Tainan

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HongKong is doomed.

It was a gradual process that led him to this conclusion. The thought was painful when his mind first formed it and when the feeling he got in response felt true. Painful but true. And it became true the moment he acknowledged it as a fact. So far, the response from his mind to this thought had always been one of hope and to a certain degree denial.
So far there were always more things that could be done. More people to convince to come out and protest. Hope that people would stay on the streets for another couple of weeks. Hope that the unity amongst the protesters remained strong and steadfast. Hope that more people would understand that this was the only chance HongKong will have and that now was the time for a united pushback.
The main challenge was to get people away from their computer screens and out on the streets, because the more faces showed up, the less chance there was of being ignored.

And in the first week people poured out into the streets like crazy, like there was no tomorrow. The emotion and urge to Resist and Change swept through the masses like HongKong has not seen before and in this moment the power of the people could not be stopped by anything or anyone. The masses drowned everything else out, made all else redundant. It was like in this Sizzla – “Taking Over” video, where in the moment, without any doubt, every single member of the audience truly believed they were “taking over” something. Taking over something shitty and they would turn it into something good and worthwhile. They were “Taking over and had nothing to fear.”
This is because people want to believe in something. A very human characteristic that not only religions know how to exploit.
But reality is not a 9 minute video, nor is it a rhyme that you sing and things suddenly turn rosy. Reality is something that is only fully grasped when it hits you from all sides.

In HongKong the reality was that after the first week people started to waver. Less and less people showed up to protest in the following weeks. Too many people “had to go back to work” and some were tired and exhausted. Understandably maybe, but he did wonder why people couldn’t see that this fight was bigger than any job or career? Do they not understand that TrueDemocracy©®™ wouldn’t come in a fortnight and on a silver plate?
“This was about who we are, about what was agreed from all sides under the Sino-British Joint Declaration, about our freedoms, our rights, not only for us, but the generations that come after us”. Wasn’t this worth any sacrifice?, and if the answer to this question was No, then he wanted to know what was.

After all, it was not that people didn’t have enough to eat or
drink while protesting. The supply chains and how the supplies were distributed worked brilliantly. Everyone helped everyone. It was a perfect community amongst the protesters. You needed anything fixed? There was always someone to fix it. You needed water to get the tear gas out of your eyes? Help was on its way.

For 79 days he lived and protested on the streets of HongKong and this was almost how his perfect HongKong should be like, just on a smaller scale. The community side of it. That everybody was looking out for everyone. Isn’t this even how the world should function?

He had many jobs during the protests. He cleaned the public toilets that in his wildest dreams he could not have imagined could reach such a state, but the work was necessary and made him stronger as a result. He dragged fellow protesters who fell and got injured out from behind police lines, dragged them to safety, made sure they are treated. He joined the supply chain and later the recycle team, helped setting up protester’s tents, but his main job was to make sure his fellow protesters were OK.

79 days of fighting, sweating, living rough. For what? Turned out the enemy was too strong. The media, the government, the police and of course the big Red Goliath in the room. Too strong on every front and there were many.

HongKong was doomed. And shortly after the protests ended, he could see his beloved HongKong change faster than ever. Every day 150 mainlanders would now come and settle in Hong Kong, often getting one of the rare apartments in the overcrowded city either for free, or for a significantly lower rent, in exchange for keeping “their eyes and ears open” and report back to the mainland or a local authority who was trusted. They also influence people’s opinion often subtle, or more often not so subtle.
150 of them. Every single day.
He on the other hand, a local, had applied for an apartment 10 years ago and still hasn’t heard anything back.

With the leaders of the protests, Joshua Wong, Alex Chow and Nathan Law now in jail, the enemy has in effect decapitated the heads of the movement.

From his jail cell Joshua stated that “Prison is an inevitable part of Hong Kong’s exhausting path to democracy”, but there was no “path to democracy” as far as he could see. There was no path, no hope.

And all this wasn’t even the most painful part. The painful part was his friends and fellow protesters with whom he stood his grounds for 3 months or so. When he told them, he would move to Taiwan they accused him of giving up the fight and run. That was the most painful part. This really hit home.
But didn’t he fight? Didn’t he argue, convince, discuss, laugh, cry, shout and bleed? What is there left fighting for? Too many people are just too comfortable in their bubble. Too many people had this “What can you do?” – attitude he so despised.
難得糊塗 goes the Chinese saying meaning
Where ignorance is bliss, it’s folly to be wise.

He was exhausted, tired and when you feel the last bit of hope evaporate from your body, what is there left to do? Where to get the strength from to do anything really? It was painful what his friends were saying because they were right. He had given up. He was running away. He filed his paperwork, took his savings, bought the ticket to Taiwan and settled in Tainan.

That was 3 years ago. And today there was still a lot of work to do. The front door needed to get ripped out and replaced with the nice, heavy wooden door he had found. The first floor still needed a lot of work so that the bar had more places for people to sit, drink and socialise and at some point, he wanted to offer simple food. Sandwiches maybe. For now his bar didn’t offer any alcohol, only traditional beverages, HongKong style of course. He was happy to store any alcohol for any guest behind the bar, so when they came, they could still enjoy their Rum or Whiskey or whatever and a good compilation of bottles have found their way into his bar.

In general, he was happy with how his bar looked already. He has put a lot of love in its decoration, but the remaining work was still significant and the progress was slow. Exhaustingly slow. With his girlfriend still back in HongKong, he was the only one working, fixing, decorating the bar, while at the same time he had to make sure all the supplies were in place to keep the bar running.

As opposed to HongKong he felt, there was still hope left for Taiwan. While the pressure from the Mainland can be felt, it was still manageable and felt distant. HongKong on the other hand was lost. Truly lost. More and more people like him are now settling in Taiwan, more and more come every day.

Life here in Tainan was slow and predictable. Predictable in the sense that there weren’t any pressing issues worth occupying any streets for. The last big thing was the pro gay marriage protests and if this is one of the biggest issues a country faces, then you’ve pretty much made it. Sure, Taiwan had economic issues aplenty, but at least here was no Umbrella movement, no Fishball revolution, at least not yet.

Memories of the protests are covering most of the walls in his bar. Stickers, posters, patches, replicas. All decrying independence, freedom and equality. Patches with yellow umbrellas on it are tucked to the wall along with other memories, some of which would only have any meaning to him and the protesters closest to him. Even a Police shield used by HongKong police during the protests that he somehow got and managed to bring to Tainan was placed in a corner of the bar.

Every piece was originally made, manufactured and printed decrying independence, freedom and equality, but have now turned into symbols of loss and failure. All showing a good attempt, but now serve as a painful, daily reminder of a shortcoming that can no longer be denied.
His bar’s decoration has turned into a testament to the strength of the other side.
A testament to a cry for freedom that has not been answered but shattered.
A testament to the big Red Goliath in the room.