Some of the Things I Heard About Hong Kong in 2016


Photograph by Aaron Anfinson

by Tammy Ho Lai-Ming

After Eliot Weinberger, in the London Review of Books, 2006

I heard that a university in Hong Kong disapproved of its students being given free condoms. Remind me: what century are we living in?

I heard that Emirates’ Hong Kong cabin crew members were made to wear both China and Hong Kong flag pins on their waistcoats. Some Hong Kong staff wished to wear only the Hong Kong pin – because Hong Kong is Hong Kong.

On the first day of the Lunar New Year, instead of firecrackers, two gunshots were heard in Mongkok, fired by the police.

I heard that the U.S. had expressed concern over the court cases of Joshua Wong, Nathan Law and Alex Chow, student activists in the Umbrella Movement of 2014. In response, the Hong Kong government released a statement on 28 February 2016 stating that ‘Prosecution and trial in Hong Kong are entirely affairs of the SAR and no foreign governments should intervene’.

I heard that Hong Kong children are not happy. Those aged eight to nine and those over fourteen are particularly discontented. I heard that even kindergarten children have to do lots of homework. Can happiness be taught and given a grade? And are the teachers happy?

I heard that Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee said that tear gas is a ‘kind’ crowd-dispersing tool. I found that kindness means different things to different people and some people are very creative indeed.

I heard that a roof at a university in Hong Kong collapsed. The incident was first made known on a Facebook page where ‘secrets’ relating to all aspects of that university are shared.

I heard that in eleven Hong Kong public housing estates, tap water was found to have a high level of lead. Do government officials think that being residents of a public housing estate will somehow miraculously make people more lead-tolerant?

I heard that on 14 June 2016, bookseller Lam Wing-kee, previously kidnapped in China and detained for eight months, returned to Hong Kong.

I heard that Hong Kong’s memorial museum dedicated to the Tiananmen Square Massacre in 1989, an event that remains aggressively censored in China, was going to be shut down.

I heard that people were angry about the appearance of a Shanghai building against the backdrop of Hong Kong in a poster for the film Arrival. And why were they angry? Because Hong Kong is Hong Kong.

In September 2016, Nathan Law, representing the new political party Demosisto, became the youngest lawmaker in Hong Kong’s Legislative Council.

In a press release, the Centre for Food Safety warned the public to avoid excessive consumption of mooncakes during the Mid-Autumn Festival as ‘they are mostly high in sugar and fat’.

I heard that in October, a silent protest was staged at one university in Hong Kong by teaching staff and students against the encroaching Chinese influence on the city’s academic freedom, because Hong Kong is Hong Kong.

The long-imprisoned panda, Jia Jia, died in Hong Kong’s Ocean Park, aged thirty-eight. I heard that in 1999, to celebrate the second anniversary of the Handover, the Chinese government presented Jia Jia, along with An An, to Hong Kong as gifts. An An is still alive.

I heard that not many people were impressed when Chief Executive Leung Chun-yin, also known as ‘689’, used simplified Chinese characters in a Facebook post in November 2016, because Hong Kong is Hong Kong.

A student from a university in Hong Kong took her own life – possibly due to academic pressure – one of several such cases in the city.

On Christmas Eve, MTR trains ran overnight on all lines. I heard people singing and laughing. It was going to be a mild Christmas. Decorative lights were displayed, less extravagantly than in previous years.


About the Author:


Tammy Ho Lai-Ming is a founding co-editor of Cha: An Asian Literary Journal and she has edited several volumes of poetry and short fiction published in Hong Kong. Her first poetry collection Hula Hooping (Chameleon Press) was published in April 2015 and her first short story collection Her Name Upon The Strand (Delere Press) is forthcoming. In 2o16, she received the Young Artist Award in Literary Arts presented by the Hong Kong Arts Development Council. She is an Assistant Professor at Hong Kong Baptist University, where she teaches poetics, fiction and modern drama.