Here in Chengdu, people have been asking me: “Hey, did you hear what they did in Hong Kong? They stood up to the government.”
There is no mention of winning or losing. Only the fact the HK citizens have the courage to stand up to the government, something Chinese, in general, feel they lack. One girl broke out in silent tears Saturday night as she spoke of the chance that the HK anti-brainwashing protests might be crushed under the bootheel of pro-Beijing “patriots”:
“If they can’t even win against them, if they stand up and get beaten … what about us? We have no hope at all …”
But now we gots hope.
That’s been the mantra this morning, as the news trickles in that the government backed down. It is just one battle, to be sure. Another battle is being fought now, as Beijing-backed political parties flex their organizational skills, funding, and devious tactics in an election that is just as important as the protests these past 10 days. But even the elections aren’t important for the people here.
Because it’s not about winning or losing here in Mainland China, not yet. It’s about the fact that there is a struggle after all. I am definitely sceptical. The majority of young Chinese I speak to laugh about “moral and national education” and shake their heads at how ridiculous things are. The sham headlines, fake news, meaningless spectacles and speeches. So meaningless that even humor fails. And struggle becomes as laughable as an old man with a crooked toupee hitting on teenagers.
Food for thought:
“What is a patriot? A patriot is one who respects the Chinese nation, sincerely supports the motherland’s resumption of sovereignty over Hong Kong and wishes not to impair Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability. Those who meet these requirements are patriots, whether they believe in capitalism or feudalism or even slavery. We don’t demand that they be in favor of China’s socialist system; we only ask them to love the motherland and Hong Kong.”
— Deng Xiaoping’s remarks on the concept of “One Country, Two Systems“ made in a speech in June 1984, 13 years before the return of Hong Kong to China.
I was a bitter little pill yesterday. Sweating my way through Chengdu with two boys clinging to my legs and whining with the full force of a mosquito swarm. I sat in the heat and tried to force feed one while the other turned his head and pursed his lips. No No No. Just before he pissed his pants.
Chinese were gathering around and watching us like we were a dysfunctional family of deranged, patchy-furred pandas in a shabby cage. Failures of the breeding center cast out into the city to fend for ourselves. I tried to be funny about it all, but they weren’t laughing and neither was I. Lasted all afternoon, this stressful situation in which Chinese mothers would approach shyly with their toddlers, trying to speak English and engender a friendship that may boost the chances of their 2 year old to go abroad and get rich, while I pretended to speak no Chinese.
Until finally, I ran into a professor and his class of happy, young engineers from the Electronics University in town. The professor was a talkative guy with alopecia universalis and a spectacular toupee. The kind you would assume is an incomparable ice breaker, but in actuality is never mentioned. Ever.
So we start talking because my son is being cute and they all want to hold him. He starts telling me (and most importantly his class) about his travels and how much he knows about Spain and Italy and Minnesota and so on. Eventually we get to the most recent “bullshit become truth”, and I see my chance to both rid myself of poisonous hatred and conjure up the Orly Visage:
“You know,” says the smooth skinned engineer. “When I went to Spain and Italy, I noticed that those people are very lazy. They don’t work hard like we Chinese do. It’s no wonder they need our money now” chortle chortle (sidelong glance at laowai) chuckle chuckle
The students clapped. I inhaled deeply, gathering my Qi, and extended my Buddha Palm of Enlightened Wisdom. I touched the professor on his forehead, just below the bootbrush toupee, and a circle of light enveloped us all. The air hummed. Everyone and a small bird cocked their head to the left. A hundred mouths ovaled slightly and two hundred eyes glazed over as neurons within made connections across dusty corridors and moldy funnels of cheeto thought.
“You … You … you are a very interesting foreigner,” said the professor. “We should hang.”
“Agreed. As long as next time, we discuss The Struggle for Hong Kong.”