Nearly Midnight, 30 June 2047
Tick, tock; tick, tock.
The seconds trickle away, as water drops from a leaky tap. The clock beside him reads, 23:56.
Less than 4 minutes until the loss of his current in-name-only status.
In 4 minutes, there will be no more Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. For Hong Kong will be an SAR no more. The 'freedom-guaranteed' fifty years laid out in the terms of the no-longer-valid Sino-British Joint Declaration were almost up.
Fifty years since 1997. Everything has changed.
1997 – Handover.
2003 – Security is over. Article 23: Anti-Subversion Law. Failed to pass, but his people are safe no more.
2014 – Umbrella Movement. No success for universal suffrage.
In addition, his people do not know that, throughout the years, their freedom is slowly slipping back into the CCP's grasp. Some do, of course, but they cannot do anything about it. Neither can he.
2019 – The Extradition Law. Millions ventured out into the stifling heat of June to protest. Journalists and innocents were attacked. The people were left with an insincere, "arrogant" Chief Executive and a police force that could no longer be trusted. "Riots" like this could only end in violence, and things only became worse from there. Pain filled his right eye socket, as a shot landed in the most unfortunate, pain-sensitive place on a 'human' body. He lost the ability to see out of the eye after that …
He remembers being home to the Punti, the Hakka, the Hoklo, the Tanka; a simple trading port and pirate hideaway. The memories were blurry, but at heart, he would always be linked to the sea, in one way or another.
He recalls having his custody signed over to the British Empire, after a war fought for tea (was it a wonder that he mixed his milk tea with coffee?), and in response to mass drug abuse and trade disagreements.
He relives racism, a plague, basic development that would pave the way for further change.
He witnesses a rebellion starting within his heart, quickly spreading across the northern border and throughout all of China.
He participates in strikes for workers' rights, having a mental breakdown as entrepot trade falls because of an economic crisis going on 12-13 time zones away, a cold caught by the whole world from a single sneeze.
He constructs warships, sending them halfway across the world to fight against the Nazis, a battering ram that simply would not stop at half of continental Europe. He takes in refugees from the north, then fights for the Allies, in a short, brutal fight that could not be won, and wasn't won. Eighteen days of fighting, a decently long time for a tiny city such as himself, overall overlooked upon the chaotic world stage. Three years and eight months of terror, dread, illness, pain, a time he can forgive, but never forget.
He remembers his first Olympics, not even a hundred years ago. No medals were won, but it was the beginning of the time where the world set their eyes on him.
He recalls manufacturing factories and an airport reserved for only the most skillful and daring pilots, now moved over to Chek Lap Kok, as well as the Lion Rock Spirit that guided his people, an East Asian version of the 'American Dream'. More mainlanders flocked to the shining eastern capitalist, and he welcomed most of them with open arms.
Development in tertiary industry flashed before his eyes, being the last Crown Colony, a British Dependent Territory, the world knowing his name, then it all halted.
He sees the British flags going down, God Save the Queen playing for the final time on his grounds, and two flags with red backgrounds rising, March of the Volunteers proudly blaring out from the Convention and Exhibition Centre.
He contacts a deadly virus, sweeping across the city. Adding a highly controversial Article 23 to the pandemonium and paranoia was surely the worst decision his Bosses could make, he had thought. Clearly, he had not been expecting what would happen less than twenty years later.
He remembers financial crises and more, umbrellas shielding from tear gas, Mainlanders taking over the streets with materialistic wishes, an 18-year pedestrian area in the bustling and crowded neighbourhood of Mong Kok being closed down without force or active resistance.
He joins the protesters marching in the streets, week after week, one million, two million. Protesters falling (or jumping) from buildings, arrested from the emergency rooms of public hospitals. They were all his. Journalists were shot, government buildings were vandalized, and a black bauhinia flag was raised. The world couldn't stop the sleeping dragon.
His hand flies across paper upon paper, ancient characters written from his pens and pencils and brushes like art, a millennia-old story to tell for each symbol.
He remembers a language, sounding rough and loud and complex, but still his native tongue, reverberating through the alleys, the streets, the towns and country parks built on the city of contrasts. It is being replaced now, isn't it? Is it only he who could speak this language, not dialect? No, there is always his brother, but will his brother forget? Macau, if you can hear me, "If you close your eyes and let the music play…Keep our love alive, I'll never fade away".
He watches light shows across a harbour, fireworks exploding in the night sky, flying over the smallest Disney park in the world and the curious combination of a conservation zoo and a theme park. Tourists laugh and run, take photographs to remember their time in this strange, strange land. Will they miss me?
He looks over temples, hills and country parks not far from the busy urban areas. The sight of over 200 islands and pink dolphins flash across his mind for the final time. He visits the malls and his taste buds sense the famous cuisine, heart stopping for a moment at the housing prices higher than the Empire State Building.
He envisions the famous Peak Tram and its main destination, being home to double-decker trams, the Star Ferry and the (generally) efficient MTR, having the most skyscrapers in the world. He was proud of his achievements, but pride cometh before a fall.
Asia's World City.
Pearl of the Orient.
Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China.
Things have changed. Drastically. Despite everything, will one day, he return to his former glory? He has come so far…beneath all the cynicism he surely inherited from England, he honestly hopes so, even if everything that makes him Hong Kong is fading away.
Fireworks are launched. Then they burst into the beautiful sparks of colour for the world to see. Then they fade into the night sky, smoke dissipating into the clouds…
Tick, tock; tick, tock…23:59:57, 23:59:58…
Dark brown eyes flutter shut for the final time and without the need for sleeping pills for the first time in fifty years. 23:59:59…
"The time now is…time is up. Stop writing. Put down your pens…"
7 July 2047
He paces around his room.
It has been a week since his little brother has disappeared, as though from the face of the Earth altogether. No returned calls. No texts back. No visits. No sign of him, at home or anywhere else at all.
He returns, for the seventh time this week, to his missing brother's domain, his heart, his Central Business District. Frankly, shouldn't China and the other Provinces have reported that Hong Kong is missing? Do they even know that Hong Kong is missing? This makes no sense whatsoever, and as an older brother, it was his responsibility to get to the bottom of the mystery of the missing…ex-SAR…
In the streets of Central, he finds a lone child among the professionals marching and the mainland tourists and their rolling suitcases racing, appearing about eight years old…this child looks exactly like a younger version of his little brother! Only with shorter hair and without the scars (or the newly gained eye-patch)…and without the mischievous, fierce, defensive, competitive, broken glint in his eyes.
The familiar indignant fighter was gone. Who is this child?
"Xiānsheng, nín jiào shénme míngzi? (1)" the boy asks, looking up from a text on his Huawei phone, displaying simplified characters. He freezes. Has the child developed retrograde amnesia at a point in his life? Why is he speaking in Putonghua and not Cantonese? Does he not recognize his own blood brother? I am the sand in the bottom of the hourglass…I try to picture me without you but I can't…
"Have you forgotten? (2)" he replies in Cantonese, choking back a sob at the ever-familiar lyrics in his mind. We'll go down in history…Remember me for centuries… "I'm your older brother, Vicente, Macau. Do you remember me?"
The boy raises his abnormally thinner brows – why hadn't he noticed that before? – and shrugs, looking back down at his phone. "Wǒ bù zhīdao nín zài shuō shénme. (3)"
"O que? (4)"
"Wǒ bù zhīdao nín zài shuō shénme," the boy repeats blankly, flipping a page on the e-book app.
He shakes his head. This cannot be. Where is my brother? Who are you, child? Have you taken my brother's place for eternity? "Nǐ jiào shénme míngzi?"
The boy points at himself, confounded eyes meeting his own desperation-filled orbs, and answers, "Xiānggǎng. Zhōngguó de Xiānggǎng. (5)"
He no longer cared that the world would find him sobbing on a nearby bench, sixty-one kilometres from home. He had failed his responsibility as a big brother.
Well, forgive me for loving freedom all my life
Fearing one day I'll fall from the skies, oh no
Abandoning dreams, can be done by anybody
But I won't fear if all left is you and me
-Boundless Oceans, Vast Skies, Beyond, 1993 (Loosely Translated from Cantonese)
1-Polite Putonghua for "Mister, what is your name?"
2-Cantonese is much harder to translate…
3-Putonghua for "I don't know what you are talking about." Or "I do not understand what you are saying."
4-According to Google Translate, Portuguese for "What?"
5-Putonghua for "Hong Kong. Hong Kong of China."