Friday, August 17, 2012

Down with this sort of thing!

Dave's certainly not happy about... something or other

Hong Kong hadn't been on my radar until recently, when I started to get the feeling that my time in Asia was drawing to a close and it seemed a bit remiss not to get China out of the way first. What with it being a bit big as well as massively influential on most of the cultures and countries I've seen over the past 18 months, which you're probably too racist to distinguish anyway. I've basically been in China for ages, right?

The main reason I didn't bother with Hong Kong until now is that I assumed it'd be very similar to Singapore, which is comfortable enough as a sanity/sanitary stop between jaunts in South East Asia, but isn't the sort of place I need to see repeated. But there's really not a lot of similarity, beyond both places wholeheartedly embracing capitalism to the most merciless degree possible. Oh, and they're both predominantly Chinese - but where isn't, right?

But there's just 34 years left before this Special Administrative Region is absorbed into the rest of China, and that might be what those gargantuan demonstrations and marches were all about when I coincidentally arrived in Hong Kong on the anniversary of the establishment of this weird and confusing one countries, two systems system. I don't know, I don't speak Cantonese, do I?

A relaxing Sunday afternoon in Victoria Park

Hong Kong is surprisingly like the UK in a lot of ways (more of that later), clearly a holdover from its embarrassing colonial history that's still evident in everything from widespread English language signs to distinctly British buses and the Queen's youthful profile still gracing the backs of older coins that really should have been removed from circulation around 1997. I haven't felt this much post-colonial guilt since I checked into a hotel in Kandy and a Sri Lankan staff member brought me unexpected tea and cake in my room. I hope he at least bothered to spit in the milk.

What's she doing here?

Fortunately, my British presence didn't ignite the ire of these protestors on this sensitive day, who were eager to try to involve me and seemed much less keen on the Chinese end of the ownership spectrum. I couldn't understand their placards or the rousing oratories delivered in the occupied Victoria Park, but I'd guess that those taking part ranged from Hong Kong citizens who weren't thrilled at the prospect of being taken over by a nation with such an unfortunate human rights track record to people who just really liked YouTube and didn't want the hassle of having to get a VPN if they wanted to watch a cat performing roller blade stunts against its will (my VPN's downloaded and ready to go).

I should probably be careful what I say about China, even though due to the miracle of scheduled blogs I'll have already been and gone by the time this entry goes live. Still, it didn't seem like the best idea to join these marchers and risk getting my photo in the media when I was hoping to apply for a China tourist visa a few days later. So I just observed impartially for as long as my attention span allowed, before wandering off and getting distracted by a remote controlled toy speedboat being operated by someone much too old to be doing that.

Here's a man who isn't troubled by global politics

Being an impartial bystander also meant I could enjoy the anniversary fireworks later that day without feeling slightly hypocritical. Judging by the size of the turnout, a fair few fickle protestors presumably didn't have qualms about turning 180 degrees on their passionately held political views to celebrate 15 years of the Hong Kong SAR with colourful explosions either. Maybe they just liked holding the signs.

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