Dear Hong Kong,
How are you?
This pleasantry probably makes us bewildered because we do not know how to talk about ourselves and our ambivalence at heart as both confidants and strangers. More and more people saw you deteriorating and decided to leave. Observing your decline, I cannot bear to dash away. My acquaintances used to start their conversation with me: “Hey, are you in town?” I am always here indeed. I do come back after traveling around oftentimes. During the pandemic lockdown, I don’t even bother to renew my passport. Now people ask me: “Are you going?” This difficult question usually ends up with awkward silence.
People who I know or not, with whom I am familiar or not, turn out to go, one after another. Some have left with their families without so much as a note. Some decided to impose a self-exile. Some absconded, whereas some others were kept behind bars — a few who were let out had to live incognito and escape attention. Staying seems more difficult than leaving. People have left for various reasons — the future of their children, their personal safety — in an attempt to claw back what has been lost, etc. In reality, life can no longer go “back to normal.” We can’t pretend to sleep in a tornado that hits us from time to time. Meanwhile, the dramatic changes in you have estranged me. Things that we used to embrace together are now gone or abandoned. We used to be able to talk freely about almost everything, but now we fear to touch the invisible red lines that will bring us curses of misfortune. The bubbles of our hope have burst, and the promise of being “unchanged” was found to be a lie. Why should we cling to you and an unforeseen future?
I feel like I’m riding a roller coaster every day and night, debating with myself endlessly where to go. Some things that have happened to you have been beyond acceptable. However, I still decide to stay, because it is you who is in my mind, not those vampires who have drunk up your blood.
So, who are “you”? People found you full of opportunities. Some gave you the name of shoppers’ paradise. Some described you as the hen that laid the golden eggs. Some saw you as an entrepôt; some came to seek refuge. Some regarded you as a revolutionary base, whereas some named you a city of protest. People also titled you a world city; some…