National Geographic : 2012 Jun
• youth, and there won't be fear") and speeches, and a video screen showing messages taped by mothers of Tiananmen Square victims, calling for remembrance and strength. It was, by turns, heartrending, melodramatic, utterly compel- ling, and weirdly hopeful, but what made it most poignant was the real sense among the protesters that what happened at Tiananmen might indeed one day happen in Victoria Park, that they in fact might be next. A erward a group of young protesters cleaned the park, thoroughly scrubbing the pavement, using paint scrapers to bring up the candle wax. ere was no rowdiness, no spontaneous call to march or occupy or throw Molotov cocktails. is was protest, Hong Kong-style, polite, tem- porary, fervent until the goodbye, then strangely complacent and without nal provocation. In the emptying park a er the evening's pro- test, I met a man with a red fan, wearing aqua blue shorts. He carried a bag with lea ets and brochures, some extolling the pro-democracy movement or calling for the release of im- prisoned political dissidents, including No- bel Prize winner Liu Xiaobo and Falun Gong members. " e Communist Party hates me," he proclaimed. Part of a landowning family in China, he'd moved to Hong Kong in 1951, at the age of 17, to escape Mao Zedong's rule. Some of his uncles had been imprisoned, while another uncle had become an official in the Communist Party. "Our family has lived all sides," he said. He'd retired from the jewelry business in his 50s and since then returned once a month to his home village in Guangdong Province. "I scold the communists," he said, "and preach Hong Kong's form of democracy." What was he going to do with all the pamphlets in the bag? "Bring them back to China," he said. IF HONG KONGERS are subtly exporting their political ideas to China, it's the mainlanders who have buoyed the city with their buying power, especially a er it was crippled by the bird u epi- demic in 1997 and the SARS crisis in 2003. " e Rolex store at Times Square sells 200 watches a day, mostly to mainlanders," declares Francis Cheng, a leading event planner for some top brands in Hong Kong and personal assistant for Pansy Ho, the socialite and billionaire who runs the MGM China gambling empire. Where it was once Hong Kong that sent food packages to China in its time of need and supported the Chinese real estate market through investment, the tables have turned: It's China that helps keep Hong Kong a oat these days, the mainlanders ocking to the metropolis to buy its real estate and goods, o en in cash, since credit cards still account for only a fraction of retail purchases in China. "Growing up, we felt superior to the Chinese," says Cheng. In Hong Kong people joke about how the mainland's nouveau riche visit ne res- taurants and insist that their wineglasses be lled to the brim. In one case a mainlander is said to have toted a bag of cash into a fancy boutique and blurted, "Where's the most expensive stu ?" Stories like these support the long-held stereo- type of the mainlanders as ah chan, or country bumpkins, but as Cheng points out, today the city's nine Gucci stores have long lines in front, a trail of seemingly endless demand. " ere'll always be the next group of mainland farmers who've made it big," he says. is shi in economic power has exacerbated Hong Kong's identity crisis, to the point where it is now the mainlanders who refer to their There's growing resentment toward mainlanders, who were referred to as "locusts" swarming the territory.