The Lion Rock Spirit: Why I’m Proud to Be a Hong Konger
“I used my backpack to shield a young girl from the police’s rubber bullets, because she was about to get hit and for sure she wouldn’t make it out of there if it wasn’t for me. Oh, and the pepper spray really hurt my face, especially my eyes, but I have already used dishwashing liquid to wash it out, so no worries.”
That’s what my 24-year-old brother told me the night he stood alongside other Hong Kongers against police brutality.
I was in a conference room at my Melbourne university library watching a live broadcast on Facebook at 11pm. The camera was filming how the police were bashing protesters with no protection but safety helmets; some had nothing on at all.
That day, nearly two million people from Hong Kong took to the streets to protest the passing of an extradition bill amendment, which was initiated by Chief Executive Carrie Lam. The demonstrations have continued ever since. But why? What has encouraged more than one-quarter of our 7.4 million population to flood all the major streets?
Fear, fear of losing the freedom that we have always enjoyed.
For what passing of this bill means is that Hong Kong’s legal system will no longer be independent. Both citizens and foreign nationals deemed to be “suspects” could be sent to China to be trialled — including activists, journalists and human rights workers. We believe this will put people at risk of arbitrary detention, unfair trial and even torture under mainland China’s judicial system.
In the face of fear though, is the Lion Rock Spirit. This is what lives in every Hong Konger’s heart, something that exclusively belongs to us Hong Kongers.
Lion Rock Hill is a mountain located within Kowloon Country Park. The name comes from the rock’s resemblance to a crouching lion, and originated in a theme song from a Hong Kong TV series back in the ’70s. It illustrates how grassroots Hong Kongers struggled with poverty, yet this spirit kept everyone motivated, and encouraged us all to never give up, no matter how difficult it may be. The Lion Rock Spirit has become a part of our cultural identity, explaining why we are so persistent when it comes to the core values we can’t let go of: freedom, democracy, rule of law, autonomy and human rights. It can’t be destroyed, and it unites us.
Geographically speaking, Hong Kong is a part of China. That’s why I hate to admit I am from Hong Kong, because people tend to associate us with China and its government. Every time I say it out loud, deep down I secretly wish I was from another country – anywhere but Hong Kong.
Historically, the British Empire colonised Hong Kong after the Chinese lost in the Opium War in 1841 and signed Hong Kong away through the Sino-British Joint Declaration in 1984: a 99-year lease which promised the city a high degree of autonomy and political freedom for 50 years after the handover in 1997.
The leader of Hong Kong is the Chief Executive. Under the principle of “one country, two systems”, we are entitled to autonomy and a system that follows the rule of law. Sadly, it is slowly fading away with continual coercion from the Chinese government. However, that doesn’t make any of us feel less like Hong Kongers, not for me especially.
I was born and raised in Hong Kong my entire life before I chose to study in Melbourne, and it has already been four years. Even though I have been doing various exchange programs, my news feed consists of 90 percent stories from my home.
Studying and living in Australia does not make me an Aussie. Since I have been in Melbourne for some years, I feel like I am an in-betweener: sometimes I’m left out when I talk to my Hong Kong friends because I can’t catch up with the slang and all, but I definitely don’t feel like I belong to the Aussie community. It is a bit weird, and it’s made me wonder: what makes me a Hong Konger instead of an Aussie when I’ve spent some years here in Australia too?
Wherever I go, 98 percent of the time, people regard me as Chinese. Generally, most people consider Hong Kongers to be Chinese – not only based on historical facts, but also because of our appearances. No doubt I look Asian, but it is a common misconception that all Asians are Chinese. I get really offended sometimes, I mean, we speak a different language – Cantonese; we write in different characters – traditional Chinese; we celebrate Chinese New Year, but also Christmas and Easter; we have different political ideologies…
There are so many more differences between Chinese and Hong Kongers, but not a lot of the world’s population can see that, or cares to learn. But there are lots of similarities too. Take family values as an example, such as showing respect to the elderly – and to our parents especially, because they gave us life.
However, we Hong Kongers are still distinct. It takes effort to explain it to others, but I would really love to help others understand my culture. Our Lion Rock Spirits.
My sense of belonging has grown even stronger because of the protests that began last month. Never have I been so proud to say that I am from Hong Kong.
Being away from my home during this time, though, has been incredibly difficult. Helplessness and worries fill my brain.
How’s my family going? Will my brother be okay?
I know him too well to know that for sure he is going to stand at the front line of the protest again. I really wish I was there to protect our hometown, the city that belongs to us. When it comes to things that will affect everyone’s livelihood, like our ideology and the important parts that hold the city together, we are very passionate. We are willing to fight because if we don’t, who will?
自己香港自己救 — the city belongs to us, so we won’t give up, not a chance. We’ve always had the Lion Rock Spirit in our blood, no matter how hard it is to stay above the water, we are in this together, and that is what makes me a Hong Konger.
Photos supplied by the author