It’s been a rather disappointing and busy week for me and I’m sure many of you, with Beijing handing down its decision on democracy in Hong Kong. My phone has become permanently grafted to my arm as I try to follow what’s going on.
Earlier in the week, I wrote a piece for the South China Morning Post and had a great chat with Noreen Mir on RTHK Radio 3′s 123 Show. If you missed them, check out the article here and the recording here.
It appears readers had a lot to say about the SCMP piece, with comments ranging from “hit the nail on the head” and “zeitgeist” to “baloney”. I’ve been called every name in the book (“another idiot suffering from affluenza”) and apparently there is a contingent of people who don’t want me back in Hong Kong again, like ever. The reactions raise a lot of interesting questions — questions that I think might have been quite similar to the ones Hong Kong faced pre-Handover, so I hope everyone keeps on talking.
Amid the disappointing news about Hong Kong, I got some comfort from an unexpected quarter: my mainland friends.
Over the past few days, several of them have told me Hong Kong was also in their thoughts. “We care,” they say, with one adding: “What happens you in Hong Kong also has implications for us in China.”
Tensions between Hongkongers and mainlanders have grown worse in recent years. You might recall the fracas over claims that Dolce & Gabanna permitted mainlanders to take photos of its Tsim Sha Tsui storefront, but not locals (to this day I’m still wondering why anyone would want to take photos of D&G’s storefront). Then there was the crowdfunded ad in a local newspaper decrying mainland “locusts” and more recently, Bladdergate — which, contrary to the name, involved a mainland woman allowing her child to defecate on the streets, riling residents.
These reports would have you think that all Hongkongers think mainlanders are just a bunch of D&G-toting parents with children who have a penchant for public urination.
But these are some of the mainlanders that I know: a sassy woman who has managed to maintain a roaring banking career in addition to recently having a baby, a pensive photographer who doesn’t speak much but takes pictures worth a thousand words, a journalist at one of China’s most critical newspapers who can be kawaii one minute and giving the finger to censors the next by interviewing dissidents, a consultant who can disarm anyone with his gregarious charm, a student from a poor Guangdong family who struggled to learn Cantonese and English in her teens but went on to complete an English-language master’s degree in Hong Kong, and a researcher who can cook up some pretty amazing stewed pork with Sichuan peppers.
To my knowledge, none of them has ever allowed their child to defecate on the street, or tried to take photos of D&G.
Oh, and apparently mainlanders play a mean game of mafia. I discovered this recently when we reached deep into our inner geeks and played for three hours straight on a train. (Yes. A reprise mafia party could be in the works.)
So say what you will about Beijing, but when it comes to the Chinese, you won’t be able to get me to join in the bashing brigade. My beef is with the government, not the people. I’m glad that most of us know the difference. And for those who don’t, I’m going to have to introduce them to my friend’s Sichuan pepper pork.