It is 15 degrees on Thursday, 1pm, and the roads of Causeway Bay are clogged with people.
More specifically, the junction that leads to the entrance of the annual flower market held at Victoria Park – itself promising to be an uniquely festive experience for locals or tourists alike. As the traffic lights shouted their anthem over the chorus of horns, strangers start to recognise each other in the middle of the road. A lady screams, “Uncle Wong!”, while balancing her son precariously on her shoulder, her other arm waving wildly in spite of the mass shuffle happening.
FLOWERS AND MORE, WAY MORE
The banner that leads to the market is big, blue and bold: “LUNAR NEW YEAR FAIR ENTRANCE”.
Inside, the makeshift stalls are set up into four long lines that span around two stations worth of distance. A brisk stroll from one end to another, provided that there is no shopping or queuing involved, will take a good 30 minutes. For once, there is sun shining down and people are walking around in thin shirts. The paths are marked with more banners that warn the crowds that certain directions are only one way or no entry.
Not that everyone cares, of course. It’s Hong Kong.
If one goes to the flower market just to see the flowers, she will only be partly satisfied. Yes, there are pots of bright-coloured orchids, narcissus bulbs and tangerine trees, all mixed with other floral relatives, themselves the stars of the market. The earthly fragrances coaxed out by the heat can be overpowering, if not for the crowd that is consistently grunting and coughing for people to move along.
But only one out of the four row in the entire fair is in the mood for sweet smelling blossoms.
The other three rows are occupied by students who sells their handicraft Made-in-HK products, powdered sweets, malt peanut cookies, trendy fashion pieces, Korean snacks, Taiwan goodies, dried squids of all nationalities, spin-the-wheel chances, boxes of turkish delights, wheels of blonde cheese, Pokemon soft toys, illustrated stationery, rooster-inspired everything, and political beliefs.
THE UGLY FACE OF POLITICS
The last is particularly important because earlier that Saturday, the Hong Kong police force announced that they will mobilise 1,500 officers to be at the fair. This was after denying two political parties the right to participate in the flower market.
With the policemen on the beat and security guards posed by each barricade, these preemptive measures hope to deter any anticipated riot that can take the disastrous nature of last year’s “fishball revolution”. Yes, it has been a year, but one can easily see that the citizens are far from letting it pass. Footages of the night-long protests that ruined Mongkok’s roads and stores are replayed at every news break, and the question on everyone’s lips is, “What will they do this year?”
But perhaps this year, things are not as grave as they seem. The whole assemblage is overwhelming, but compared to flying bricks, it is decidedly more tamed. Walking around the different stalls, one is bombarded with constitutional cries from students at the top of their ladders, their faces hidden behind the loudspeakers. All the different parties gathered in one area, but there is hardly any tension present.
What makes the whole arrangement work?
It could be the fact that no one is up in your face, demanding that you respond or listen. The students understand that they are being listened to, and the listeners have a right to respond as they want. Each to their own cause. The crowds naturally flock towards the familiar colours, purple, blue and green, and each stall proudly offers a way for the average citizen to support what they believe: political souvenirs for sale.
There are 17 different political parties in the country itself, the bigger ones being the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (民主建港協進聯), Democratic Party (民主黨), Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions (香港工會聯合會), and New People’s Party (新民黨).
The recent year’s events, which started all the way back in September 2014, have seen Hong Kong go through several phases of adaptation towards its current government administration system.
The young are getting more involved with their tactics, while the older generations shake their head and wonder if China will ever honour their pledge from 2007. The nation is uncertain, unbalanced and unclear of the next step to take. Will this be the year “one country, two systems” go out the window? Or will China just be China, smiling smugly in the dark, closing the election only when they make final call?
THE YEAR OF THE ROOSTER
No one is sure. After all, the year of the Rooster has only just started.
If we were to understand Chinese astrology, the qualities that follow the bird promise the rise of a new dawn, leadership, and bravery. Perhaps this is why so many chicken related goods continue to pop up, even as the designated days of Chinese New Year come to an end. There is a need to compromise on values, since Hong Kong itself is a small country. The demonstrations in the past have proven that the consequences affect not only one aspect of its citizens, but a sizeable portion that have become frustrated and cynical enough to break away.
If the country’s political affairs progress towards a level playing field, it is possible to be cautiously optimistic about the year ahead. In the meantime, local teenagers hold onto their chicken mascots to usher in the celebrations, and politics take a customary backseat. We are but in the thick of it. Happy CNY — Sun nin fai lok, mahn si yuh yi.