Jenny Wong

I was not so naïve as to believe that I could change a person’s thought overnight. No. But mutual understanding doesn’t stem from nothing nor silence. I wanted to earn Mr. Wu’s understanding.



I met Mr. Wu from Shenzhen on the Connaught Road Flyover one evening in November 2014. Ever since my friends and I set up a tent in Admiralty in October, I had developed a habit of visiting the occupy site after work every day. I usually took the bus and got off at the Post Office in Central and did my nightly patrol. I was checking out the art work posted on the flyover curb – old or new, faded or refurbished, it was another nightly habit I developed during the occupy days – when Mr. Wu approached me in an unmistakably tourist manner: “Hey, miss, do you want to walk around together?” He spoke in slightly accented Cantonese. For a moment, I considered the possibility of him being a National Security Guard or a spy. But spy or not, it was still good to talk to someone outside my camp. It forced me to confront what was imminent. It is also a confrontation against one’s own self, every time anyone explains oneself, she/he is listening to oneself and talking to oneself. I was not so naïve as to believe that I could change a person’s thought overnight. No. But mutual understanding doesn’t stem from nothing nor silence. I wanted to earn Mr. Wu’s understanding. That’s it. I told myself.

And so I happily obliged and invited Mr. Wu to join my nightly patrol. I tried to organize what had happened by mapping the physical locations and art work – the Civic Square, Lung Wo Road, Lennon Wall, “Dark Corner”, etc. Mr. Wu was silent most of the time, occasionally echoing me with statements along the lines of “oh I heard that” and also the frustrating “oh it’s different from what ‘they’ reported”. He was struck by my “knowledge” and involvement of the Occupy movement – he was clearly shocked when he learnt that I got a tent outside the government HQ. I guess I didn’t quite fit his image of “anti-government protesters”? I was then wearing maxi dress and ankle boots and almost tripped and fell as I climbed the stairs.

We exchanged opinion on Beijing government and Xi’s performance as China’s No.1 man as we strolled along the promenade. Mr Wu, owner of a small business who sometimes crossed the Shenzhen River to buy cosmetics and baby formula for friends and long-time customers, was happy with Xi and optimistic about the future of China. He praised Xi’s anti-corruption effort and disagreed with me that it was only a tool employed in his seizure and consolidation of power. Well, let's just agree to disagree then, I told myself. After all, he listened to my babbling and didn't question my speech's credibility, who were I to criticise his government and those that rule him?

Before we parted our ways, two girls from Mainland asked if we could take a picture of them in front of the Ferris Wheel that was then still under construction. It seemed that they mistook us as friends and tourists who were also from Mainland and immediately engaged me in a Putonghua conversation. I reckoned that we looked not very different from our look, but beyond that I had to try really hard to find our common ground. Still, I thanked the Connaught Road Flyover and the art work it displayed. For one brief evening, I imagined that our paths had crossed and our will to understand each other were the bridge that built across the gap. We bid goodbye when we ran out of stories to tell. Perhaps we both realised what stories could do and couldn't do at this time of our life, or perhaps he decided he had had enough of Hong Kong and its political campaigns and wanted to grab a cheeseburger instead.

PS: Mr .Wu added me as friend on Wechat shortly after. He confessed that he didn't quite understand what I said the other night - I was talking fast and often spoke in a mix of Cantonese and English. I wasn't sad or angry. I just felt that my eagerness to reach out and hold onto something was dismissed casually. In the end, we talked but we didn't communicate. That was the end of an encounter.