Caught in Hong Kong turmoil, Sarawakian ponders the meaning of it all

Hong Kong — file pic. // Photo: Free-Photos from Pixabay

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By Martin Yee

KUCHING, Dec 30: For Sarawak-born Dr Richard Tan who enjoyed relative peace all his life, living in Hong Kong for the past seven months has been upsetting, for life in the city has taken a turn for the worse.

As a retiree who has experienced peace throughout his life and as a Sarawakian expatriate living abroad for about 45 years, life in present Hong Kong is quite unnerving to say the least.

Tan left Sarawak after finishing his Form Six to study in Taylor’s University in Kuala Lumpur before moving to New Zealand where he stayed for 29 years. He then followed his wife and migrated to Hong Kong.

Living in Hong Kong was all about work for him with not much time for socialising as he was engaged in social work as well. He did not know of any Sarawakians living there apart from himself although there are Malaysians living there.

However, last seven months and the recent turn of events and unrest which had caught the world’s attention for adverse reasons has proved to be quite distressing for someone like him caught up in the uncertainty.

In his mind, the situation sometimes borders on the insane due to the wanton destruction, with workers and commuters like him getting derailed and the common people suffering loss of income, the roll-off effect due to the commotion and damage to the public transport. It has left him at times wondering whether to stay or pack his bags to return to Kuching where he has an apartment, as the wanton destruction of property goes on and on.

Even as a psychologist, Tan admitted he was significantly affected by the “crazy” happenings in Hong Kong, and that he is mildly depressed due to the aggressive behavior of the protestors. He perceives the news coverage as distorted especially concerning news highlighting police brutality.

“There seem to be meaningless destruction of property, disruption of daily lives of many people who have difficulty going to work due to the trains not operating, stations closed and buses diverted or suspended. There were reported incidents of people set on fire, shops set on fire, commercial premises, like banks and retail shops and malls destroyed. The world, especially the main TV news channels see it in a different light.”

He acknowledged that at times, the situation appears more terrifying than the curfew imposed in Kuching during the communist insurgency.

After living and working voluntarily in the former British Colony long enough to call it home, he described the present situation as ‘topsy-turvy’ and very frustrating as he finds it difficult to connect the earlier distruptive activities as protests.

“My wife and I are sometimes stranded at home due to the disturbances and this has left me mildly depressed, angry and frustrated as I had in fact begun to adapt to living in the place as I have been here for the past nearly 16 years.”

On how the Hong Kong unrest started, Tan related that it started about seven months ago when the extradition bill in which the Hong Kong Government want to pass which spark the uprising of mostly young people.

Soon the protests or demonstrations spiralled out of control, leading to chaos and destruction with people often left stranded, while shops, premises and amenities were vandalised. Even the airport came to a standstill as demonstrators held up operations.

“Workers suffer as the MTR system did not work and some offices including banks and Starbucks were smashed.

“As a psychologist, I feel appalled and gutted to see such wanton destruction by the group of extremists who seemed to have no restraint to civility or any other concerns.

“I do feel depressed mildly as it had affected everyone’s life and has caused so much economic hardship for so many people throughout the whole city. For my wife, she had to work from home for on several occasions the train stations were closed.

“Socially it is tough. I have the occasional English classes but had not had them for several weeks due to the disruption in transport.”

He said most social events have been cancelled for the same reason and some of the malls had shut.

In his line of work, he has helped to mentor and supervise as well as worked to assist with problem gamblers. He also does a bit of private English tutoring.

Dr Tan has returned to Sarawak several times to give talks and counselling. His most recent visit here was two years ago when he gave a talk titled “Life’s Journey” to university students.

He had also at the request of his former SMK St Joseph classmate and priest Father Joseph Chai help to train counsellors at the Catholic counselling centre. He had also spoken in a radio talk show at RTM Kuching on the subject of compulsive gambling.

“I like to share and discuss if people are open-minded enough to discuss but some people are tightly shut in their minds that it is a waste of time to help them.”

As for his future, Tan said: “My Hong Kong future is bleak. The youths in Hong Kong are relatively spoilt in comparison with most youth of Asean countries.

“Just imagine the statistics, there are over 600,000 domestic helpers in Hong Kong so this situation I feel would inevitably create quite a large number of young people who feel entitled. Many visitors to HK have complained about the arrogance of the Hong Kong people.

“I hope that Hong Kong will once again be peaceful and become a dynamic city again, a place known to be the origin of memorable kungfu movies, Cantopop, and an international business centre. Hong Kong will never be the same again and the wounds will take years to heal even for the very adaptable Hong Kongers.” — DayakDaily