23 January 2019
It's love in a time of protest as a newlywed couple seal their bond with a kiss in front of demonstrators. Photo: ABC News
It's love in a time of protest as a newlywed couple seal their bond with a kiss in front of demonstrators. Photo: ABC News

Sorry for the inconvenience, we’re changing Hong Kong

It is not for nothing that Hong Kong protesters have been dubbed by international media the most polite campaigners in the world.

Hongkongers in general are polite, friendly and helpful.

Civility is woven into the social fabric of Hong Kong society.

Which is a completely different picture of the Hong Kong we were told about in the 1970s and 80s. Hongkongers were brash, crude and unfriendly, we were made to believe.

This is of course not true.

One of the first words we learned when we came to this fair city in 1990 was “m’goi”.

Hongkongers seem to be saying “thanks”, “sorry” and “excuse me” all the time.

Step into Giordano or some other shop and you will hear a cheery “welcome” and when you leave, “goodbye”.

Have a meal at Fairwood and you’ll hear “hello” and “thank you” from workers earning as little as HK$28 per hour.

That’s service excellence for you.

Everywhere one goes, there are orderly queues. People wait patiently in line at restaurants, in banks and at unsheltered bus stops amid noisy traffic and acrid exhaust fumes.

Queue jumping is just not the done thing. Which cannot be said of most of our mainland cousins, sorry.

On Hong Kong’s busy roads, courtesy is a given though at times overdone to our annoyance, we must admit.

Often a driver on a major road would slow to a halt (and inevitably hold up traffic behind) to allow a vehicle on a minor road or on a layby to proceed.

Is it only in Hong Kong that drivers do this? They are courteous to a fault.

But surely a motorist on a major road has the right of way? Or have Hong Kong drivers rewritten the highway code?

On buses, passengers boarding or alighting can often be heard saying to the driver, “m’goi”.

Have we missed a trick there? Did they not pay their fare?

Hongkongers are a stoic and tolerant lot. Hardly a week goes by in the city when there is no demonstration for one cause or other.

And there was a protest against protests organized in August by Anti-Occupy Central which claims it represents the so-called silent majority.

People put up with the protests, which seem to have become a way of life.

But the Umbrella Movement spearheaded by Occupy Central and the Hong Kong Federation of Students is unfolding as a protest like no other. It is a civil disobedience campaign with a lot of civility.

Tear gas canisters are not thrown back at the police, no property is damaged and there are no overturned vehicles.

At the occupied sites, there are stations with supplies of food, water, first aid, raincoats and umbrellas — you name it. Garbage is collected with recyclable items put into designated trash bags.

And many signs of apology can be seen.

Yes, only in Hong Kong.

It is as if the protesters are on a charm offensive to win the hearts and minds of the silent majority, never mind that the government does not approve.

The very civil disobedience belies a fierce and fervent demand for universal suffrage and the resignation of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying to boot.

One sign carried by a protester says it all: “Sorry for the inconvenience, we are changing Hong Kong.”

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