Sent to the The Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong
So I read online where the FCC was asking for our photos of the Umbrella Movement. My first thoughts – oh, that’s great, I have been down four times and taken photographs trying to preserve my memories of Occupy Central; I have lots of photos; I wanted friends to know more about what is currently happening in HK. Then I thought, Oh crap, the FCC asked for photos – that is THE journalists’ club of Asia; I can never submit my photos! But why not, my perspective may be a bit different as an associate member. So here we go.
Arriving in Hong Kong July of ’94, I had little knowledge of the city, its culture or history with China. That was to quickly change. I took a teaching position at the Hong Kong International School as an adventure and it being the “right fit” for me. The contract was for three years. I thought I might stay for one. After settling in I began taking a bus or tram every Saturday in an effort to understand the local culture. Teaching in “Qiǎn shuǐ wān” (Repulse Bay) was not going to give me an authentic Hong Kong experience for sure. Living an expat life on the south side of HK Island hindered that process.
The summer of ‘95 I married my beau of a year in Raleigh, NC, moved to Hong Kong and began singing with the Cecilian Singers. (We met in a choir – long story!) With the upcoming handover, members of the group were given two opportunities to participate in the ceremonies. One was a private mass given by Sir David Tang for Governor Chris Patten. The other was to perform with the combined Hong Kong Philharmonic and Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra. These celebrations were both somber and celebratory for many. During this time, I became more knowledgeable about the Sino-British Joint Declaration with the “one country, two systems” agreed between the UK and the PRC. I was excited and honoured to be a part of this historic event. Hong Kong was now in my blood, and its people and I had become kindred spirits. Even as an American I felt a loss as the HMY Britannia pulled out of the harbour on its last foreign mission, July 1, 1997 with Chris Patten and his family.
It’s hard to believe 20 years have passed since what became the “Great Hangover” for many in Hong Kong. That leads me to the taking hundreds of photos I’ve taken over the last three weeks of Occupy Central or The Umbrella Movement/Revolution. I believe some of the best political art to come out of Hong Kong was being created and I was seeing very little of it online. So I took to the streets with Canon and iPhone in hand to capture a piece of history for myself and hoping to preserve some important artwork before it was ruined by natural causes or human behavior. Four times to date I’ve been to Central and I noticed something different each time. I love that the students are demonstrating through peaceful and artistic expression. It’s a side of Hong Kong I have never seen. “Hong Kongers” are well known for their passion concerning wealth and work but it is exciting to witness students so passionate about the rights promised to Hong Kong before they were even born.
I hope people like Wen Yau and Sampson Wong Yu-hin, who have organized the Umbrella Movement Visual Archives and Research Collection, and Kacey Wong, initiator of the Umbrella Movement Art Preservation on Facebook, will be supported in their efforts to save current and future iconic protests artworks on behalf of Hong Kong’s democratic future. Let us not forget the Umbrella Man, the Lennon Wall, and the many banners, posters, and origami umbrellas.
“Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.” Edmund Burke (1729-1797)
As an associate member of the beloved FCC, I encourage everyone to get out with cameras, iPhones, iPads and help preserve part of Hong Kong’s history that could easily be forgotten by future generations who didn’t “live this.”
Submitted by Marcia R. Barham
Associate Member, 1999-Present