In a back alley, some dried shark fins are being sunned on a green plastic sheet next to boxes stacked on a metal trolley.
©Wendy Gan 2024

Hong Kong Revisited

Wendy Gan

I left Hong Kong in 2021, demoralised by the way the National Security Law was systematically dismantling the city’s political freedoms. The shock of it made staying difficult. But I’ve missed the beauty of Victoria Harbour, which repays you with stunning views whether you are on Hong Kong island or on Kowloon—a chain of silent, resolute hills watching over an upstart city intent on piercing the sky.

I’ve missed the grunginess, the graffiti, the sudden juxtapositions that grab the eye and make me want to stop to record the moment with a photograph. Visually, Hong Kong is an arresting city. 

The Mainland tourists have come back, though fewer in number and less ostentatious in style. Some may bemoan their presence, but Hong Kong is not Hong Kong without them as well. 

A girl in red poses before the HK skyline while her parents take a photo of her. Her grandparents are on the left watching her.
©Wendy Gan 2024

It was a relief to find many parts of Hong Kong still very much her old self. The shop cats are still beloved and taken care of. 

A shop cat sits by a tub of bean sprouts. Its head is turned right towards the bean sprouts.
©Wendy Gan 2024

The style of display common to dry goods shops has remained as is: everything is pushed to the front of the shop to attract passers-by and arranged in dense formations to overwhelm you with abundance. 

The Star Ferry ride across the harbour is still a calm ten-minute respite in the midst of a busy city.

A Star Ferry sailor grabs the ferry's docking rope with a hook.
©Wendy Gan 2024

Though, inevitably, there is change too. The ubiquitous metal trolley, companion to many a labourer in Sheung Wan’s dried seafood district, is giving way slowly to a fancier hydraulic machine. 

Hong Kong has changed; the National Security Law has made it clear what Hong Kong’s relation to the Mainland should be and what will and will not be tolerated.

A string of mainland and HK flags decorates the top of a public walkway. The HK flag is noticeably smaller than the mainland one
©Wendy Gan 2024

And Hong Kong will continue to change in other ways too. It never does stop changing. It’s the survival of the fittest out here. Businesses come and go; people constantly adapt—albeit sometimes grudgingly—to new circumstances. Hong Kongers will find shrewd ways to live well. I admire the tenacity, the resilience, the practical mindset: if the old approaches work, keep them; if they don’t, it’s time to discard them. 

I’m just thankful that some parts of the Hong Kong I love are still going strong. These stone wall banyans were lopped off without public consultation in 2015. Eight years later, they have bounced back. I’d like to think Hong Kong will too. 

Three young banyan trees growing out of a stone wall by a bus stop. A woman waits under their shade. Tall buildings are behind the trees.
©Wendy Gan 2024