When I was fourteen years old, I left Hong Kong to go to boarding school in America. This line of my background is in every version of my artist’s statement as a playwright. I skim past it when I proofread fellowship applications; I recall leaving home with a fondness I did not feel when I left a decade ago.
This past Sunday, I left Hong Kong again.
For four weeks while I was home, I spent time with my family, travelled, and performed research on an exciting new play I am working on set in World War II. It is about a female, Chinese physicist in America who is not able to return to China during World War II and the Communist takeover. It is based on a true story and a real heroine, whose contribution to science and humanity are perhaps the reason we are here today. During these four weeks, in addition to my previous research, I spoke to various people in Hong Kong and Taiwan, and was able to hear about how my own family fled the communists from Shanghai to Hong Kong in the 1940’s. And during these same four weeks, my home of Hong Kong has quickly devolved into what feels like an uncanny parallel.
This morning I woke up to the potential news of martial law in Hong Kong. It was shocking to me, but it shouldn’t have been. This past February, the Security Bureau in Hong Kong proposed an extradition bill, allowing people to be extradited to Mainland China to stand trial. I was not shocked when this bill terrified Hong Kong, or when Hong Kongers took to the streets to protest beginning in March and April. I was not shocked when the bill was scheduled for a second reading on June 12th, and when over two million Hong Kongers protested. And so, I also should not have been shocked when it escalated into terror, when they were met with tear gas and rubber bullets or when, in the weeks after, the violence only escalated and worsened. When police responded to protestors with unwarranted violence or when they ignored Hong Kongers in need when they were attacked by triad members in Yuen Long on July 21st. I should not have been shocked that it would continue to escalate and that it will only worsen.
As we know from World War II, and the Communist regime in China, what began as a small “change” only escalated into worldwide terror. During my four weeks in Asia, I spent a week in Taiwan with my mother’s family. I spent a lot of time hearing and reading about the upcoming Taiwan elections, and what they will mean for the country. So much of this upcoming election for Taiwan is about defending the country against China. And so much of what China is doing to Hong Kong is also about showing Taiwan, and the rest of the world, what they are capable of, and where they will not stop. Xi Jinping will re-claim Hong Kong. Xi Jinping will reclaim Taiwan. And China’s tightening grip on its people and the world will only continue.
As I sit at this desk, in the morning Washington, D.C. sunlight, over 8,000 miles away from Hong Kong, I feel only a sliver of the terror most Hong Kongers do. The ones who are there now. The ones who have been fighting on the streets for months. The ones who have been met with violence, who are one of the 43 people who were arrested and jailed this past week. The ones who are old and cannot leave. The ones who are young and whose futures lie in Hong Kong. The ones who have no choice but to continue to fight for their home, our home, because without it, they have nowhere to go. The ones who are only growing up now as children in the city I love and who do not yet know what it will mean for them. The ones who are learning censored Chinese history in schools like Diocesan Girls School, which I attended, and which has changed so much since we left. The ones who wanted to stay but now are desperate to go.
For so long, my closest friends from home, the ones I played on the playground with, who I walked to-and-from the MTR station with after getting bubble tea after school, who brought me lunch when I had period emergencies, who let me copy their homework because I was lazy and bad at Chinese history, who laughed when the teacher called out my ridiculous Chinese poetry, who comforted me when they corrected my Chinese pronunciation in Mandarin class because my mother was from Taiwan, who fought with me over friendships, who were there when our loved ones died or left or left us lonely, and the same ones who left Hong Kong when I did, for so long we would talk about our imagined futures. Would we want to marry someone from Hong Kong? Or an ABC? Would we want to live in a Western country? Or closer to home? How could we not live closer to home when our parents were old? Would we teach our kids Mandarin? Cantonese? Both? Of course both. Would they attend DGS? Would it be too hard for them? It was definitely too hard for us. Would they even get into the school? Would we let them go to an international school? No. We wouldn’t want them to think they were better than the local kids, the ones we grew up as. No. They would grow up like we did. They would be lucky to have international experiences, but they would grow up like we did, Hong Kong kids like we were.
And that dream has quickly turned into a delusion. Leaving Hong Kong this time, I feel as though I am leaving my hope of a future in Hong Kong behind. In 2047, Hong Kong will be officially handed back over to China. But in the next 28 years, even in the past year alone, Hong Kong, I believe will be rendered unrecognisable to its inhabitants. Every year, a number of one-way visas are given to Mainland Chinese residents. Which means, every year, a number of Mainland Chinese people are allowed to move to Hong Kong and never leave. And every year, Hong Kongers lose a little more of their city. And this is only one of the many things that China will continue to push forward and implement, much to the horror of Hong Kong’s inhabitants.
I believe Hong Kongers will continue to fight. As a Hong Konger, I cannot imagine not fighting for this home. Even though we may lose. Even though it is written into our by-laws that China has the right to use military power on us at any given moment. Even though the concept of “one country, two systems” is an illusion of the sun with an all-encompassing shadow.
I want there to be more hope.
I want there to be more hope.
I want the hope to never die.
I want this to never be a eulogy.
This is not a eulogy.
Please don’t let this be a eulogy.