We Put Hong Kong on the 52 Places to Go List. Things Got Complicated.


And then we went out for yakitori and beer.


Passing construction crews stretching in the main cobblestone courtyard of the resort, I walked by the shops selling ski gear and GoPro accessories, most of them closed. Plastic statues of cartoonish donkeys stood on street corners smiling — no, laughing — at me. I asked my hotel reception if I could rent a bike or if there was a trail I could hike or maybe a nice viewpoint somewhere? “Sorry, no, not now,” the man replied.

It was hard to reconcile my memories — heavily clouded by a child’s innocence and wide-eyed wonder — with the reality today. Though a huge number of tourists are canceling their plans — tourist numbers were down 40 percent in August compared to last year — a visitor can come to Hong Kong and never come across a protest, especially on weekdays. But the evidence of upheaval is everywhere. On the Kowloon side of the harbor, graffiti covers the roads and the concrete dividers that line them: “Free HK,” “LeBron James: Shut up and dribble,” “Hong Kong is a Police State.” Lennon walls — named after the one covered in Beatles-inspired graffiti and notes in Prague — pop up in metro stations and on concrete pillars, where they are filled with leaflets and scribblings until authorities tear them down and another pops up somewhere else. Every conversation I had at least touched on the protests, now approaching their sixth month.

On my first night in Hong Kong, I had dinner with an old friend. At Happy Paradise, a funky, neon-lit spot in SoHo (that is, south of Hollywood Road) run by innovative local chef May Chow, we dug into twists on regional specialties, like an egg waffle made with sourdough and fried chicken zapped with Sichuan peppercorns. Harold Li works for a technology company, but has spent nights and weekends at protests. He has found renewed purpose alongside the black-clad protesters, most of whom are at least a decade younger than he is.

“I’ve never been more proud of being a Hongkonger,” Mr. Li said. “Sometimes when I go to the protests, I’m going just in solidarity with the other protesters.”

That was a few nights before Halloween, when I reunited with some of the same people to follow them through the protests. After the tear gas, when we had found each other again on a street corner a few blocks away, I must have looked visibly shaken, as we saw riot police running down the same street we had come from.

“For me, there’s no spike of emotion when this happens anymore,” S., a photographer, who asked to be identified only by her first initial, said. “I mostly just feel worried for all the young people out here.”



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