By Hans Ebert

When my family was forced to leave Sri Lanka, and what was then known as Ceylon, instead of many other Dutch Burghers who emigrated to Australia, our only option was to head to Hong Kong.

My father’s elder sister had met and married a Macanese sailor and she helped the rest of my father’s family find “shelter from the storm” in a city that was still finding its feet.

For a young kid- a Burgher- getting accustomed to life in this city that was so different to the privileged lifestyle we enjoyed in Ceylon, was something tough to take.

Gone were the house, garden and the servants who were always at one’s beck and call. In its place was us having to live in a cramped apartment in a high rise in North Point together with my aunt’s family which included her adopted daughter and my grandmother.

It took us around two weeks to get to Hong Kong- by ship- and soon I was taking a tram to Quarry Bay and primary school- the first coloured student in what was an all-white school.

This had its own problems. I had to work doubly hard to prove myself and, for the first time in my life, face racism.

Away from my problems of trying to fit in, my parents had to start all over again by finding jobs and getting used to being strangers in a strange land.

Seeing all the chaos inflicted on my home- Hong Kong- in the recent few days, brought back a flood of memories. Like how my father wouldn’t allow anyone to even mention when a typhoon was heading towards the city. He hated to see all the precautions that had to be taken such as covering all the windows with duct tape to stop them breaking from the fury of the heavy rain and eerie sounding winds hurtling our way.

During those years, Hong Kong was battered by a number of incredibly strong typhoons- typhoons so strong that ships were washed ashore.

With Hong Kong coming to a standstill, my father would stay in bed, too scared to move. It was up to my mother to put up a brave front. To assure us that everything would be alright.

During those formative years and the later years, I saw plenty- hillside fires, the riots of 1967, water rationing, the PLA moving in on the day of The Handover- and tried to understand where and how this city was going to get anywhere and be something of any substance.

Here was a former British colony that grew up and succeeded despite itself- despite corrupt British police superintendents like Peter Godber, the mysterious disappearance into China and appearance of Inspector Frank Knight, fledgling Chinese entrepreneurs finding back doors to get what they wanted and those taipans who were getting rich off the fat of the land and preying on the weaknesses of some of the Chinese people.

To understand any of this read the books of author James Clavell like “Noble House” and “Taipan”.

What was Hong Kong like under British rule? For a kid growing up here and by now in Secondary School, it was fine. It was comfortable.

We didn’t know any other way of living. Did we know about the pukka Members Only clubs with signs saying “Dogs and Chinese not allowed”? No. Hong Kong was thriving and life was better than good.

This is why the events of the last few days have been hard to understand. Tough to take. Especially seeing the image of Hong Kong, the safest city in the world, take a battering and for the world to watch this unfold. It was wasn’t only embarrassing. It was like taking a bulldozer and bringing down everything that has been built up over the years.

Who’s to blame? Maybe that should be, Who’s NOT to blame? There’s an inept Chief Executive and her government that bumbles along.

There might have been worse leaders going back to the days when Hong Kong was a British colony. But we were more forgiving those days. Perhaps more innocent. Perhaps we had personal and more important goals to achieve. Many of us never thought of staying in Hong Kong. It was a temporary home. But home is where the heart is and we always returned home.

This is where I met the girl I married and with whom we had a daughter and watched her grow up and be happy.

Hong Kong is where I grew up, made lifelong friends, lost a few along the way and carved a career for myself in journalism, advertising and the music industry.

Today, there were those who started demanding change for the right reasons- the scrapping of the contentious extradition bill.

Where single-minded objectives take serious detours are when one takes the eye off the ball, sub-groups become Oliver Twisted and keep wanting more and more and more without knowing when to pick one’s fights.

From what began as a positive show of strength and solidarity and a shining example to the entire world how a peaceful movement can speak volumes, somewhere, somehow, this has been lost in the shuffle of anger, frustration and the involvement of way too many who became overnight “experts” on what’s best for Hong Kong.

There’s then the naïveté of a social media-driven #hashtag generation looking for new “followers”. This always backfires because it’s often about losing sight of home truths and reality.

This is what social media has wreaked on the world with its latest stopover being Hong Kong. And as with anything on social media, say something long enough and it takes on a life of its own.

Independent thinking is replaced by a herd mentality. Bona fide journalism is replaced by sound bites from too many Twitterers on online platforms lwhere almost everyone believes everything that’s said to be true. Where everyone spreading the gospel believes they are “trending” and doing a great service to the city. That they cannot possibly be wrong. How they never think they might actually be the catalyst for toxicity.

The sky is crying over Hong Kong these days. My home has been violated. The actions of an indignant few and their respective cheerleaders with knee jerk responses to second hand news and amateur politics have created a divisive city. There’s a lack of inspiration. Of hope. An inability to see a future.

As Dylan sang, Nobody’s right when everyone is wrong. He also warned, Don’t follow leaders and watch your parking metres.

Why parking metres? Because time is running out. Because, without an exit plan, it’s about going around and around and around in circles until the hole under you gets bigger and bigger and like playing Here We Go Around The Merry Go Round, we all fall down.

Hong Kong has not come this far for it to disappear down some rabbit hole of nothingness.

It’s not going to be easy, but we’ll get over it. We have to.

#hongkongprotests #hongkong #extraditionbill #legco #change