July 1 – Hong Kong SAR Establishment Day

Starting them Young - this girl knows exactly what to do with her protest sign!

Starting them Young - this girl knows exactly what to do with her protest sign!

Unfortunately the blog has been silent for much longer than I would have liked, not for lack of ideas or the desire to post but rather illness. Been fighting off what became a very bad case of tonsillitis over the past week and a half. Ironically, I think my issues started on July 1st. As today has progressed I’m finally feeling somewhat well enough to poke my head out of the rabbit hole and do something more than sleep. I’m going to start off with a bit of a history lesson, but I’m bolding my own impressions at the bottom….

1 July is a big holiday in Hong Kong as it’s the anniversary of the British handover to China – hence, Special Administrative Region Establishment Day. The reason Hong Kong has the “SAR” tag is because it was negotiated that the colony would be accepted into China as part of the country but would keep the political system it had already in place, the mantra being “one country, two systems.” A big worry with the impending handover was that China would strip away much of the mechanisms that make Hong Kong a laissez-faire economy and some of the greater freedoms that Hong Kongers have. This is still a worry, though “one country, two systems” ends in 2047, causing democracy activists to feel the need to cement the differences of Hong Kong even more by introducing democracy.

There are a number of events that mark HK SAR Establishment Day, the two biggest being the Pro-China parade in the morning and the Pro-Democracy parade and protests in the afternoon. I did my best to take in as much as possible, going out early in the morning with my friend Alex while she interviewed Filipinas and domestic workers.

Ended up catching most of the Pro-China parade, which was a wonderful combination of acts – including many traditional (my assumption) Asian dances, dragon dancers and even an International Latin formation team. I was approached by two young girls who asked to interview me. Not sure what it was for, but they seemed happy that I obliged – they asked me where I was from, why I was in Hong Kong and if I knew what the celebration was about. I was silently thankful for the curriculum we were required to familiarize ourselves with given I could tell them the significance of July 1!! I told them I was really enjoying the festivities, and was also looking forward to the Pro-Democracy parade later in the day. The interviewer wrinkled her nose, and I wasn’t sure if this was because she didn’t know what I was talking about, or because she disagreed with my sentiment. Regardless, I found the exchange amusing, especially the end.

I think what stood out so much to me was that despite all of the Chinese protesters who carried things advocating for a political system of universal suffrage and democracy in addition to more rights, it makes me sad that they seem to have so little interest in the issues that domestic workers face, many of whom were marching at their side. The rights they are looking to attain will not extend to domestic workers, as the immigration system is crafted to keep them separate from society. It also makes it incredibly easy to violate the little rights they do have – I have gone with domestic workers to “court” only to witness all parties pressure them into settling for less than what they are legally entitled to. The methods they must go through to get legal recourse are a series of steps that put them in situations like this again and again. It makes my blood boil.