Umbrella Movement 2nd Anniversary

Two years ago. The day that we shall not forget. We demanded a genuine universal suffrage. We didn’t get it. We got violent repression. We experienced injustice. The day when the government threw tear gas bombs to the ‘armed protesters’ – armed with umbrellas. Umbrellas that people used to protect themselves from pepper sprays and tear gas bombs. Umbrellas that certain lawmakers said were offensive weapons, as we could see in Chinese fiction.

I was, and still am, so proud of all the Hongkongers who contructed the Admiralty Village, creating an area for students to study while occupying, decorating it with cartoon characters holding yellow umbrellas. Totally amazing and touching. And the Lennon Wall. I posted on the wall too. I could smile, because it was before the day that we shall not forget.

Apology for not putting any picutures of the night two years ago, as I don’t own any. Please visit here – a wonderful recap for all of us.

I wasn’t there. I was in front of my computer. And I had classes to teach the next day. I let my kids do listening exercise on some BBC reports on what happened.

I wrote two poems. Just so that I won’t forget. Orginially published in Cha the September 2014 issue.


‘Hong Kong is a paradise,’
says the English teacher.
The simple present tense indicates
it simply was,
it presently is,
and it will be…

We had a Governor known for
his love of authentic
Hong Kong-style egg tarts.
In the good year he left
but the handover promise is kept
and Hong Kong is still
a paradise, where an ICAC
Commissioner is addicted to
pricey Chinese wine.

The euphoric masses
after seventeen years still make
out of their pink cloud the cake
of fantastic prosperity
and a tea party
of ignorant frivolity, not remembering
the won ton noodles
devoured by golden bracelets and brandname handbags.
We wish to smile
without our heads, but this is
no Wonderland.

We imagine we were handling
Zhu Yuanzhang’s mooncakes, but there
are only unequally small
egg yolks embraced by greasy
lotus paste. There is no dragon inside
chain-store box-set mooncakes.
Hong Kong has no fortune cookies.

One day, they will take away
our egg tarts and milk tea.
But we will still have pineapple buns
made of gutter oil and
without pineapple.
‘Doesn’t matter,’ a sixty-four-year-old Papa
says, ‘we have survived
and will survive
for another fifty years.’

Hong Kong is a paradise
for dreamers.


good morning class
you sluggishly stand up
good morning Mr Chan
in monotone everyone chants

today –
lessons as usual
so hand in your journal
and countless reply slips
monitor please give me some clips

now –
a period of silence
to offer condolence
but how many are thinking
of the quiz in the second lesson?

could we just keep calm and focus
on our lessons lessons lessons?

could we learn from Chemistry anything
about the composition of the spray?
too much too much too much pepper
the Home Economics teacher may say

do map reading skills inform us
where the teary firework was displayed?
the alleged violence of the imaginary mob
was simply vertical exaggeration

could we possibly conclude the casualties
by solving a quadratic equation?
but nothing can stop the people from
flooding the land in geometric sequence

a spontaneous Music lesson
in the streets with no musical instruments
but voices of people in unison
dispersing beyond the skyline

all these will be written
into our History curriculum
narrating the events in past tense
and creating them in the future

so keep calm and focus
on our lessons lessons lessons

Just don’t forget. The beauty and resilience of Hongkongers.

Author: Aaron Y.K. Chan

Aaron Chan is a Hongkonger who loves literature and his city. He is going to resume his career as a teacher of English Language and Literature in English in the coming school year. Perhaps teaching is his true calling after all.

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