Samantha Culp

Democracy and Penguins – Hong Kong 15 Years Later

“北極有企鵝,香港有民主” – “The North Pole has Penguins, Hong Kong has Democracy” –
(note: this joke only makes sense if you remember that only the South Pole has penguins…)

I forgot that these DIY-stencil magnets, ordered back in 2009 from a fellow friend of iconic HK indie band My Little Airport, were still on my old water-dispenser in Beijing, until I stumbled across them again today of all days.

Reading updates on today’s events from friends currently in Hong Kong (especially the Twitter reportage of Robin Peckham and Facebook photos from/of artist Kacey Wong), it makes me wish I could be there today. In lieu of that, I’ll post the essay I wrote five years ago for Purple Journal about July 1st 2007, the 10th anniversary of the handover. Though always cringe-inducing to revisit one’s old writing, perhaps it’s one small snapshot of where things were five years ago. It seems we can barely imagine what 2017 will bring.

An excerpt:

In the boiling park along with assorted artists and friends, Hong Kongers and foreigners both, we begin our march. We head West along Hennessy Road toward Central. I have never walked so far in Hong Kong before. Sometimes we are held up a long time behind the Falun Gong groups, who stop to do little dances or musical numbers with traditional Chinese drums, but that’s okay. We are in a sea of people: though the police, of course, estimate the turn-out at 20,000, the organizers put it at 68,000, and by the endless crowd, that number doesn’t seem impossible. We walk, and walk, and keep walking, holding our artist-made banners in the midst of all kinds of banners, watching the police watch us from the sidelines. Hu Jintao apparently knows about the protest, and while he’s not here, has approved of it on the grounds of the “civil order” of Hong Kong people. Today he is in Happy Valley Race Course, watching the “horses keep running”[1 马照跑] in a CCP-approved gala spectacle (pop stars, synchronized dance moves, official speeches, confetti). But Hong Kong’s people are here. The marchers keep marching.

(Read the full 2007 essay “Expiration Dates” here)


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