Jul 11, 2019 | The Official Blog
As I follow the recent unrest in Hong Kong, I am moved to grief and prayer. Here’s the story behind that.
It was an unlikely mixing of persons from two extraordinarily different worlds. During my later university years at the small and humble University of Saskatchewan, God allowed me many friendships with undergrad and grad students from Asia.
My two closest Asian friends were from two mega cities, both in a very different relationship to the government of China—namely Hong Kong and Beijing. I first met Jerome*, who was from Hong Kong, while sitting in the Geography building. Later I met Jiang*, a grad student from Beijing.
I was amazed by how our friendships grew in a relatively short time. Initially, it was their curiosity to investigate a western notion of faith in God that connected us. After a short time I realized I could also relate to their social context. I never felt like I quite fit into the western social scene. They were also learning how to navigate socially in a new culture that was not familiar to them.
My visit to Beijing and Hong Kong
It was 1997, a pivotal year in the life of Hong Kong and Beijing. Jerome and I traveled to both Beijing and Hong Kong together. At many intervals on that trip I paid attention to the number of times he expressed his confusion about his national identity. Being of Chinese descent, growing up in Hong Kong, and now living in Canada, I noticed he would often sigh and express his angst. I could feel his pain. “Am I Chinese? Am I Canadian? Am I to see myself as only being from Hong Kong?”
In addition, I noticed that much of his search for identity was in making money and obsessing about what he could buy. He was always up to date on the latest tech, and boasted of the prestige of his father’s company.
During our trip the turnover of Hong Kong from Britain to China was imminent. While visiting Tiananmen Square in Beijing, it was impossible to miss the huge clock that was counting down the diminishing time to the turnover of Hong Kong. Beijing and all of China seemed very happy and celebratory. Even today, I am still realizing the historical significance of my journey from Beijing to Hong Kong in 1997.
After our time in Beijing, we flew to Hong Kong. While in Hong Kong we stayed with Jerome’s grandma in Kowloon. Everyday, we would take the train to the New Territory to visit his other grandma. From the deck of her highrise I could see the skyscrapers of Shenzhen, China, just to the north.
I was in awe of the shining skyscrapers that were always looming over me and dwarfing my little and insignificant self. I remember feeling naive and poor in comparison to the grandeur and the wealth of Hong Kong. Hong Kong also had a unique vibe, the fusion of East meets West. It felt like I was part way home, after having come from Beijing at the time.
The stage is set
On one particular day Jerome and I went to the Kowloon waterfront, overlooking Hong Kong Central on the other side. We saw workers preparing something. It was surreal to realize that they were setting up the backdrop for the transfer ceremony. In only a couple of weeks the world’s media and the world’s attention would be on that location.
It was only a few weeks later, having returned to Canada, that I sat in the Geography student lounge at the University of Saskatchewan, watching the televised ceremony of the transfer of Hong Kong. Who was with me? Jiang from Beijing and Jerome from Hong Kong. How fitting and significant. It was a moving experience for me. In particular, I felt I was carrying with me all the hopes and fears of the people I had met in Hong Kong.
After my university days, I moved to Vancouver. As you can imagine, my learning to live and love the people of Hong Kong has not only grown in depth but also magnitude. Many describe our region as Hongcouver. And with the growing tensions in Hong Kong, I anticipate that this trend may increase.
I felt I was carrying with me all the hopes and fears of the people I had met in Hong Kong.
Fighting for a Hong Kong identity
Seeing the millions taking to the streets of Hong Kong in the past weeks brings vivid reminders, feelings, and memories back to mind. I find myself grieving with people over their increasingly fragile democracy. I try to imagine myself being in their situation, knowing that in 2047 the unique city state will be absolved and there will be no special boundary. And yet many believe that the boundaries are being erased even now.
I had always sensed that Jerome struggled with his national identity. After watching several interviews of Hong Kong citizens, I know he is not alone. Many struggle with their national identity. Even current surveys indicate an increasing dissonance from those in Hong Kong who resist associating their identity with mainland China.
Hong Kong has their own unique way of life, and they treasure the freedom democracy has afforded them. Despite the pressure of China’s communist party and their propaganda infiltrating Hong Kong’s media and literature, it seems the people of Hong Kong increasingly see themselves as Hong Kongers, not mainland Chinese.
Hope for the future of Hong Kong
Perhaps you are like me—you too are worried about what the future will hold for our dear friends of Hong Kong. I am praying the predominantly peaceful protests televised throughout the world will be a powerful testimony to China and the world of democracy. With the recent violence and storming of the legislative chambers by a relatively small group of protestors, I am saddened. I pray for the restraint of violence on all sides. I desire neither silence or violence.
And yet my hope for Hong Kong doesn’t end with democracy. Let’s be honest, even democracy hasn’t done Hong Kong fully right. Even democracy falls short of what God has in mind. I know the hope of Hong Kong isn’t solely in democracy, but in Jesus Christ. That is why I am so encouraged to hear of how the protests of June 9 and 16 were saturated with Christian songs, prayers, and peaceful protest. Oh that Jesus would come and be both our Emperor and King, that the people of the east and west would be governed by his council.
I know the hope of Hong Kong isn’t solely in democracy, but in Jesus Christ.
As I process my thoughts and emotions in this latest season of Hong Kong life, I felt led to write this poem. It is a blend of my research into the history as well as the implications of what is happening currently in Hong Kong and its people.
It is an attempt at understanding Hong Kong’s history and my heart emotions, wrapped up in a poem. As a Canadian who has been deeply impacted by, and felt the love of, the people of Hong Kong, I grieve their potential losses and pray with them.
*All names changed to protect identities.
Grieving and praying for Hong Kong
A bygone age ruled by Emperors and Empires,
British affection for Chinese tea leaf stirs fires.
The Emperor only accepted silver in return,
Not knowing what future events would turn.
The British traded silver bullion for tea,
Until their silver eroded on the far side of the sea.
By them a cunning opium plan was devised,
Until emperor saw through their disguise.
A war broke out between East and West,
Treaty pieces of land to settle the contest.
A lease of 99 years to the British crown,
When expired, handed over, Union Jack come down.
The people thrived in this small peculiar place,
Made huge profit from trading at a rapid pace.
Making money became the definition of face,
National identity confused, “What is my race?”
And yet a most unique fusion of east and west,
A region that flourished and seemed blessed.
A fusion of cultures, cuisine, and trade to stay,
A microcosm to the world, a better way?
In Hong Kong in 1997 I stood in awe of my place,
Workers making preparations for ceremony space.
Emotions of my Hong Kong friends mixed with fears,
Wondering about their quality of life in future years.
Returning to Canada I watched ceremony on TV screen,
With Beijing and Hong Kong friend on the scene.
Emotions within saddened to see Union Jack retire,
Worried to see the Chinese flag rise a new empire.
Fast forward many years, mixed feelings I again feel,
Revisiting implications of that massive transfer deal.
Democracy’s contrast to China’s dictatorship stark,
Holding candles, Tiananmen vigils in Victoria Park.
Reminders that Hong Kong’s freedoms are at stake,
Passionate protest, to the street citizens take.
An epicentre of power and finance brought to a halt,
Crowds of millions seeing and telling dictator fault.
Bodies of conscience and voice daily filling the street,
Hearts united for democracy, for human rights one beat.
Standing for truth in mass numbers is a difficult thing,
It’s messy and risky, a stirring of souls, not a careless fling.
Multiple displays of unity and truth remind the west,
The fragility of what we have, not settling for less.
Tensions in streets mounting despite good intention,
Oh God, how we need your love and intervention.
A government charged peaceful protestors with riot,
By the actions of a few violent they dismiss the lot.
Protestors vilify police who used violent assault,
By lack of restraint they too are blamed with fault.
In the streets I see clashes of freedom and law,
Cold distrust, conflict, and frustration hard to thaw.
The powerful voices of democracy, a future free,
Umbrellas unite to form yellow rivers and sea.
Families are divided on what action to take,
Old gen concerned for current economy’s sake.
Young gen takes a stand for freedom of future days,
Met by batons, shields, and tear gas haze.
People Sing Allelujah, an anthem of praise,
A mediating salve to ease these hard days.
Prayers of God’s people rise to the throne,
Asking God for true peace and justice alone.
Is this cause to humble our lives in the West,
Not taking for granted all we’ve been blessed?
How easy all the human rights we possess,
Can be taken away in a moment’s distress?
While millions of True North took to the streets,
In celebration of NBA champ’s sporting feats,
The citizens of Hong Kong pressed in with song,
Fighting for their quality of life to just carry on.
Oh that the rule of corrupt and greedy empire,
Democratic or Dictatorship both guilty of quagmire.
Would come to an end the world over, my desire.
That Jesus would reign on Jerusalem’s throne,
Uniting East and West, for both worlds he atoned.
Come Lord Jesus, be both our Emperor and King.