In honor of what’s going on today in Hong Kong, I felt it was best to share what I experienced on my visit before recapping everything else from my grand summer adventure. Today marks the 11th weekend of protesting against main land China, and from what I can see it’s only getting worse. For those of you who have no idea what is happening in Hong Kong right now, here is a link to BBC News with a few articles you should brush up on. In a nut shell, Hong Kong is fighting for their freedom against mainland China. Back in the late 90’s, Hong Kong was once a British territory, until they gave the land back to the Republic of China. Since it was a British territory, Hong Kong rules as a democracy. China has now passed a bill where Hong Kong will follow the same ruling as mainland China, which is Communism.
Robyn and I planned this trip months before all the protesting began. I spent every day studying the news and researching if it would be safe for us to go. While in Indonesia we were still debating on canceling our trip, but thanks to our friends who live in Hong Kong updating us and our parents support, we decided to continue on with our trip.
When Robyn and I went out Monday August 5th, we were trying to make our way to Hong Kong Island to check out a museum. When leaving our hotel, Harbour Grand Kowloon, they advised us to stay away from Hong Kong Island because tunnels will be closed, streets will be blocked, and riots will break out come night fall. This man expressed that he didn’t even know how he was getting home later since the tunnel and all main road were already blocked. Of course we didn’t listen and decided to take the ferry thinking the protesters wouldn’t stop that. Our hotel had a free shuttle that would drop us off in front of the famous Peninsula hotel and walk 3 blocks to the port for the Star Ferry.
Before crossing on the ferry, a woman in yellow was passing out flyers, warning tourists to be cautious if we choose to go to the other side. She saw our cameras and asked if we came to document what’s going. This woman started SOBBING and hugged me so tight, thanking us for coming to help spread the word. Here is a woman, who breaks out into tears, hugging a complete stranger, sharing raw emotions that I internalized and made my own. I could feel her pain, and it broke my heart.
Once we got to the other side, we quickly changed our plans and started following everyone dressed in black. We came across a peace rally, where thousands of people with face masks and colorful umbrellas, holding bright yellow signs that had Chinese characters on them, gathered to listen to a woman speak. I didn’t need to understand their language to know that they were in pain and angry. At one point the woman started a chant, and EVERYONE chimed in. It was so powerful hearing all of their voices. This was the hottest day of our trip and the heat didn’t stop these people from speaking their truths. As the chanting continued, we knew we needed to get out of this crowd. We started swimming up a stream of protesters, who covered either faces when I tried to take a photo. They would even try to hand us masks, but it wasn’t until the 4th person offering them I realized it was for our own identity protection as well. As we were leaving, thousand of protestors were piling up the escalators to attend the event. Beyond grateful we left when we did because as the sun started to set, violence erupted.
We were at the Peninsula hotel for hours, waiting for someone to take us back to our hotel. We noticed that they were barricading the hotel windows and doors. The man explained that the police station right behind them had been attached and it wasn’t safe for anyone to be outside at this point. That was when I started to panic a bit for the first time throughout the day. The idea of not having my passport if shit hits the fan, really started to worry me. What I loved most about the Peninsula was how willing they were to protect us, and host us for the evening if we were not able to get a ride. Everyone was rushing to get home, either to be part of the protests or to protect themselves from what was to come. An hour later, we finally got a ride back to our hotel, and I noticed that every store front, home and other hotels had barricaded their doors and windows. You could even see people dressed in black flooding parts of the streets getting ready for the riots that were about to take place. Needless to say, Robyn and I decided to stay in and order room service while watching That 70’s Show on Netflix to pass the time.
This is what Hong Kong looked like the night of August 5, 2019.
Throughout all of this, we not once felt that we were in any danger. Our blood may have been rushing and we were always on alert, but we were truly safe. My biggest moment of panic was when we finally got to the airport at the end of our trip. I saw airport security talking to the airlines and knew something wasn’t right. As we checked in, they handed us a blank sheet of paper having us fill out our information and an emergency contact. Needless to say my thoughts were not positive at this point and kept thinking, “oh shit, we are never getting out of Hong Kong”. Thankfully our flight took off, but later that day, the airport was flooded with protestors and the airport had been shut down, canceling hundreds of flights. So much more has happened since we have left and this weekend over 1.7 million people marched throughout Hong Kong in the rain with their colorful umbrellas, still fighting for their rights.