It’s been four months since I took a midnight flight to Los Angeles. At Hong Kong airport’s departure gate I saw young families with children saying goodbye to tearful grandparents, parents, and friends. They were leaving for new lives in the West because they feared their birthplace was slipping into authoritarianism.
Will these young families eventually return like the thousands of jittery Hongkongers who fled before the handover? The 1977 Eagles hit song Hotel California has this line: “You can check out anytime you like but you can never leave.”
Jittery Hongkongers who checked out in the 1980s discovered their hearts could never leave Hong Kong. Many returned after 1997 when Beijing adopted a hands-off policy. But Beijing started ruling with an iron hand after the 2019 civil unrest. That’s why emigrating families are unlikely to return.
I checked out of Hong Kong to work in London, Washington DC, and Seattle but returned to take up job offers. Back then my birthplace was still a magnet for me. When people now ask if I will return, I say only to see family and friends.
I no longer recognize my birthplace. It’s not just the eroding media freedoms, civil liberties, and slavish behavior of those who have suddenly rebranded themselves as patriots. It’s also my slipping faith in the government and judiciary.
I am temporarily settled in Manhattan but still follow Hong Kong news. Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and Legislative Council election candidate Andrew Fung Wai-kwong made such bizarre comments recently that I had to pick up my pen after a long absence.
Lam told the state-run Global Times a low turnout for the December 19 Legco elections doesn’t mean anything because it shows the public is happy with the government’s work and credibility. This alone shows Lam, an overpaid and cloistered bureaucrat, is clueless about how ordinary people think.
Remember 2017 when she was a chief executive candidate? She didn’t know how to use an Octopus card or where to buy toilet paper. It’s not surprising she doesn’t understand polling results. Opinion polls consistently show the public dislikes her more than her unpopular predecessor Leung Chun-ying. The same polls show the government’s performance is dismal.
It’s Orwellian to interpret such findings as meaning the public is happy with Lam and the government. If a low turnout means nothing, why spend millions of taxpayer dollars in newspaper advertisements to urge people to vote?
I beg forgiveness if I have offended Lam but she did insist Hong Kong still has free speech. I know free speech is not absolute but I don’t think I have abused it. Andrew Fung Wai-kwong should learn how to exercise free speech without making himself appear silly.
He said during a debate by Legco election candidates that Hong Kong should decolonize by eliminating the legacy of British rule. I oppose colonization but also oppose whitewashing history. Fung needs to know if he wins he has a moral obligation to do what he said as a candidate.
To eliminate the legacy of British rule Fung needs to start by shaming so-called patriots who hold British passports. Dare he demand Lam’s husband and sons give up their British passports? Will he name and shame senior government officials who use taxpayer dollars to send their children to study in the UK?
And what of Government House where Lam lives, and Victoria Harbour? Will Fung demand the demolition of Government House and rename the harbor Greater Bay Area Harbor? He said senior officials should be sent to Tibet and Xinjiang for six months to understand decolonization. Fung the patriot should lead the way by spending this winter there.
I know Beijing can see through the sudden patriots. The record will show I don’t support Hong Kong independence. The national security law is too draconian but I have said I abide by laws. Critics still say I am a Leung Chun-ying fan after I supported some of his policies as chief executive. If I pick up my pen again I will explain why I prefer Leung as Hong Kong’s next leader even though it seems the city will be tragically stuck with Lam.