It’s approaching 6pm in Sai Ying Pun, Hong Kong, and I’m frantically weaving through the bustling foot-traffic along De Voeux Road West. I’m trying not to lose sight of my friend, who, concerned about being late, is several paces ahead of me.
We reach our destination, an unassuming dessert shop aptly named “Lo Kee Dessert”. It’s a café like any other squeezed along the sidewalk, save for the yellow pig sticker on the glass door. The shop feels especially clandestine today, and as we enter, I’m suddenly wary of pedestrians' eyes.
She turns to me and fastens a black face mask over her mouth, transforming from the friend I know into 'H'*, the resolute Hong Kong protester. If it weren’t for the familiar sparkle in her eyes, she’d be unrecognisable.
“Welcome to Chat with You!” she says eagerly, eyes gleaming.
*an alias has been used to protect identity
Photo: Simon Launay on Unsplash
Cover Photo: Joseph Chan on Unsplash
The movement has exposed a greater shift in Hong Kong’s identity and beliefs, deepening residents' national pride.
Like the majority of young ‘Hong Kongers’, ‘H’ feels compelled to fight out of love for her home.
Things are in full swing now – including the door. Hulking awkwardly on a tiny stool in the corner, I feel a cold draught again and again as someone new squeezes into the dessert shop.
The room is teeming with participants, all crammed around several petit tables. Warm and enthusiastic conversation fills the tiny space. The Chat with You attendees ask question after question to the masked protester on their table, listening keenly to their muffled answers. I watch ‘H’ on a table opposite me, nodding along eagerly to the participants huddled around her.
A woman enters, interrupting the session – she is collecting donations. She is inundated with generosity, struggling to hold on to all the change in her hands. I ponder whether Chat with You had always been so thriving…
Photo: Chat with You Facebook page.
Almost an hour after its scheduled end time, the session concludes. To my surprise, instead of separating we then go for dinner – we gravitate towards a restaurant two doors down bearing the same Yellow pig sticker on its window.
The restaurant is full when we arrive. ‘H’ speaks some Cantonese to the man at the door, presumably the restaurant owner. He is obliging and genial, prioritising us for the next vacant table and offering a free drink with our meals.
The next empty table isn’t large enough to accommodate all of us; people I met only hours before now selflessly insist that I eat before them. I’m too hungry to resist properly so I go inside, touched by the generosity around me. This isn’t how I expected the protests to look…
Photo: Ethan Lee on Unsplash