contents were written to teach children how a democratic system works and how the one-party communist dictatorship that is the government of China has tried to quash their democracy.
The three books entitled The Guardians of the Sheep Village, Janitors of Sheep Village, and The 12 Brave of Sheep Village details the 2019 pro-democracy protests that swept through Hong Kong, the strike of the workers that followed, and how many residents had to be brave and leave Hong Kong.
All publications of the book have now been banned.
Again, I’m the first to argue that all land stolen by the British should be returned yet back in 1999, even with the fifty-year agreement, I had reservations.
How can a liberal territory (especially one as wealthy as Hong Kong due to the financial district) survive and thrive under communist rule, especially as the Chinese government has failed to stick to its end of the bargain? As far as I can tell, the Hong King residents are in for a bumpy ride.
This is why I wholeheartedly support the protests that continue in Hong Kong and hope that many of the books published continued to be read by children to educate them against their communist overlords.
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(c) Samantha Wilson 2021. All Rights Reserved.