If the Chinese government was really stupid enough to believe that the new national security laws could silence Hongkongers, I guess they were disappointed.
The new laws conveniently took effect on the 23rd anniversary of China’s takeover of Hong Kong. Yet despite a historic police ban of the 17-year tradition, on the very first day of the implementation of these unprecedentedly oppressive laws, the streets still exploded in deafening demonstrations which drowned out any signs of celebration on the public holiday.
Revolutionary banners of “Hong Kong Independence” only seemed to multiply, demands that Chief Executive Carrie Lam step down were merely replaced with “Carrie Lam, Go to Hell”, and the only pictures of “Uncle Xi” one could find were defaced ones.
But just as impressive as Hongkongers’ astounding display of courage was their bottomless creativity in defiance of the ridiculous legislation.
When we now find ourselves living in a time when even a small sticker of “Free Hong Kong/ Revolution Now” on the back of a child’s mobile phone leads to a criminal arrest for secession, Hongkongers are discovering ingenious new ways to voice their protests while dodging the law.
A completely blank placard was displayed at the July 1 demonstration, a reference to a USSR joke where a soldier captures someone distributing leaflets on the Red Square, only to find them utterly blank; but he follows through with the arrest, explaining: “You think I don’t know what you wanted to put on them?”
Similarly, while the police have managed to intimidate some protest-friendly “yellow” eateries into removing their rainbow-coloured Lennon Walls, others have started to display blank post-its.
Another “yellow” business, instead, put up hilarious “warnings” in simplified Chinese (used in China but not in Hong Kong), reading “Party People Ruling Hong Kong (a parody of “Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong”): you have now entered the Chinese Hong Kong zone, please take self-initiative to regulate your behaviour!” against a cheerfully kitschy Mainland-style background.
And instead of directly writing Heung Gong Duk Laap (香港獨立), which means “Hong Kong Independence”, some netizens are beginning to type hilarious phrases that sound unmistakably similar, such as Heung Gong Duk Dak (香港獨特), which merely says “Hong Kong uniquely special”.
But the most iconic banner in the forbidden march was one that brings tears rather than laughter, despite its deliberate use of colloquial Cantonese. Refraining from any overtly political message, the 5-meter long fabric simply reads in gigantic characters: We just really fucking love Hong Kong (我哋真係好撚鍾意香港).
These words are now being echoed all over Hong Kong, on social media, on newspapers, and in every freedom loving household.
Why are they so powerful? Because in one sentence, it perfectly articulated the one common sentiment of each Hongkonger who has ever taken to the streets, defying one of the world’s most terrifying regimes.
Because we really fucking love Hong Kong, we brave water cannons, pepper sprays and real bullets. Because we really fucking love Hong Kong, we will fight until freedom comes. Because we really fucking love Hong Kong, we fear no more.
China, you can criminalise a slogan, you can criminalise flags, and you can even illegalise numbers.
But how will you be able to criminalise Hongkongers’ indestructible sense of humour? How will you be able to criminalise a simple blank on a piece of paper? How will you be able to criminalise our love for Hong Kong?
You think you can silence us with fear, but we are a nation of descendants from the very refugees who built the legend of modern-day Hong Kong in defiance of fear.
Hongkongers are the offspring of the dissenters that the Chinese Communist Party did not manage to kill off – the successors of those who rebelled against their tyrannical regime. You tried to bury us, but you didn’t know we were seeds. Persecution has ever only made us grow.
China, you forget that you are dealing with a nation of heroes.