Dear Hong Kong,
How are you?
This pleasantry probably makes us bewildered because we do not know how to talk about ourselves and our ambivalence at heart as both confidants and strangers. More and more people saw you deteriorating and decided to leave. Observing your decline, I cannot bear to dash away. My acquaintances used to start their conversation with me: “Hey, are you in town?” I am always here indeed. I do come back after traveling around oftentimes. During the pandemic lockdown, I don’t even bother to renew my passport. Now people ask me: “Are you going?” This difficult question usually ends up with awkward silence.
People who I know or not, with whom I am familiar or not, turn out to go, one after another. Some have left with their families without so much as a note. Some decided to impose a self-exile. Some absconded, whereas some others were kept behind bars—a few who were let out had to live incognito and escape attention. Staying seems more difficult than leaving. People have left for various reasons—the future of their children, their personal safety—in an attempt to claw back what has been lost, etc. In reality, life can no longer go “back to normal.” We can’t pretend to sleep in a tornado that hits us from time to time. Meanwhile, the dramatic changes in you have estranged me. Things that we used to embrace together are now gone or abandoned. We used to be able to talk freely about almost everything, but now we fear to touch the invisible red lines that will bring us curses of misfortune. The bubbles of our hope have burst, and the promise of being “unchanged” was found to be a lie. Why should we cling to you and an unforeseen future?
I feel like I’m riding a roller coaster every day and night, debating with myself endlessly where to go. Some things that have happened to you have been beyond acceptable. However, I still decide to stay, because it is you who is in my mind, not those vampires who have drunk up your blood.
So, who are “you”? People found you full of opportunities. Some gave you the name of shoppers’ paradise. Some described you as the hen that laid the golden eggs. Some saw you as an entrepôt; some came to seek refuge. Some regarded you as a revolutionary base, whereas some named you a city of protest. People also titled you a world city; some other called you the gourmet heaven. Some said your day had gone, while some were determined to put you back on the right track. For me, these were all empty words. I have never had a say in defining what you mean to me. I suppose that we can only get to know you when we contemplate who we are and how we invest in you with our vitality.
As people are departing en masse, I have discovered some others who remain here and work very hard with enduring effort to make you a better place to live. Some are running spaces of “commoning” in our community. Some persevere in unearthing and writing histories and forgotten stories of this place rigorously. Some care for the underprivileged groups and defend their rights. Some create touching work that sincerely retells how they overcome their challenges in life. Some try to revitalize the civil society in the virtual world, while some must spend years of imprisonment for recklessly guarding you and defending our righteousness…. As soon as I realize that it is you who have made me who I am today, and it is you who have brought me the compadres along the way, I cannot bear to leave without a backward glance. Yes, I mean it—leaving you is like tearing my heart into pieces, and I cannot bear to see you falling apart either when looking back at you. One day, if you would get better, I would feel deeply ashamed for my departure and would dare not face you.
One may see me too timid to leave you for a new life. I think I have an awakening rather than wishful thinking. No matter if you are within an inch of life, or will be resurrected one day, I am ready to use all my strengths to share and pass what I have attained from you to other truly good people, as courageous and as devoted as the way I used to clench my fist for you. At least I do not have a “must go” reason; at least I can still afford to stay at the moment. Even if you would never recover from deterioration, it is my great honor to see you off solemnly with my companions.
Wish you are well, anyway.