Saturday, September 27, 2014


Picture credit: BBC News.

Hong Kong, you and I need to talk.

We haven't had the easiest relationship over the years. Growing up, I hardly ever felt like I was part of the community -- the reasons are complex and I won't dwell on it here. Nonetheless, ever since I moved to Canada 8 years ago, I have barely been in touch with the happenings in my homeland.

That all changed within the past couple days.

As we speak, thousands of high school and university students are marching the streets of Hong Kong to express their desire for an electoral reform -- the right to elect the governor in a fair election. Instead of being in the classroom, they are out there unarmed, day and night, to stand in the face of power and tyranny.

In the past couple of days, these kids have been beaten by the police, pepper-sprayed, detained, arrested, and subjected to gross brutality by the very same force that is supposed to protect them. Yet, as more and more students are forcefully taken away, more and more take their place. Government response, as a result, becomes increasingly harsh.

This is all sounding eerily familiar.

I am profoundly shocked and appalled by the gross abuse of power by the Hong Kong government against these unarmed young adults. I want to help defend these students and stand between the armed and the unarmed. Being in Vancouver, I could only read the news reports to keep myself updated on what's happening on the ground -- feeling like a hockey player being stapled to the bench while the rest of my team is out there.

I am angry.

I am angry at the government -- the same government that failed on its promise to deliver true democracy. I am angry at the police, the force that turned proud and honourable officers I respected into the face of oppression. Indeed, ever since the Sino-British handover, the government of Hong Kong has been rendered to become nothing more than an extension of the mighty arm of the Chinese government. Freedom of speech and expression slowly gave way to corruption and greed. Any talk of a free election has been frowned upon and downplayed. "Who needs democracy?" says the pro-China elite, "as long as there's a buck to be made somewhere, who cares if your freedom is taken away?" Their voices are very loud and clear.

But at the same time, I am proud.

For the longest time, I have been pessimistic about the future of Hong Kong. I thought it is a foregone conclusion that the elites will eventually run the table, while the majority sits idly by as they are silenced by the totalitarian regime. There will be no free media, no checks and balances, no rights to free speech. I thought that people, especially the younger generation in Hong Kong, would be brainwashed by the education system to forget or ignore the true value of democracy as they are lured to a false sense of financial security and prosperity.

Clearly, they have proved me wrong. The pro-China elite may be loud, but these kids are determined to be louder. Instead of giving up like some of the adults, their uncompromising ideals are driving them to the forefront. Those kids are commendable. In this day and age, those kids are phenomenal. They may well lose the battle, but all the bruises and scars they earned today will continue to serve as a reminder to China that the people of Hong Kong will not give in that easily. They will not tolerate being lied to. They may be overmatched, but in the hopes of a better future, they will do whatever they can to achieve what we deserve.

Never have I felt more strongly about my identity as a Hong Kong citizen than I have in the last couple of days. I am truly humbled by these courageous young adults, and, to borrow from Aaron Sorkin, I'm going with the guys who are getting creamed. I'm moved that they still think they can win and I hope they can teach me a thing or two.

March on, my friends.

Edit 1 (September 28, 2014 at 3:47am PST):

Image souce: Facebook.

Hong Kong, so-called Asia's world city, just fired tear gas against unarmed protestors minutes ago -- most of whom are not even old enough to drink. Unconfirmed reports suggest that the HK Police is threatening to open fire against them.

As I type this, there is also unconfirmed rumours suggesting that the People's Liberation Army has been mobilized across the border into Hong Kong from China in military trucks. The same Army that trampled thousands of people in tanks in Tienanmen Square some 25 years ago. This report is confirmed false as of 12:23pm PST.

To everyone on the ground in Hong Kong, please stay safe.

I am so fucking done with this government.

Edit 2 (September 28, 2014 5:17am PST): 
The Hong Kong Professional Teachers' Union, the largest teachers' organization with more than 90,000 members, has called for a full-scale strike in response to the crackdown on unarmed student protestors by the Hong Kong Police. All classes are cancelled until further notice.

Edit 3 (September 28, 2014 11:23am PST):

Into the early hours, more tear gas canisters were fired against unarmed student protestors in Hong Kong as the protest escalates. Yet, no reports of looting, assault, or arson were reported.

 Watching the video, it would appear that many of the protestors are marching -- with their arms up -- slowly towards the police before being shot with tear gas.

To my friends on the ground, I am sorry I am not there marching with you. Stay safe.

Edit 4 (September 28, 2014 1:10pm PST):

State-controlled media in China has described the Hong Kong Democracy protest crowds as "a mass celebration of the National Day". Un. Fucking. Believable.

Edit 5 (September 28, 2014 2:23pm PST):

Image credit: Twitter.

This picture was apparently taken at around 4 in the morning in Hong Kong. Astonishing.

Edit 5 (September 28, 2014 4:17pm PST):

Image credit: Twitter.

Meanwhile in Taiwan, crowds have gathered around after midnight to watch the live stream of the democracy protest in Hong Kong.

Edit 6 (September 28, 2014 4:20pm PST):

Word on the street is that some Hong Kong Police officers have quit their jobs on the spot to join the Occupy Central protest.

Edit 7 (September 28, 2014 4:45pm PST):

My best friend has also written a take on the Occupy Central protest in Hong Kong. Very good read indeed. 

Edit 8 (September 28, 2014 5:31pm PST):

Photo credit: Twitter

Truck drivers have taken to the streets with their souped-up trucks to blockade Nathan Road and Argyle Street, two of the busiest avenues in Hong Kong.

Edit 9 (September 28, 2014 9:21pm PST):

Photo credit: Facebook.

Day 2: Despite the violence that erupted overnight, no cars were set ablaze, no stores were looted, and no weapons were used by the protestors. In the morning, some protestors have been picking up litter as others hand out food & water -- some even to resting police officers.

I don't know what's more extraordinary -- the fact that very little damage had been caused; the fact that people had the initiative to help clean up the streets; or the fact that protestors knew that the police officers aren't their enemy -- the Chinese government is.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Old Friends / Bookends.

Me, two guys I don't really remember, Bernard, and some other guy I don't remember.
Yeah, elementary school was a blur for me.
June 10, 2004: It's been exactly 10 years. I still remember that day vividly...

It was less than a week away from the grade 9 finals. Everyone was freaking out. At this point, I'd already given up studying --  It is a cruel thing after all, having the first day of your exam to be on your actual birthday, year after year. I never actually found much motivation to study at all.

It was just another typical morning. It was the last week at school and everyone just wanted to get it over and done with. The same old morning announcements echoed the corridors, but nobody listened anyway.

And then there was a change in tone. The guy doing the announcements was a lot more somber than usual. Everyone just sort of stopped and listened.

What happened afterwards was a bit of a blur for me. I had a loss for words. Everyone was stunned. I couldn't comprehend exactly what and why it happened.

Yeah, you've gone to a different high school ever since grade 8 -- but to us, you were part of the group. Hell, I've known you personally since 3rd grade. You were one of the closest friends I had in elementary school. For a guy who wouldn't win a popularity contest even if he tried to bribe everyone with life-size Gundam action figures, that's saying a lot.

I really don't know why you decided to jump.

The papers next morning reported that you were stressing out over the final exams. Which sounded a bit odd to me, as I remember us hanging out at my place a couple weeks prior. There was an absence of clues, hint, or even a shred of evidence suggesting that you were going through a difficult time. There you were, sitting in front of my desktop ranting on and on about the greatness that was Midtown Madness, that video racing game you absolutely loved and thought look realistic (while by today's standards, it looks rather like a scaled-down 8-bit version of Mario Kart). Well you know what? If you'd stayed around you would've loved playing Grand Theft Auto. There was only like a billion of them that came out after you decided to put an end to your life.

Seriously man, I really don't know why you decided to do it.

Maybe I was too naive. I really couldn't see what was exactly so bad that a 15-year-old had to take a leap from his bedroom 16 floors above in the middle of the night. But then, I guess everyone has their own reasons when they do something like that.

I wish that you were honest with me about how you felt. Yeah, we were young and not all that smart, but we could've worked it out together. Instead, you chose what you thought was the "easy" way out -- leaving your family and friends behind. Really though, at 15, school can't be the only thing that mattered in your life. I'd like to think that it wasn't.

Maybe I wasn't listening hard enough. The last time I saw you, I genuinely had no idea you were going through those emotions. Maybe you needed a friend, and I am sorry that I wasn't there to listen to you at your worst times. I still think about it to this day.

I've gone through a fair share of depression myself, and I also had stretches a couple years before where I had thoughts which were less than... let's just say "normal". You know what I didn't do? I didn't act on it. Because I knew that no matter how badly things were going, it could get better in the end.

You were a smart kid. You could've easily passed that grade 9 final. You could've easily graduated from high school. You could've gotten into University and graduated a couple years after. You could've gotten yourself a girlfriend. You could've learned to drive instead of spending your day playing car racing games. You could've gotten yourself a good job by now. You could've had a good future.

You could've been my oldest friend for 17 years and counting.

Now almost at 25, I could honestly tell you that what you were going through back then was probably not worth what you did simply to escape those two weeks of exams. To use the old, tired cliche: there really is more to life than that.

Every now and then I think about you and I couldn't help but think about the "should have's" and "if only's". Life still marches on, however. There is no going back. I never got to see you again.

RIP Bernard. Wherever you are, I hope you're well bud.

To everyone I know: If you have a friend who's going through a tough time, stop and listen. A simple "how are you doing?" could make a world of difference. If any of you is going through a tough time, just talk to me. I may not be very helpful -- but I definitely will try my best to listen to what you have to say and figure it out together. Because nothing is worth abandoning everything. 


Old friends
Old friends
Sat on their park bench like bookends
Newspaper blowin' through the grass
Falls on the round toes
Of the high shoes
Of the old friends

Old friends
Winter companions the old men
Lost in their overcoats
Waiting for the sunset
The sounds of the city sifting through trees
Settle like dust
On the shoulders of the old friends

Can you imagine us years from today
Sharing a park bench quietly?
How terribly strange to be seventy

Old friends
Memory brushes the same years
Silently sharing the same fear

Time it was, 
and what a time it was, it was 
A time of innocence, 
A time of confidences

Long ago it must be
I have a photograph
Preserve your memories
They're all that's left you  

- Old Friends / Bookends Theme, Simon & Garfunkel.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

More than hockey.

Prior to 2010, I never really watched much hockey at all.

The first hockey game I watched was a Canucks game back in 2009. I was taken by my cousin from Toronto to the game because she has never seen Mats Sundin play on a good team with actual wingers before (thanks again Sandy!), but at the end of that I was thoroughly confused by the game -- can't help it really, as they never showed a single hockey game in Hong Kong before I moved here in 2006. Besides, nobody told me that hockey was a big deal in Canada (I know, the rock I was living under was massive).

I even tried to watch some playoff games on TV later that year, but you know that was when the Canucks were used to being slapped around by the Blackhawks so it's not like everyone around me was eager to talk about it much.

And then in 2010 came the Olympics in our own backyard. All of a sudden everyone around me started wearing red and white jerseys and wouldn't shut up about the game. So it caught my curiosity. I watched as we annihilated Norway by the score of 8-0; narrowly beat Switzerland in the shootout; and witnessed the most beautiful empty netter I've seen scored by one Ryan Kesler. And then there was the game against Germany where Weber shot the puck so hard that it went into warp speed and ripped through the net; the 7-3 pounding of the Russians; Demitra's (RIP) near-miss in the final seconds of the game; and of course, the gold medal game with the United States.

The build up was intense. Everyone was passionate about the rosters, the lines, the penalties, the hits, and the goals. It seems as though everything stopped while everyone in Canada was glued to every play unfolding on live television. Ryan Miller was impenetrable, but still we built up a 2-0 lead by the middle of the 2nd period. All that has changed however when Luongo let in a signature softie (according to social media anyway) and the game was on.

Seconds ticked by and we saw that 2-1 score remain into the final minute of the game. We thought this game was in the bag. The American net was empty as Ryan Miller had gone to the bench for an extra attacker. We can feel it. We are winning the gold medal at home. We were ready to celebrate.

30 seconds later, Zach Parise became our most hated player of all time. The score was tied at 2-2. To overtime we go.

I still remember that I was on the verge of insanity as overtime went on. Every play could be the last. One giveaway in our defensive zone, one lapse of concentration by our goalie and the game would be over: The Americans would stand with gold medals around their neck.

With 13 minutes to go in overtime, we just recovered from a giveaway in our own zone but Luongo was up to the task. Niedermayer skated the puck out of the zone, passed it over to Crosby, who attempted to split the defense. No dice, as Miller kicked the rebound towards the boards. Crosby collected the puck, cycled it to Iginla, and...


I spent the next couple hours high-fiving everyone in Downtown.

February 28, 2010 was the official moment when I became a hockey fan. More importantly, it was also the moment when I fell in love with Canada.

I guess it was less about the hockey game, but the sense of unity and pride I felt in Vancouver. It was the impromptu singing of O Canada on the Skytrain; the celebratory hugs people gave each other on the streets; complete strangers talking to each other about the glorious moments of the game; the waving of Canadian flags; the honks from passing cars; the absolute joy -- and relief -- on everyone's faces. It was unlike anything I've ever experienced.

People from my hometown often say that Canada is boring, that there isn't much to care for or be passionate about. Well, fuck them -- they don't know what they are missing.

The 2010 Winter Olympics was my baptism. On February 28, 2010, I became an unapologetic Canadian (sorry about that, HK).

Whatever happens later matters a great deal to me as a hockey fan -- but win or lose, no one can take away my pride for this Canadian team and for this great country.

Go Canada Go.