A Moon Festival to remember

September 13, 2019 15:11
People gather around lanterns and installations at Victoria Park on eve of the Mid-Autumn Festival. While Hongkongers celebrate the festival, the overall mood is somber following the recent events in the city. Photo: Reuters

About 700 years ago, the Chinese used mooncakes to spread revolutionary messages, using the Mid-Autumn Festival to create special pastries that served a hidden purpose.

Well, we are now in our own "revolution of our times", if you go by the words of young Hongkongers who seem determined to continue their protest movement that began more than three months ago.

What began as a pushback against the government's ill-advised extradition bill has morphed into a different fight altogether, and at the moment no one knows how all this will end.

“Liberate Hong Kong” -- the phrase sure has a nice ring to it though one wonders how many among the demonstrators can really define what exactly they mean when they utter those words.

That said, let's acknowledge something the whole world now recognizes as a distinctive Hong Kong trait: the sheer tenacity of its people to keep up a fight, regardless of how daunting or hopeless the odds may seem.

As we head into a festival weekend, there will be much reflection among the citizens on the state of affairs in the city and what may lie ahead. At the same time, protest actions will continue.

On the full-moon night, people will go out again after their family dinner and the mooncake – which is likely to be more ice moon cake from Taipan rather than the traditional Maxim offerings.

From Victoria Park to the Peak, and from Lion Rock to Mount Parker, they will sing "Glory to Hong Kong”, the new theme song that many youth are describing as their "national anthem", while shining their laser pen lights.

Holding hands in human chains, they will reiterate calls that the government should accept all their five demands, including genuine universal suffrage, in the wake of the extradition bill fiasco.

Leaving aside vandalism and violent conflicts involving small groups of radical elements, the Hong Kong protests have been impressive in terms of the imagination and creativity shown by the youth in getting the message across. 

Since the start of the school year, students from various districts held hands together before the morning roll call. This year they will write their wish and light them in lanterns.

This Mid-Autumn festival this year is different due to the protests and their apparent fallout.  

We wil see a lot less mainland tourists in the city as the civic unrest and shrill Chinese state media coverage of the recent events will deter many cross-border travelers.

Also, Beijing has been limiting the visas to Hong Kong anyway.

As such, we may experience an unusual Hong Kong where we would not need to line up to get into the Disney theme park or get jostled by crowds in Ocean Park.

Among other locations, we could find the Sogo department store in Causeway Bay suddenly seem more spacious, or a trip to Sheung Shui more tolerable.

Comparisons are inevitable, but the scene is not the same as was witnessed during the days of the Occupy Central campaign in 2014 when youngsters camped out on the street for nearly 80 days.

The mood now among the young people is more defiant compared to that seen during the earlier mass movement, and they are not afraid of facing off with authorities.   

The police are partly to blame as their tactics, which included tear gas, bean bag rounds, water cannon and beating up demonstrators at train stations, have only enraged the youth further.

At a time when people were deeply unhappy about issues such as stalled political reform and the housing crisis, the high-handed approach of the government and police have made things worse.

We can only pray that Hong Kong will pull itself out of the current crisis. 

Moon means hope. Let's watch the full moon tonight and hope for the best.

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EJ Insight writer