I recorded this ‘interview’ during the last stages of the Hong Kong protests in 2019. As the protests seemingly may begin again, it seems useful to publish it now.
Today, I am with one of the many leaders of the student movement, let us call him Joshua – not his real name of course. I want to understand what makes the movement so determined and why protestors wave the British flag so much.
- So, Joshua, what are these rio – er, sorry – protests all about?
Free Hong Kong! Five demands – not one less
Er – yes of course. What are you freeing Hong Kong from?
The Chinese of course.
They are taking over Hong Kong, cutting back our freedoms, taking over the city, no democracy – it’s terrible. We must fight for our future. It’s our last chance.
But surely, Hong Kong is Chinese?
We are Hong Kong. We have our own laws and independence. We’ve always been different!
Really? I thought Britain took Hong Kong from China.
Oh that was ages ago. Only Chinese peasants lived here then. The British made Hong Kong great. Free Hong Kong!
So the British were good for Hong Kong, were they? You weren’t even born before 1997.
Oh yes. But my uncles and aunts loved being here then. They told me all about it.
Must have been wonderful. And of course, they miss the freedom and democracy they had under the British?
Well, er, no, not democracy. But it didn’t matter because they were British, sophisticated, kind and gentlemanly.
But surely Hong Kong was run by Hong Kong people? The head man, senior Government people for instance?
No. he came in from England every few years. And the senior people were all British too.
So, he was not elected then?
Well – there were councils to advise the Government. Some of them were local people.
And they were elected – right?
Oh no, the Governor (he was called that) – he appointed them. But they were good people, successful, rich – knew what they were talking about.
So, no democracy, rich people in charge, the head man from somewhere miles away and never a Hong Kong person – it doesn’t sound very free to me.
Well, if you put it like that – but they were such nice people it didn’t matter.
So, they integrated well did they? Got on with local people, spoke the language fluently? Is that it?
Oh no. We all had to learn English. It was great! And they didn’t mix with us much, but it was OK because we could live our own lives, make lots of money and laugh at the foreigners too.
And they didn’t mind that?
Well, we didn’t mix much, so they never knew. They lived in the posh places and we Chinese had our own districts. So it was fine!
And we didn’t have to bother about taking decisions because they did all that. They ran everything.
But there were lots of senior business executives who were Chinese surely?
No – at that time we did not know about western business. Most of the families had just come from China; so, it was better the British did those kinds of jobs.
The Brits had an army here didn’t they?
Oh yes. Several bases around Hong Kong. It was a laugh because the soldiers were always getting drunk and having fights. Didn’t bother us though.
Asia’s finest! We could manage them pretty well too. The British policemen knew how to speak Cantonese and we could get many of them to understand how Chinese Societies work. The British police were great.
I see. So they were good times then. What’s wrong now?
Free Hong Kong from these filthy Chinese! Freedom now! Add oil! Flow like a river!
What are they doing wrong?
They are trying to run our lives. They buy all the best houses. They own the big companies. They won’t let us choose our own leaders. And they can’t do anything properly.
So, when you go to China then, what is it you see that worries you so much?
I’ve never been to China! I’d hate to go to China.
But you have been talking so much about how bad the Chinese are. How do you know?
Oh, everyone knows that! You only have to read any newspaper from the west and you’ll see every day how bad things are for the people of China. They cannot use social media; Google is forbidden; they cannot speak out against the Government. They work like slaves in poverty and terrible conditions. We will not allow Hong Kong to become like that!
So you are basing your opinions on newspaper reports?
No – look at the millions of Chinese tourists pouring in every day. No idea how to behave. But the Western papers? Look at the way they are supporting us, the freedom fighters! They send us money every day. Printing our news about police brutality. They would not do that if they thought we were wrong.
Ah – yes, of course! Not even to sell their newspapers? But let’s move on…. What are your five demands? And why do you insist on them all?
(to be continued…)