Community & Education HKFP Voices

Hong Kong a city in decline? The Lion Rock spirit is still in full swing

By Krzysztof Jankowski

The Lion Rock Spirit has not been abandoned, Hong Kong people today continue it by fighting for the freedom and prosperity only democracy can sustain.

The Spirit was created by refugees who fled Party authoritarian rule in search of prosperity and freedom in colonial Hong Kong, which offered these characteristics to all. People swam across the river from Shenzhen into the hostile unknown seeking a better life. These refugees – who would later create the bedrock of Hong Kong culture and ethnic identity – acted out of the desire to live free and prosperous.

hong kong emblem

File photo: Romeo Gacad/AFP.

This desire continues today in the fight for democracy and a voice. Today, this struggle is fought against the same organisation and possibly even the same individuals. This movement’s members fight for the same betterment of their lives against those who wish to unfairly restrict them. Just like those refugees who fled the turmoil of Communist rule, the democracy movement seeks to unchain Hong Kong people from Communist rule so they can live on their own terms. The same thread of liberty strings past to present.

Both The Spirit and the democracy movement have been mired in chaos and disruption.  Contrary to common portrayals, the era of The Spirit was not without conflict or disaster. In the late 1960s dissatisfied Hong Kong people fought the Colonial administration with a violence Hong Kong had not seen since the Japanese occupation. The disruptions of the democracy movement are not unique. The Lion Rock Spirit’s fight for freedom and dignity plunged Hong Kong into chaos, but Hong Kong and Hong Kong people re-emerged as a cultural powerhouse only a free society can aspire to.

hong kong occupy protest umbrella

Pro-democracy supporters took over the heart of Hong Kong last year. Photo: via Flickr.

The Lion Rock Spirit saw the establishment and flourishing of Cantonese culture, of course in day-time television, but also in cinema and music. Likewise, the democracy movement has spurred a parallel flourishing of culture and emotion that Hong Kong people have not expressed since the handover. The yellow ribbon camps in Admiralty and Mong Kok were manifestations and beacons for all of what being a Hong Kong person meant. The compassion, charity, make-shift constructions, poetic artwork, all surrounded by the city we love.

A visit to any Hong Kong bookstore will show you this explosion of expression that the yellow umbrella movement sparked through the numerous photographic and textual reflections of the 2014 protests.

zhang protest hong kong democracy

Photo: Todd Darling.

Rather than simply a work ethic that pulled Hong Kong through a phenomenal industrial revolution, the spirit is the desire to overcome the most unfair odds to improve one’s life. In recent years Hong Kong has been more alive than anytime this generation, The Lion Rock Spirit of your grandparents has not been abandoned, it lives on.

Originally from New Zealand, Krzysztof has made Hong Kong his home over the past four years. He recently completed an MPhil at HKU studying Sociology.

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Hong Kong a city in decline? The Lion Rock spirit is still in full swing