Reunification Day, President Xi, Hong Kong and...horse racing?
It wasn’t planned, but I won’t be in my home in Hong Kong for today’s 25th Anniversary of Reunification Day when the city was handed back to China by the British government. I just had to get well away from the 24/7 of fear and loathing and non stop negativity and paranoia afflicting what was “Asia’s world city”.
Despite many having left Hong Kong before 1997, especially those having the luxury of possessing foreign passports, quite a few stayed behind.
At least for my American wife, and with me having a last minute Right Of Abode in the United Kingdom and being given a British passport or otherwise being stateless, we never thought about having any “escape clauses”.
We met in Hong Kong, fell in love and married in Hong Kong, our daughter was born and went to school in Hong Kong, and we are very much part of Hong Kong despite everything troubling the city today.
It was raining that memorable day in 1997 when Chris Patton, the last governor of Hong Kong and his family, left the city. Some said that the sky was crying.
Later that evening, Chinese tanks eerily rolled into Hong Kong and The Handover was made official.
My wife and I watched everything unfold on television, and the next day went to Spices at Repulse Bay for a very quiet lunch.
We knew something had happened, and it didn’t make either of us feel comfortable though we didn’t dwell on things. We simply got on with life, tried the best we could and eventually decided that our marriage wasn’t working.
Being in Love and staying in a marriage can be two very different things.
Yesterday, I watched CNN from Singapore where I have been holidaying after three months in Melbourne.
I watched its report on Hong Kong getting ready for the visit later in the afternoon of China’s President Xi Jinping, his first to the city in five years, and listened to his upbeat “appraisal” of Hong Kong’s “vitality”, and something about being “reborn with fire”. Alrighty then.
As expected, security was tighter than my tightest jeans. CNN had to mention how even rubbish bins had disappeared from the streets of Hong Kong. Not a surprise, but an interesting albeit goofy add-on to the channel’s set narrative.
After the events of 2019 when a peaceful demonstration against the introduction of the controversial Extradition Bill turned violent with very much guerilla tactics of Hong Kong’s perhaps overly romanticised “freedom fighters”, safety precautions like removing dust bins where homemade bombs could be hidden was to be expected.
This was the year that the city became divided into whether you were “blue”, meaning on the side of the police, or “yellow” and “standing with Hong Kong for democracy”.
Frankly, this division within the ranks had its roots in the Umbrella Revolution turned “movement” five years earlier with its various hashtags and inner politics.
It was also a movement not without its poseurs and faked out, shaken down publicity seekers. There was misguided and hollow politics.
Since 2019, Hong Kong- and the world- hasn’t been the same as the “Chinese virus”, Trumpism and the mousy Dr Anthony Fauci plus, of course, Vlad took centre stage.
A battered and bruised Hong Kong never recovered and has been allowed to limp along under the confusing leadership of a hapless Chief Executive with China watching from the sidelines.
China and its leaders were being inscrutable and didn’t want the Western media falling back on telling the world that what was going to happen next was “another Tiananmen Square”. That would have added more fuel to the fire.
As for those “freedom fighters” who enjoyed being in the limelight for their 15 minutes of fame and were asking the quite repulsive senator Ted Cruz, below, from America to “stand with them”, they were eventually rounded up and, well, made to disappear.
What’s somewhat weird, at least to me, is having a race meeting at Shatin when most of Hong Kong will be “self isolating”.
Apparently, where I stay, and my neighbour that’s the Grand Hyatt Hotel, are like war zones with Blue Berets everywhere.
With a typhoon heading towards Hong Kong, heavy rain is predicted for today, and even thinking of horse racing and having a bet is just too surreal.
With plenty to watch on television, that’s what I would be doing if in Hong Hong. But being in Singapore, and with no access to the racing back home, I’ll be at Sammy’s for a banana leaf lunch and then a good nap while wishing only the best for the present and future of Hong Kong.