While the protests continue in Hong Kong, the Hong Kong diaspora looks on with fear, anger, solidarity and hope. Zoe Mills asked Hong Kong New Zealanders what they wanted to say to those back home, as they fight on to protect their civil liberties.
Since June, a wave of political unrest has rocked Hong Kong. Provoked by a bill which would allow extradition of legal suspects to mainland China, the demonstrations, mass mobilisations and other forms of civil disobedience are now a regular occurrence in the city. Over 2,000 people have been injured in the course of the uprising, and more than 1100 arrested. Despite an announcement on September 4 that the extradition bill would be officially withdrawn when the parliament reconvenes, the protests continue in support of the remaining four of the protestors’ five original demands.
Voices of Hong Kong NZ is a project that aims to capture the concerns, fears and hopes of Hong Kong New Zealanders – for their friends, family members and everyone fighting for their democratic freedoms.
All names of participants have been changed for privacy and safety. Interviews have been edited slightly for clarity.
I was born in Hong Kong; I spent my whole life there. I started going to boarding school a couple of years ago here, but my family still stills over there – I live here and go back in the school holidays.
I’m glad I’m in New Zealand at the moment, because I usually hang out with my friends in town, so that would be hard for me to do (in Hong Kong). I’m worried for all my friends and family over there, because I think everything’s going to start getting more serious.
Hong Kong people are good people. A few of my friends are going out (to protests) and I’m worried that they’ll get hurt or get in trouble with the law.
Midori, mid 30s
Hong Kong is my home. I’m a proud Kiwi, but I’m both – I don’t think I’m one or another. When something goes wrong in Hong Kong, even though I’m here, it still pains me very much. Ever since June, I’ve been crying every other day while reading and watching what’s happening there. I’ve been trying everything I can to help spread the message to my fellow Kiwis. I’ve been doing lots of work in the background.
Being in New Zealand, I feel very powerless. The other day, I even called Jacinda Ardern’s office! She has been going overseas and talking about how she’s the type of person who promotes inclusion and tolerance within New Zealand, but she has been dead silent. Many Kiwis don’t know that the Hong Kongers here are facing a lot of threats from the Chinese community. People can scare us with their threats, but they cannot scare us off. This is New Zealand, and this is our right to protest and express ourselves.
David, mid 30s
I came to New Zealand from Hong Kong after primary school in the mid 90s, and I’ve stayed here ever since. Hong Kong still has a special place in my memory, it’s still a place that I call home. This movement raises a fear that it might never be safe again for us to return (to Hong Kong), just because we’ve raised our voices that are sensitive to the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) such as the Tiananmen Square massacre. The Chinese media gives their own version of these events – they have given a rather poisonous impression of these events, and therefore a lot of hate has been created between the mainlander Chinese and us Hong Kongers. I do feel a lot of sadness that it may never be safe for me to go there again.
It’s not a fight for independence, we’re fighting for the freedom to make decisions about OUR home. If something as simple as stopping the new law from passing, which we believe is doing more harm than good, then why should it matter what flag is waving?
I have a wish that there can be an equality of information between people, because a lot of hate is created. Things are being selectively reported – it creates bias, and opinions can become more and more polarised. If there is a more neutralised form – say, the lifting of the firewall in China that allows them to access more perspectives from outside China – it will ease tensions between mainland Chinese and the people of Hong Kong.
Astrid, early 20s
I came to New Zealand three and a half years ago for my studies, and I’ve lived in Hong Kong for most of my life, so I have a strong connection between my home. My grandparents moved from China to Hong Kong, so I’m a third-generation Hong Konger. I strongly support Hong Kongers who are fighting for their freedom, freedom of speech and basic human rights. I think what Carrie Lam has done for the few months is ridiculous – she’s been ignorant and she’s allowing police to brutality treat people. I’m very sad and angry about it all. The thing that I’m most worried about firstly is [that the extradition bill will] pass, because then China would be able to control the freedom of our media, and our freedom of speech. Another thing I’m worried about is police brutality – we’ve recently got lots of news about people being injured or being sent to ‘hidden places’. It’s confronting.
The Hong Kong government should respond to the 5 demands. Stay Awake. Stand Strong.
I was born and raised in Hong Kong, and I moved to New Zealand more than 20 years ago. For me, it’s still my home town and I’m connected to that place. We moved to New Zealand because, like many other Hong Kongers, we weren’t certain about the handover and what it meant. My whole family is very passionate about what is happening in Hong Kong, my mum more so. The place that she’s grown up in has changed so much, and there’s a sense of loss and sadness for her. For me, it’s about the fact that the people have lost all of their rights that they agreed to under British rule. People should have the rights to speak out and have the rights to vote. We, in New Zealand, can enjoy all of that, and we can’t take it for granted.
I’m worried because the conflict has escalated, and people are taking extreme sides. Those who are supportive of the police have talked about extreme violence against the protestors but at the same time some of the extreme protestors are spreading information that we can’t prove either way. There’s a fear of fake news, too – it blurs the actual message that we’re trying to spread in the first place.
I want to ask the New Zealand government to stand up and defend our universal human rights: To be able to speak out, to have the rights to protest, to have freedom of speech, and to be able to feel safe. A lot of Hong Kongers in New Zealand actually don’t feel safe, because we’ve been targeted by mainland Chinese supporters – and this is why a lot of us don’t want to tell people who we are and show our faces, because we don’t feel safe enough to speak out against something that we feel passionate about.
(Her sign translates to: Simplicity in life will gain you more happiness. Living as simple as pure as possible, you will be most blessed. Carry positive power to walk the path of life).
I was born in Hong Kong. I came to New Zealand when I was 19, and then I went back to Hong Kong to work for about 10 years after I had my daughter. Most of my life in Hong Kong has been under the British rule, but since I’ve been back recently, I’m I don’t like it. My family is still in Hong Kong, but everything has changed. There’s a lot of migrants, so it’s a bit like New Zealand now, except Hong Kong is so small. I’ve felt that the standard of education has dropped drastically compared to before. Hong Kong is more important to me now because of family connections, but it’s not as important to me due to recent events.
The recent events make me concerned about my family and friends – I’ve found that the overall atmosphere is really different. I have a WhatsApp group with my friends and classmates (from Hong Kong), but none of them ever talk about (the protests) in the multi-media group. One person said in the group “Stay strong, don’t worry”, but people responded with “That’s not the case here”. I don’t know whether they felt that they might get hacked.
I think that there are troublemakers behind all of this. The Hong Kong government has been naive to see that there’s been opportunities to step in and do something. People need to be a little wiser and do things with better planning and consideration for both sides – the public and the government. I don’t understand why the [extradition] bill came along.
The government should have an open dialogue with the people. They need to know why there has been such a big reaction, why people have reacted to the bill so negatively. Maybe then they will be able to find a way forward, but looking at the news, it seems that people just want to stir up things rather than reporting the actual issue.
I was born in Hong Kong, and I lived there for about 16 years. I came to New Zealand for university. I spent my whole teenage years in Hong Kong, so it’s really my home even though I’m in New Zealand. All of my family is there. It’s really sad to see Hong Kong become like this now.
I worry about all of my friends – they take part in the protests. because of the time difference here in Auckland, every time that they protest, I can’t sleep, because I’m worried about my friends and my family.
The Hong Kong people have 5 demands. Now, the government has only responded to one, and it’s not even official. We really hope that the government responds to all 5 of our demands and ends the police brutality. It’s not acceptable.
I was born and raised in Hong Kong. For me, Hong Kong is my home – my family. Even if I was to migrate to any other places in the future, Hong Kong is still my base, my fundamental area. I’m trying to do my best to do all that I can save Hong Kong.
I feel very worried, afraid and angry towards the current situation Hong Kong. The police brutality has turned into a very wrong situation. (The police) can enforce their power freely towards the citizens, who have no ways to defend themselves. If I (speak out) in New Zealand and the Chinese or Hong Kong government know, what will happen to me when I return to Hong Kong? I’m quite worried for my future, but at the same time, I feel angry.
We hope to stop all of this and make some changes on the current policy.
I don’t have anything I want to say to the Hong Kong government. In this moment, no matter what they do, I and most of the Hong Kong people won’t accept it.
I was born in New Zealand, but I grew up in Hong Kong. I moved back here in year 9. The main thing that concerns me is the way China is trying to homogenise the people of Hong Kong – to melt all 1 billion people into the same mindset of believing that they all have to be under control of the same government. The Chinese government have mixed up the concept of a nation – the culture, the people inside – with the regime, and defend the regime no matter the cost. Even at the cost of human life. I think Hong Kong is a merging ethnicity, much like America, which was based on multiple races. Hong Kong is a cosmopolitan mixture of all the different ideas in Asia, and formed their own culture, regardless of genetic heritage. That’s the main thing that I’m concerned about – that my identity is being stripped away.
What worries me the most is the involvement of Chinese police. We’ve seen clips of police speaking Mandarin, which is strong evidence of Chinese police involvement. Today, Hong Kong people don’t speak really good Mandarin. Chinese police are more reckless than the Hong Kong police – Hong Kong police don’t cross the line of brutality.
Liberate Hong Kong. This is the revolution of our time.
I grew up in Hong Kong, and I moved to New Zealand when I was 19 years old. I recognise Hong Kong as my home. Everything that happens over there concerns me, especially when there are huge events like protests.
When the police use excessive for to disarm the protestors, I feel very angry. They’re not supposed to raid like that.
Show great support to Hong Kong protestors. They are not fighting for themselves; they’re fighting for Hong Kong’s future.
Don’t be hopeless, don’t be depressed, we still have hope.