Why Hong Kong Matters

I have never stepped foot in Hong Kong. I am a UK national born and raised in Manchester. I can’t tell you anything about life in Hong Kong, name a favourite bar or restaurant, nor direct you to a particular neighborhood. I did not expect to be asked to contribute to a newsletter for Hong Kongers. So, when the call came and I was asked to write this column, I immediately accepted. When I reflect on why, I think of the words of Martin Luther King Jr. ‘our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter’. So why does Hong Kong matter to me, someone Hong Kong has no connection to?

The answer to this is not simply one thing. While born and raised in Manchester, I have lived most of my adult life in other countries, most notably Mexico and Turkey. I experienced the effect of oppressive cartels and governments on everyday life. While in Turkey I witnessed some of the actions from the dictator’s playbook. These experiences left me with a strong sense of justice and to appreciate freedom of speech and press, even if keeping up with the world news from the latter is my worst anxiety-inducing habit.

And so it came to pass that by watching the world news I saw the reports and watched the videos. Through social media I heard stories – the same old story of authoritarian governance, some of the same steps in that playbook I witnessed playout in Turkey.  Hong Kongers showed the world their desire when they protested the new security law in unprecedented numbers. They showed the world their resolve and will through the protests that followed in the face of police brutality taken to a lethal-level. Since 2019, we have seen the world media turn focus to each new passing horror story, whether that be in Myanmar, Palestine, Xinjiang or Afghanistan. Hong Kong might feel like another screaming voice amongst thousands.

Yet, the UK in particular owes Hong Kong the safety of her people and to guarantee their freedom. We have rightfully offered a temporary solution in safe haven until the day hopefully comes when Hong Kongers can return home safe and free. I am also glad to see the USA given security to Hong Kongers there, as the international community needs to protect democracy and freedom of speech and press.

Hong Kong is also an example in plain view of what the future would be like if the Chinese Communist Party were to get what they want and become the dominant global power and culture. I have sat and listened to first-hand testimony of a Hong Konger present at the sieges of CUHK and PolyU. To anyone with a sense of justice, to anyone who enjoys freedom of press and the existence of private life, Hong Kong matters and I will not stay silent.

About Author

Bob James

From Manchester, UK. Grew up in local area before spending 8 years abroad in Mexico, Colombia and Turkey. Returned in 2018. Published short-story writer interested in learning more about Hong Kong and giving a local's perspective.