Blogging a dead horse

Is a barrel of naked monkeys more fun than a barrel of hairy ones?

Extradition Bill

Hong Kong Possibilities

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I loved Hong Kong. I lived there for twenty-four years, so I must have liked living there. Some people do not. But if you understand that Hong Kong is a place full of possibilities then you will enjoy the place. Do not mistake possibilities for opportunities though. Those are for people with structured existences. And many turn up in Hong Kong attached to financial institutions where they have been given the opportunity to advance their careers and have higher incomes. These people often disappear into ex-pat enclaves and are never seen again. Then they leave, barely having engaged with Hong Kong at all.

Outside of these short-term arenas, one is in a wild place full of people taking chances. Hong Kong people mingle and mix with many people picking up ideas for possible lines of development. And one embarks upon adventures that one might never have considered. One also embarks upon endless lunch meetings that never amount to anything, but at least one has lunch! And often it is a free lunch!

The place gave me a life. It presented me with endless surprises. And all the assumptions that I had about myself, about the world, about people were of no value in Hong Kong. Here one starts with a blank sheet and builds plans, schemes, strategizes, and then throws the dice. Sometimes the numbers work and mostly they do not, but the fun is in the game. And whereas one might not change the world, or have any impact at all, Hong Kong does change you, largely for the better.

If you want to be a film star, then well, start acting like one. Be seen at the endless PR events and film festivals. Apply for parts in student films. Get on the agents list for extras. Get photographs. Post everything in Instagram. Make Facebook your friend. Do everything. Work for nothing. Be always available. Until your calendar is packed full and everyone knows you, and knows that you are no trouble, will turn up, and even if your talent is merely the talent to do the job without complaint, you make it happen. Suddenly you start asking people for money so that you can book them into your schedule otherwise they have to join the end of the queue. This strategy works in all manner of arenas. Want to be a racing driver? Sure, Hong Kong, that well-known centre of the racing world (sic!) might actually find you a ride, even if it is only as an e-sport player, or perhaps a commentator on the Macau Grandprix, and who knows where that might lead! Like a Chinese garden, there are many paths, and many surprises.

You might never be a great star, but you live the life of one. Plenty of my friends work in various capacities in the Chinese film world. And some manage to finesse that into a trip to Hollywood. Things can go well for you. Or they can collapse and one has to be thankful for a brief ride. But now there are other things, other directions, other connections, and other ideas. The party goes on and now and then possibilities turn into serious opportunities. The Hong Kong dream is that you can finesse trawling the streets collecting cardboard to building up an international recycling business.

Hong Kong is not exactly a welfare state. People can fall down and end up sleeping on the streets or in cage homes. A lot of things can go wrong. You lose money, family, hope, youth, and you can be down and out. But for the most part, Hong Kong gives more than it takes.

Which brings me to the present situation in Hong Kong: the mass demonstrations are an expression of faith in Hong Kong’s possibilities. They appose those who are seeking to remove those possibilities and reduce them to nice tidy, controllable, but highly limited opportunities that require a specific mind set and well placed connections. The crazy ants of Hong Kong are up against the soldier ants.

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For the authorities in Beijing, a good loyal citizen is either cheap labour, or a privileged manager loyal to the plan handed down by those in authority. The place for the messy artist or the risky entrepreneur is limited. They might be useful exponents of certain skills, but only if they put them at the service of the state. Your freedom is the freedom to avoid trouble and be paid for the work you are given or allowed to do. Prison is always an option for those who do not stick to the plan. You have to stamp on a lot of little ants to keep those streets clear for the bigger bugs to pass unhindered.

The communist party of China sees Hong Kong as mostly populated by people who are descended from class enemies that fled China, and are in severe need of re-education. They need to be taught to love the communist party and love China. Hong Kongers once had hopes for China, but these have been disappointed by the refusal of the communist party to allow Hong Kong to elect its own government. If they had allowed that, Hong Kongers would not only love China, but might have even voted for the communist party!

Not that Hong Kongers ever have great hopes from any government. They just want a government that lets them get on with living the way that excites them. But now they are for the most part in fear that Hong Kong’s possibilities are becoming less and less and the pleasure of living in this unique city will turn to misery when it becomes something soulless and depressing and the only possibilities are those of saying something that will get you reported to the authorities.