Hong Kong – who will blink?

From 2004 to 2007 my husband and I enjoyed the vibrancy of Hong Kong — its Asian flavour and exotic nature, stunning scenery, and friendly people, its strange-to-us customs and foods and its unique blend of modern present with ancient traditions. We had an amazing experience. People would ask whether China controlled things, and we would say that the communist regime stays well in the background and allows Hong Kong to be a true example of one country, two systems. A beacon of hope that things might eventually change.

It breaks my heart to see the chaos and violence that has overtaken the city. During the first week of the 2019 protests, where a million protesters marched peacefully on the same streets that I had walked, I cheered for the restraint and resilience of Hong Kong’s citizens. Maybe this time China will listen, I said to myself. Maybe this time the regime will bend just a fraction to maintain the semblance of being a nation that warrants its place on the world stage.

The weeks unfolded. The protests continued. Hong Kong leadership backed down just the tiniest bit. But that wasn’t and isn’t enough for, as most of you are aware, what Hong Kongers desire is freedom and true democracy. What they don’t want is to be swallowed up by the Communist regime.

In a 2017 speech celebrating the 20th anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong from Britain to China, Xi Jinping had this to say:

  • The destiny of Hong Kong has always been intricately bound with that of the motherland.”
  • “Twenty years ago today, Hong Kong returned to the embrace of the motherland. This ended past humiliation and marked a major step forward toward the complete reunification of China.”
  • “Since its return to the motherland, Hong Kong has joined the remarkable journey towards the great renewal of the Chinese nation.” As if Hong Kong wasn’t already remarkable and a leading light in financial markets.

Quotes such as these illuminate the true intent of China’s communist leadership.

Humiliation is never tolerated by the Chinese Communist Party and the protesters are humiliating China. Perhaps Xi Jinping is or should be consulting ancient Chinese proverbs:

  • A small hole not mended in time will become a big hole much more difficult to mend. In this case, Hong Kong is the small hole.
  • Fortune does not come twice. Misfortune does not come alone. China’s leadership might expect other parts of China as well as Taiwan to create misfortune.
  • When the wind of change blows, some build walls, while others build windmills. Hong Kong’s actions represent this wind of change. Xi and his colleagues will likely build a wall.
  • New generation can put right the mistakes of the old. Xi is part of the old generation. Many of those protesting in Hong Kong are part of the new generation. Unfortunately, China never admits to any mistakes.
  • When the tree falls, the monkeys scatter. This is like the English saying about rats deserting a sinking ship. If Xi Jinping fails in this contest with Hong Kong, will he be deserted by those with influence in the Communist Party? It’s happened many times before.
  • Think three times before you move. Xi and his colleagues should think at least ten times before making a move. The consequences of the wrong decision could be stunning.
  • Punishment gives less incentive than a reward. Punishing the protestors (over 1000 arrests have happened already) does not end the protests. They may go underground for a while, but they won’t end. And in my humble opinion, this is the fundamental flaw of all totalitarian regimes. Eventually the human spirit rebels. The consequences are never pretty.

Forgive the political nature of this post. My greatest fear is another Tiananmen Square.

PS – this morning’s news reports that Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive, has withdrawn the extradition bill. She wouldn’t have done that without Beijing’s agreement. Does that mean China has blinked? Or is China merely following one of the proverbs above: Punishment gives less incentive than a reward? We shall see.


M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.


What’s Unique about Hong Kong?

The current manuscript is a dual-timeline novel set in Hong Kong. For some reason I’ve found it easier to create the atmosphere of historical Hong Kong (1912-1914) than that of modern-day Hong Kong. So I decided to ask friends to share their thoughts on what makes this city/region special.

The results are in:

  1. The natural beauty of Hong Kong is unbelievable …lush green trees – in fact, green everywhere – and beautiful South China Sea; tropical island scenery; contrast between mountains and sea; and contrast between natural and modern
  2. Public transportation makes life easy for residents and visitors and the city runs efficiently and is kept very clean
  3. Foodie heaven for all tastes and budgets, and more so now, even for aspiring vegans
  4. Great place for outdoor activities ….. beautiful parks and lush hiking trails, rock-climbing, hidden waterfalls and swimming holes, beaches
  5. Very high tech
  6. Fresh markets and street markets are in abundance
  7. Hong Kong has the best skyline in the world
  8. Most of the families in HK hire overseas domestic helpers from Philippines and Indonesia to look after their children and housework. On Sundays these women (95% women) gather in large clusters in different parts of the city to eat, talk, dance, and sell things
  9. Hong Kong is one of the safest places to live in the world
  10. Mountain views
  11. Orchids everywhere
  12. Shopping paradise, again for all interests and budgets, and for what you can’t get here, “almost no borders” insofar as online shopping is concerned
  13. Stanley market and all its small, unique shops
  14. Sunday’s in Shek O and going to the Thai restaurant for lunch
  15. Taking the fast ferry to Macau and a walk in its Portuguese colonial parts
  16. Soho area for great shops and restaurants
  17. Visiting Sai Kung for fresh fish and Sunday bbq
  18. The Foreign Correspondents Club
  19. Views from Kowloon looking over at Hong Kong Island
  20. Edginess and party scene on the streets especially on Friday evenings in Lan Kwai Fong
  21. Walking around the stilt house village of Tai O
  22. Non-stop direct flights to almost anywhere one might wish to go, with almost hassle-free airport, exit and entry
  23. It’s a special place that is full of energy, with people who have drive, resilience, and a “can do” attitude; some of this has been overshadowed by more recent politics
  24. A cosmopolitan city that is very diverse in terms of food, shops, culture, etc.
  25. The British influence from colonial days also makes it unique in terms of culture and diversity and the blend of old and new, western and Chinese
  26. The many foot massage shops
  27. High tea at all of the beautiful hotels
  28. The islands surrounding Hong Kong including Lamma Island for a fish lunch, Cheung Chau, Lantau, and the fishing villages that seem frozen in time
  29. Live seafood available everywhere
  30. Street snacks 
  31. Fast pace of the city, the bustle on the streets
  32. Incredible density of skyscrapers and high-rises; HK ranks #1 of numbers of completed skyscrapers that are taller than 150m
  33. The Peak
  34. A Symphony of Light has set the Victoria Harbour ablaze every night since 2004.
  35. You can see many mainlanders carrying their luggage around Causeway Bay and Tsim Sea Tsui for shopping everyday
  36. Contrasts: In the harbour, you can see junks next to cruise ships; on the streets you can see people hang drying their clothes outside their windows next to gigantic sky scrapers
  37. Stark differences between the classes. There is so much wealth in HK (which most people see), and there is poverty that many people could not imagine.
  38. Made-to-measure clothing available in a few days time

Now, all I have to do is convey some/most of this in the novel in a seamless, unobtrusive fashion! PS – photos are all from my personal collection.


M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.

Writing Unravelled – or Surviving as an Expat

At the age of seventy-five, my grandmother died on the way to her second wedding.

Although shocking at the time, I now think of her death as beautifully poignant. For years, I imagined writing a story with this as the ending but the hurly-burly of family life and demanding careers combined with the certainty that I could never be a writer meant that this notion collected nothing but dust like university mementos tucked away in the attic. However, in 2004, fate intervened with a move to Hong Kong.

Hong Kong StreetLiving as an expat is both exhilarating and depressing. My husband traveled constantly throughout Asia. I knew no one and had no job; our children – one working, one in university – remained in Canada. For several months I flapped about like a bird with broken wings until one day Grandma’s story beckoned. What if I could write it? I thought. At the very least, the effort would keep me busy.

I bought a book titled The Writer’s Book of Wisdom: 101 Rules by Steven Taylor Goldsberry (difficult to find books about writing in a city where Cantonese dominates). I reread the notes my mother had drafted about her family. On a trip home, I found old family photos and information about my grandfather’s WWI war service. And with no idea what I was doing, I plunged right in.

View of Central and Victoria HarbourWriting gave me a sense of purpose. Every morning, armed with a cup of coffee, I fired up my computer. Some days were filled with research, on other days I crafted sentences, struggling to make the words convey what my senses imagined and to flow with enticing rhythm. Looking back, these early efforts remind me of a child’s crude stick drawings produced with great concentration and displayed at home with pride. When I needed a break, I walked the streets of Hong Kong through wet markets and crowded corners, past the flower sellers and lunch-time noodle shops, through antique stores and galleries dominating an area called Soho, up the hill to the top of Victoria Peak where stunning views of the harbour surrounded by skyscrapers reminded me of my good fortune to be in Asia at a time of incredible change.

That was eight years ago and now I write full time. Unravelled is the product of those early efforts and along the way I wrote Lies Told in Silence (a WWI story set in France that is currently with my agent) and Blind Regret ( a dual time period novel with a hint of mystery). I’ve also become obsessed not only with writing but also with exploring the consequences of war.

By the way, Unravelled ends before my grandmother dies. Perhaps there’ll be a sequel?