A Hongkonger working with mainland media confronted by both sides in Occupy Central reporting

By Catherine Wong Tsoi-lai Source:Global Times Published: 2014-12-29 20:08:01


As a reporter from Hong Kong working for mainland media, I have interviewed many people from both the Special Administrative Region and the mainland regarding their views on the Occupy Central protest.

Because of my identity as a Hongkonger, I have also been asked many questions from both sides about my personal views on what is going on with the city amid the rising tension in its relationship with the Chinese mainland.

The debate on the meaning of democracy and "one country, two systems" centers on the Occupy protest that had swept Hong Kong for two and a half months until its end in early December.

"Why can't we have fair and genuine elections according to our desire?" some Hongkongers asked.

"Why aren't the Hongkongers satisfied with the progress they have enjoyed, and why don't they respect the decision of the central government?" asked my friends from the mainland.

The Standing Committee of the National People's Congress reached a decision on August 31 on the methods to select candidates for the post of chief executive by universal suffrage. The candidates for the job are to be pre-screened by a nominating committee, while the Hong Kong opposition leaders argued that the selection panel should consider nominations made by Hong Kong residents.

Police drive Occupy protesters off Lung Wo Road in Hong Kong on December 1, 2014. Photo: CFP

My background of coming from Hong Kong and experience working at the Global Times has put me in a position where I get to see viewpoints from both sides, including a conversation I shared with Jack, an ordinary Hong Kong office worker who is about my age, on a hot October day after the protest broke out.

Jack had just finished work and was rushing to join the protest. For a quick meal, we met up in a nearby Cha Chaan Teng, a local grass-roots restaurant in the Central district. Many of these restaurants are becoming marginalized due to the soaring rents in the area, Hong Kong's main business district.

"They've raised the price of the food again. This is already the second time in two months," said Jack, frowning as he looked at the menu.

Expensive food, unaffordable homes and an uncertain future - these are all reasons that pushed Jack to join the protest. "We young people must stick together. We mustn't let only the rich decide on our future," he said.

Hong Kong's income disparity is among the highest in the developed world. While one-fifth of its population lives in poverty, recent research found that 15,400 multimillionaires - those with at least $10 million in net assets - live in Hong Kong, more than any other city in the world.

Do you think you can really achieve your goals? I asked.

"I know it could be futile," he shrugged, "but at least we have tried."

Jack's feelings reflect the mentality of the younger generation in Hong Kong, who continue to push the limit regardless of the fact that they knew it is impossible for their demands to be achieved, which is in stark contrast with the city's older generation of residents.

When the older generation of Hongkongers moved from the mainland and settled in Hong Kong, many of them never considered this small city situated at the southernmost tip of China would be their permanent home.

My grandfather, who came from the mainland, was overjoyed when he watched the hand-over ceremony of Hong Kong's return to China in 1997, and told me how glad he was that Hong Kong was finally back in the motherland's embrace.

To the older generation, stability is the most important aspect of their life and their previous experience living in the mainland has built a strong sense of belonging.

I was born in 1989, the year when the older generation of Hongkongers started their pursuit of democracy.

However, unlike the young generation now, they came to acknowledge the inseparable and undeniable bond that the future of Hong Kong is tied to the greater part of the Chinese mainland.

As Hong Kong continues to evolve into a place where East meets West and ideas from both sides converge, young people have also evolved to be more in tune with the Western idea of democracy. Many have become increasingly radical for the cause they believe in.

The eventual clearance on the main protest site in Admiralty on December 11 has proven the two-and-a-half-month demonstration a failure, but both the SAR and the central government have to prepare for a more progressive generation of young people.

Differences are apparent even among the young and older generations of protesters, as while the older generation knows the limit and their moment to retreat, the young will continue to push the envelope.

Before I moved to Beijing in April, before the Occupy protest began, many Hongkongers considered the streets of Hong Kong to be "occupied" by the "tuhao" - nouveau riche from across the country, as their shopping craze is also chipping away at Hongkongers' pride as well as their respect and trust for the mainland.

When I went back in October, the Occupy rally has started, in what some young people call as reclaiming their territory. They think that "two systems" could tower over "one country," while it has already been written that "one country" always comes before "two systems."

I have asked many questions about the city's past and present, but so far no one seems to be able to point to an exact path for its future, in particular the right ways to bridge the gaps in understanding of "democracy" and "one country, two systems."

But one thing is for sure, the cracks emerging between the city's young and old generation needs to be amended just as my friend Jack is reconciling with his parents on their views regarding the city's future.

And while Hong Kong is also presented with two diverging paths of confrontation and reconciliation, I will continue to stand between both worlds, bearing witness to the evolution of this city which occupies a tiny crack in the space of history.
Newspaper headline: Between two worlds

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