The Confessions of a Running Man
I’ve been here for some time, but still haven’t formally announced my arrival other than disclosing to some close friends, colleagues and relatives. The longer I stay here, I more ashamed I feel about discussing this publicly. After all, fleeing from potential persecutions and leaving “co-walkers” behind is not something honourable to brag about. Being too high-profile after touching base myself may also have negative impacts on others who are planning to leave. I don’t want to cause them any harm by triggering unintended and unnecessary attention to them.
A friend of mine, in a similar situation as I, chose to announce though, for he felt awkward about withholding information from friends or even telling white lies all the time. After his social media post, he received loads of replies, many of which congratulations on his narrow escape, but many others were confessions about their relocation plans being implemented in secret, or that the senders had been here for a while too! There are so many Hongkongers who are silently planning to leave or have left their hometown for different reasons, but the one thing in common is that they no longer think Hong Kong is the right place to live.
Letting your son or daughter grow up in the Hong Kong at this moment is just wrong, and offspring’s well-being is undoubtedly one of the top priorities for decision-making. Imagine you have been telling your 10-year old princess for many years to be a righteous person by not telling lies, maintaining a sense of right and wrong, being caring, empathetic and not selfish, remaining open-minded, and not being a backstabber. You want her to be happy, and have the freedom to develop what she likes and to live without fear. However, with redlines and informers everywhere under the NSL, she cannot show her sympathy towards her beloved teacher who got suspended for distributing 10 copies of Apple Daily; she cannot openly discuss the June-Fourth Massacre and debate on the topic of self-determination with her classmates; she has to study the new Citizenship and Social Development subject and gets indoctrinated with twisted patriotism and the CCP’s version of history; she’d better not choose to be a journalist in the future because she may be arrested for having done a “subversive” interview or just searched the public transportation record in an investigative report; she will have to worry all the time about her outspoken boyfriend who may get “disappeared” one day, or struggle with how to reconcile and get along with her good looking husband who cares about her very much but is extremely “blue” [editor’s note: pro-government] in his life views; she may even have to betray her friends, teachers, colleagues or even you to trade tranquility with persecution on her family. In order to stay “safe” (both for herself and the “country”), she cannot be honest with herself, be what she is, express her views freely and actualize her true potential. She has to keep forgetting about her sense of morality and cannot trust anybody. She has to remain an island and reduce herself to an absolute economic animal, living constantly in fear. I think no parents on earth would like their beloved sons and daughter to walk this path.
Freedom from fear is the most profound and intense feeling that I had the moment I stepped out of my outbound flight. In the months before my departure, I would sometimes helplessly wake up before 6 a.m., wait and see if people would come banging on my door, and feel another day of freedom earned if the doorway remained silent till 7 a.m. I had nightmares of course, not un-occasionally, about being captured in the most vulgar manner. I can’t say I hadn’t psychologically prepared for the worst, but who knows where or what the worst is nowadays? Dictatorship doesn’t only want to contain and silence you, but to insult you, strip you of your dignity and have you denounce your past publicly as a showcase. In the name of the “People”, “perfecting” the rules of the game (so that it can sure-win every time) and sustaining its version of “One Country Two Systems” (as a result of absolute zero voice of opposition), dictatorship will do whatever necessary nakedly and shamelessly, with taking your life from you undoubtedly is one of its options (take Alexei Navalny as a reference). I felt I could finally leave all these fears behind after I exited the plane. I can now be a normal human being. The sweetness, purity and warmth in the air that I breathed in at that moment still lingers today.
What stayed with me though, are guilt and the feeling of indebtedness. I still see young Hongkongers being arrested, held in remand, tried and sentenced every day for having made attempts to make Hong Kong a better and just place. I still see journalists struggling so hard to stick to their positions of speaking out the truth, despite knowing that ill fate will come sooner or later. I still see countless ordinary people doing whatever they can to support the fallen “sau juks” (note: meaning brothers and sisters, protestors, teammates), be they “specialists” in being court trial audience, in seeing off the unsuccessful bail applicants or the convicted (by running after prison vans while yelling encouraging words), or in constantly writing letters to those in remand or prison in order to keep them connected with the outside world. I still see owners of “yellow shops” offering discounts and benefits to the staffers of Apple Daily, whose bank accounts were frozen by the police and cannot be used to pay the staff’s salaries. I still see people queuing up to buy Apple Daily in the morning after the newsroom was ransacked for the second time in a year. All these Hongkongers jointly but unintentionally keep emitting the beautiful flare of mankind. I can be where I am all because of them. Every ounce of freedom and happiness that I enjoy now is founded on their blood, sweat and tears. But how can I repay them? I haven’t done enough for them when I was in Hong Kong, let alone from afar now?
I don’t have immediate answers, though writing this piece to keep telling the stories of Hongkongers may be a starting point. What I know very clearly, however, is that I now have a safer and more unique position to do more, and I should make the best use of this position.
The opinions of the writers do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editorial board.
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