I was in the middle of re-working an article about adoption/transracial adoption and the seeming cultural arrogance surrounding this type of intervention.
But Hong Kong weighs heavily on my mind and in my heart.
Students doing their homework in Hong Kong’s street protest
I left Hong Kong in the early 60s on a BOAC plane bound for London airport having been put up for adoption.
It would be almost twenty years before I set foot on Hong Kong soil again. I was brought up to be English. I found rejection amongst many in the, then closed British-Chinese community during the seventies, eighties and even in the nineties as I was growing up. They viewed me with suspicion, what was I? I couldn’t speak Cantonese and I knew next to nothing (then) about Chinese culture or etiquette. As for the British who had adopted I found just as much rejection and suspicion, probably more. So why do I have such strong feelings for Hong Kong. Why does my stomach tighten and slowly become its own tourniquet? Why as I watch the outside broadcastings, video reports and smart-phone videos on social media, why does my mind keep going back to Tiananmen Square in June 1989?
Thousands of students from local colleges and universities march to Tiananmen Square, Beijing, on May 4, 1989, to demonstrate for government reform. (AP Photo/Mikami)
Protesters block the main street to the financial Central district, outside the government headquarters in Hong Kong, September 29, 2014. (Reuters / Carlos Barria)
I suppose it was during the build up to the Tiananmen Square massacre that I found my true cultural soul. The one that had been hidden, the one that I had lost all those years ago and it didn’t matter that I couldn’t speak Cantonese or Mandarin. It didn’t matter that I had not be brought up in the culture of my birth. What mattered was what I was prepared to stand up for. What I as prepared to protest about. Those that ridiculed me for not having an accent and those that took the proverbial out of me for being “English” those people no longer mattered.
As I argued with friends and acquaintances in a Chinese restaurant two nights before the massacre, it was simple. The things that made me “Chinese,” “East Asian,” call it what you will wasn’t the language, wasn’t the culture, but what was in my heart, mind and “soul.”
Languages can be learnt, culture can be taught and understood. But what you as an individual feel and connect with, are emotionally bound to, are I believe hard-wired into your dna. The fact that I was prepared to stand up and support those demonstrating in Tiananmen Square by protesting outside the Chinese embassy and marching through China Town made me as East Asian as the next person. Many of the East Asians sat around that table took the attitude, that what was happening in mainland China in Tiananmen Square, had nothing to do with them. So why should they bother getting involved. That shocked me. I wonder, how those people who were sat around that table twenty-five years ago, feel now? As the world focusses its lenses and media this time, not on Tiananmen Square, but on Hong Kong, former British colony and now Special Administrative Region of China.
I am 9,565 km from Hong Kong but my heart is there. It is with the students and all those who are peacefully protesting.
I wonder, I fear, I hope.