Five years ago, around this time, my choir was putting the final touches on that year’s production: Les Miserables. Call it crazy: having a class of no more than forty eighth graders singing possibly one of the greatest musicals of all time.
We preferred the term ambitious.
Because we were so obsessed with challenging popular belief, and because we
wanted needed to put on the best performance of our young lives, we fell head over black heels in love with the music.
It became the stuff that flowed through our veins. The corner of every hallway. We slept and dreamed to Castle On A Cloud. Got friend-zoned for the first time to On My Own. Grieved, as much as we could’ve grieved, to I Dreamed A Dream.
From what I remember, the concert was met with the highest acclaim that I could’ve imagined then: a smile from the principal. But like all great and remarkable things, it became a memory.
It’s been five years since I had last heard, much less sung, songs from that musical. My Les Mis fervour has all but extinguished. That is, until several weeks ago when one of the most prominent songs from the beloved musical came up as an unexpected headline:
It was a strange throwback, and an even stranger reality.
Of course, by then I had read all the news articles and watched the nightly news and knew about what was happening in Hong Kong.
The students who crowded the streets, the police response, the raiding of college campuses and the general unrest that seems to engulfed the city.
But because I exist in an environment (as well as a flawed headspace, where pressing matters are only pressing if it occurs right before my eyes), I was ignorant.
I knew about it only through quick news headliens, but I didn’t understand. I didn’t understand the full, tragic extent of the situation. Not until the video of the protestors was released.
Suddenly, I was thrown back into my eighth grade self. Sitting patiently on the floor, cross-legged, learning about the Paris Uprising of 1832.
“Friends,” the teacher had taken to call us, “it’s important to understand what the people were going through. What they were thinking while singing this song.”
If you are an avid internet user, or an internet user at all, basically any article written online since March 31st including the words Hong Kong… can be summarized in two words: Extradition Bill.
The two words themselves might seem, at first, a bit foreign, but the effect that it has on the citizens of Hong Kong is immensely personal.
Without delving into too much detail, it was the Extradition Bill that initially sparked what has now become a nation-wide conflict. The bill, explained eloquently in an article by the BBC, may have kickstarted the protests, but it is safe to say that the conflict in Hong Kong now has escalated.
The bill has managed to bring up old political conflicts that still linger between mainland China and Hong Kong, tensions between Western vs. Chinese presence in the city-state, as well as quarrels about the definition of democracy.
Recognising that because I’m a student from Singapore, my perspective on the Hong Kong protests will always be secondary at best. However, the perks of being part of an international community is that I am surrounded by others who are more knowledgeable about certain issues than I am.
Former SAS student Joycelin Wang shares her insights on the matter at hand, being a Hong Kong citizen herself. Although she currently resides in the United States, she and her family frequently visit relatives in the city-state.
“Back when the Extradition Bill first surfaced and there were some people on the streets, I thought it wasn’t going to last. It was only after a few weeks, when my friends from other countries started asking me about it, that I realized the severity of the situation. My parents told me it was history in the making.”
Another student shares his take on the whole situation, especially the recent escalations to violence and what it means to global citizens. “I know a lot of talk in my history class has been about what’s going on in Hong Kong. I think everyone’s confused. I think everyone has the right to be. It’s strange to think that the violence we read about in our textbooks, about protestors and riots and so on, can become part of our lives.” As the situation in Hong Kong progresses, it is uncertain to determine what conclusion will unfold. History may not repeat itself, but it often rhymes.
Regardless of age, citizenship or nationality, it is important that we all take the time to not only understand what is currently happening in Hong Kong, but also educate and inform others.
After all, don’t you hear the people sing?