A delayed gweilo's perspective: Nostalgia Fair in Victoria Park, early June
A bright, sunny Sunday. A welcome change of pace after a rainy week. Yes, it is hot and humid, and without sunscreen it may be dangerous to go outside, but I like this weather more than the cold. It would be a waste to spend the day indoors, to be honest. And running air conditioning gets expensive fast, too.
Coincidentally, Sundays are the only day off for a large minority of population - Indonesian and Filipino housemaids, for people who have two left hands and can't do their own laundry. There's a surprising number of them in the city, and it can be easily seen, especially in Central, and Causeway Bay, most notably around Victoria Park. A place, where on most Sundays you can get some nazi goreng served from a sidewalk.
Having arrived in the area at around 13:00, one thing became apparent very quickly - a large police presence, although lesser than last year. As usual, that does not make me feel safe at all. That's why I'm wearing all white on that day - Hong Kong police rather openly states that the suspicious people wear all black, even in scorching sun. White ghosts (鬼佬 - gweilo, lit. ghost man - Cantonese slang for white people) can't be a threat, apparently.
Needless to say, Indonesian maids in Causeway Bay area had nowhere to go, and coexisted with police barricades. Their beloved Victoria Park was partly closed for "renovations", and partly occupied by a market event. They weren't dissiduaded by policemen patroling the surroundings, or a large area being closed off. Just moved their spots to a different place, that's it, with no interest of what was going on.
Got up on an overpass connecting the park with the biggest public library (with less and less books in it), and a look from above showed that they weren't the only ones not really caring. The flower market in March was certainly more crowded than that.
Walking around the area, it becomes apparent. It's either the Indonesian maids chilling, or masked old ladies and uncles with umbrellas (damn, get a hat!!!). Well, that tells me enough about the demographics of the event.
There were two: one from Causeway Bay side behind the "renovated" part, and one, presumably main one as it was certainly bigger, from Tin Hau side. And that's where I arrive. I see a group of older ladies preparing for a group photo on the sunny side, and few policemen presumably checking the ID card of some poor fella in the shadow.
Which one would you rather be?
Signs in Chinese didn't tell me much, but I found the most important one, with an arrow, saying essentially "Entrance, Octopus card, 5 HKD".
Passing by the security check that briefly had a look at my Fake Design bag, I see the sign for the fair from up close. Google Translate says that it's a Nostalgia fair, celebrating 26th anniversary of Hong Kong return to Motherland. That's... well, arguable. But I'm in no position to argue. No one would understand my beautiful speech in Polish either.
Going forward, I pay the entrance fee and get a freebie - presumably a hand fan with an advertisement of the pro-Peking organization that got this event going, handy for such a hot day - although I'd rather sweat my balls off than be caught with it in my hand.
I have no expectations of what I can find here, so I begin exploring. Immediately I am greeted with a massive pile of empty cardboard boxes on my left. Not really surprising, but I wander on, in the sea of old Chinese ladies. There's nothing in English here and I am not surprised, so I can only guess - there's nuts, electric tiny car, golden shiny flip flops and a little bit of presumably homemade items. And one stand with actual English on the banner - official merchandise for Hangzhou Asian Games 2022. Nothing says quality like unsold merch from a previous year's event.
Even though you have to go through the security check, police officers were still constantly patrolling the event area.
There's just one stand that stands out to me, and so it did to HKFP correspondent that visited the fair the day prior - Hong Kong Police Force merchandise. You could buy cute dolls of policemen in gasmask, holding a wonderful sign over their head, warning of tear gas. Or an orange keychain that straight up says "Disperse or we fire". On the other side of the packaging, "LOVE" was written. Guess rubber bullets come with a special filling. Well, I got one, as a perfect memento of an ordinary day on 4th of June. The seller just asked me which color I want - black (tear gas) or orange (disperse), and with a smile on her face passed me the souvenir. Lovely.
In the middle of the whole ordeal there was a stage, for performers of traditional Chinese arts. Wish I could tell you more, besides the fact that they did their job well and the available seats were all taken - the announcements were said in Cantonese, and followed in Mandarin. That would be the last sign that I was not welcome there.
On the way out I stumbled upon rows of toitois with rainbow flags on their sides; ah yes, it is indeed the month of being proud.
The date is rather special, as you might have noticed - 34th anniversary of Tiananmen Square massacre. Until 2019, every year had a vigil in memory of the victims, as many people who have come to Hong Kong from the mainland before the handover came not only looking for riches, but also running away from communists. As such, there has been support for the protests in various ways, and the city has been one of the last ones that didn't forbid talking about the event - at least until Pillar of Shame was shamely taken away in the middle of the night in December 2021.
Officials in 2020-2022 hid behind kung flu restrictions for a reason of why a vigil cannot be organized; in 2023, after passing of Peking-imposed National Security Law, it's understood that drawing of a candle can get you in trouble. Even this year, a man was arrested for telling Hong Kongers that they should remember 64 (six-four, not sixty four), and few minor incidents took place. Even a small Polish accent happened on the day - a Polish exchange student, Filip Kamer, came with a candle in a cup and got stopped by the police; thankfully without an arrest.
Government officials, asked if it's illegal to mourn the victims, didn't say anything. Did not say it's illegal, and yet a large police presence was deployed in the area, with up to 6000 extra officers that were not patrolling other areas. That's Exhibit A, I will come back to it.
Secondly, you may wonder why a pro-CCP organization got a fair in such an important date, in such an important place. The organizers claim that it was just a coincidence and it has nothing to do with the anniversary. That's Exhibit B.
Take A and B together and come to a natural conclusions: they know, they won't say anything to keep a facade, but it's an incredibly frail one if you simply disregard whatever comes from their mouths and just look at their actions. And make your own opinion based on your observations, that will never fail you.