Hong Kong is on fire right now. Student lead pro-democracy demonstrations inflamed tensions with the Beijing-backed city government, driving thousands to protest in the streets. The city’s major arteries were choked off, traffic came to a standstill and even a famous 110-year-old tram system was shut down. And that’s only one of the things at the moment that make Hong Kong an adventure of a lifetime. Of course, like the handwritten protest billboards and T-shirts scattered through the streets, a trip half way around the world, to the Pearl of the Orient, is all about the Hong Kong people.
A city of 7.2 million, Hong Kong is a shining metropolis filled with luminous futuristic skyscrapers, the kind a comic book superhero would love to swing and leap from. Indeed, the city boasts the most skyscrapers in the world, enough physical architecture for any would-be Batman to endlessly survey.
Since its former days as a British colony, Hong Kong has transformed itself into a glitzy international financial center with a not surprising characteristic almost all of us possess: a dark side. No darker, mind you, than any other big city. We’re talking about your average drug dealing gangsters, prostitution, or income inequality (which are all probably interrelated).
The popular Chungking Mansions – a 17-story building that’s home to 4,000 buyers and sellers with over 130 nationalities – is said to represent Hong Kong’s true identity, somewhere between its shady past and the world hub it is today. At all hours visitors can find everything from restaurants offering African stews and Indian curries to whiskey shops and disposable phone dealers. It’s a modern bazaar with elements of the then and now.
Hong Kong is a fast paced city that constantly reinvents itself. And despite the creeping shadow of China making things unpredictable, Hong Kongers probably understand this moment will pass. There’s fear and hope in change. That’s what the protests are all about. When you hear about the beautiful candlelight vigils or the passion driving people into the streets you know there is something going on that’s worth paying attention to.
Let’s meet in Hong Kong.
– Spadaque Volcimus[Spadaque Volcimus is a blogger and actor living in Brooklyn, New York. He’s currently social media manager for a non profit working to instill confidence and self esteem in young women of color. You can follow him on twitter @Spadaque]