Many people have called the ongoing protests against the government’s controversial proposed Extradition Bill a show of solidarity among Hongkongers — but on the flip side, as I see it, the topic is increasingly dividing society.
I’m talking specifically about a separation between young Hongkongers like myself, and our parents’ generation. Much like during the Occupy Central protests in 2014, this is something so many millennials — who have become the forerunners of the movement — and Generation X can’t seem to see eye to eye on.
And not only that, but a difference in opinion seems to be manifesting in something tense and altogether not very “harmonious,” as we like to say in Cantonese when it comes to family values.
I’m part of a family group chat on WhatsApp that I have temporarily muted due to increasingly defensive remarks on all matters related to the bill. Elsewhere, a friend’s mom apparently cussed while talking about the protests — “something she never does” — while another’s dad threatened to throw her out of the house should she go to the protests.
While I certainly can’t say that every single Gen X Hongkonger supports the bill, the fact there are cartoons that advise anti-bill millennials on how to talk to conservative relatives about it gives a clue or two about just how much hostility is brewing among Hong Kong Chinese families.
But here’s something I’ve been struggling to understand. In my experience, the majority of Hong Kong folks I encounter who support the bill seem to be pretty successful middle-aged people.
They seem to not understand that the successes of the city are, in many ways, thanks to their parents and grandparents who came to Hong Kong from mainland China in the 20th Century.
Enduring hardships and the risk of persecution, forced to leave their possessions and sometimes even family behind, these people escaped war and communism, arriving in Hong Kong for promises of safety and freedom. My por por and her family are one such example. In other cases, people found ways to come to Hong Kong to escape poverty and search for opportunity and prosperity, like my gung gung who smuggled here from Macau.
It’s in my view that, for middle-aged, pro-bill Hongkongers who grew up in a period of relative political and social stability, they haven’t realized — or have simply chosen to ignore — the adversity the older generation had to overcome in working their way up, and building a life for the future generation.
Things got too comfortable for them — and during a time when they want to simply settle down to an easy life, Hong Kong is in trouble. Yet for many of them, they don’t want to step up. They see opposition towards the bill as something that disturbs the peace, and interferes with their plain-sailing retirement plans.
That’s why I think we have this strange situation where the elderly seem to be more “woke” than their middle-aged offspring — and can resonate more with millennials who are faced with major uncertainty.
For all these middle-aged pro-bill people out there: you might believe the unrest in society now rocks the boat too much and stops you from your comfortable existence. Yet I hope you realize that if this bill passes, it will change everything as we know it in Hong Kong. And lastly, remember what your parents and grandparents have sacrificed to get you here. Isn’t that what you’re always telling us young people anyway?
All Tea No Shade with Andrea Lo.
Love it? Hate it? Tell Andrea all about it: firstname.lastname@example.org.