Happy Canada Day. Please meet Stephen.
Stephen is a lion, but this is not his best side. Not by a long shot.
Stephen, and his buddy Stitt, are a pair of HSBC (Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation – TIL) sculptures, “guarding” the Hong Kong headquarters on Des Voeux Road. Stephen looks pretty beat up, if you look closely. During the Second World War, or so a HK historian told me recently (and this differs from the conventional explanation you’ll find on Wikipedia), after the conquest of the the island, Japanese soldiers took to shooting up this poor guy.
Those are bullet holes.
When the lions were rescued from a certain fiery death (melting down and reforging) and returned here in 1946, the decision was made to leave the battle scars intact.
I’d seen these lions before, on a trip to China in 2006, and may have even noticed the holes. I definitely didn’t know the provenance of the damage at the time. But after seeing these lions in person, just over a month ago, tracing the damage and poking my fingers into the bullet holes myself, the story left a big impression on me.
Today is Canada Day. Happy 152nd to us! But it also coincides with anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong to the Chinese government, 22 years ago. And that’s the connection, for me, today.
Hong Kong tugs on my heart today, for obvious reasons. I fear for its end, I worry for her people.
I have travelled a little bit in China. It is a vast country, and I have seen just a little bit of it; five weeks in SIchuan, Guangxi, and the occupied country of Tibet. Hong Kong is not China. Just like Taiwan is not China, just like Tibet is not. Hong Kongers are polite and civilized and cultured in a way that I doubt mainland China will never be. They queue politely, they are helpful if you need it, they don’t litter. They pay for what they take.
Now, obviously, this is a bit of hyperbole; even Canadians litter, after all. But I will insist that Hong Kong is not China. And, unfortunately, the bully that is the government of the Peoples Republic will probably win this one.
As bullies often do. And so, on this Canada Day, I fret. Happy birthday to us, but give a thought to Hong Kong.
Photo Credit: [/u/lebbe]