Corona protests in China, DDP defeat in Taiwan and the Milk Tea Alliance
Protests in some cities of China by a few thousand and a few hundred, also at the elite university Qinghua, even solidarity of some Han Chinese with some Uyghurs and many in the West and some parts of the East already hope that now, like in Iran (and maybe in future in Russia too) , mass protests by the 1.4 billion Chinese who want to change the regime and could lead to the overthrow of Xi Jinping and perhaps the entire CCP will erupt. As nothing came of the Hong Kong protests at the time, BILD during the Hongkong revolt let the young Hong Kong opposition leader Joshua Wong make a big appearance at a press conference in Berlin, at which he declared that Hong Kong should become a frontline city like Berlin in the Far East for a New Cold War against the CP China, the Springer Publishinghouse now seems to classify this protest in China as „historical“- in view of the flaring up, still very limited protests in China – according to BILD:
“Historical protests in Shanghai and Beijing Corona revolt against China-Xi
By: Nils Kottmann and Shammi Haque 11/27/2022 – 10:38 am
That hasn’t happened in China for more than ten years! In the metropolis of Shanghai, more than a thousand people took to the streets on Saturday against the communist regime and its tough corona policy – on Sunday, according to eyewitness reports, 200 to 300 people demonstrated at Tsinghua University in Beijing! For the first time in decades, protesters called for the overthrow of the Communist Party and dictator Xi Jinping, 69. „Down with the Communist Party, down with Xi Jinping!“ Shanghai protesters shouted in a video shared on Twitter. Until now it was unthinkable that the China dictator would be so harshly criticized – especially after he secured absolute power in the party in October and had himself crowned ruler for the third time.
So far, the police have reacted unusually mildly to the protests. According to Dutch China correspondent Eva Rammeloo, officials divided the protesters into two groups and arrested some of them. Police getting tired now too. They divided the crowd into two parts and arrested a few people.
pic.twitter.com/vxmSTOjGSd — Eva Rammeloo (@eefjerammeloo) November 26, 2022
But the protest is also historic for another reason: For the first time, the Chinese have demonstrated for the ethnic-religious Uyghur minority that is being persecuted by the regime. The protesters laid flowers and candles on Urumqi Street and called for freedom for Xinjiang Province. Background: In the local capital, Urumqi, at least ten people died in a house fire on Thursday – rumor has it that the doors were locked. Because China has imposed one of the longest lockdowns in Xinjiang because of the new corona wave. Many of Urumqi’s four million residents are not allowed to leave their homes for up to 100 days. There have been around 100 new corona cases in the city over the past two days. Almost all Uyghurs live in Xinjiang. Because they are Muslims and belong to the Turkic peoples, the regime puts them in labor camps, rapes, castrates, tortures and kills them. In short: Uyghurs are victims of genocide. Nobody in China had publicly drawn attention to their fate – until now.
China is fighting the biggest corona wave since the pandemic began Despite the strict zero-Covid policy, there are more corona patients in China than at any time since the pandemic began: According to the Health Commission, around 32,700 new cases have been reported. The high numbers lead to even tougher restrictions – and cause growing resentment among the population – and mass protests. ︎ Angry migrant workers tore down numerous barricades in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou last week. Workers at China’s largest iPhone factory in the city of Zhengzhou took to the streets against the tough corona restrictions, leading to serious clashes with security forces on Wednesday. Workers have been complaining about poor conditions in the plant for weeks, and many have fled. The government’s response to the dissatisfaction and protests: even tougher measures instead of easing! ︎
On Thursday, a lockdown for more than six million people was ordered in the city of Zhengzhou! Only the area of the huge iPhone factory is exempt from the lockdown, but the strictest corona rules apply. ︎ In the 18 million city of Guangzhou, several districts are completely in lockdown. The mega-metropolis of Chongqing only allows its approximately 30 million inhabitants to leave the country in urgent cases and with a negative corona test. ︎ And Beijing is also reminiscent of a ghost town: schools, kindergartens and shops are closed. People were asked not to be in public if possible. There were also protests in the capital on Saturday: In several areas, residents broke through the fences of their residential complexes and demanded an end to the lockdowns.
Similarly, the FAZ:
„Corona protests in China: „Down with Xi Jinping“
Thousands gathered in Shanghai and other Chinese cities on Sunday to demonstrate against the Corona policy, the Communist Party and Xi personally. The regime reacted with harshness and concessions. By Hendrik Ankenbrand, Shanghai, and Friederike Böge, Beijing -Updated on 11/27/2022-14:02
Demonstrations against the harsh zero-Covid policy of state and party leader Xi Jinping broke out in various parts of China over the weekend. It is probably the largest and broadest wave of protests in the country since the democracy movement of 1989. Thousands of demonstrators gathered in Shanghai on Sunday for the second evening in a row and chanted slogans against the Corona policy, the Communist Party and against Xi Jinping himself, which in China rarely occurs on the open road. There were also protests at a number of universities on Sunday. At Tsinghua University in Beijing, students demanded democracy, the rule of law and freedom of expression. The trigger for the resentment was a high-rise building fire in Urumchi, the capital of the Xinjiang region. At least ten people were killed on Thursday. The suspicion immediately arose that the rigid corona measures could have delayed the rescue work of the fire brigade or prevented the fire victims in the high-rise building from escaping to the outside. Local authorities deny this.
Demonstrators call for ‚freedom for Xinjiang‘ In Shanghai, the mostly young demonstrators gathered on Wulumuqi Street. Wulumuqi is the Chinese name for Urumchi. The crowd commemorated the dead with candles, flowers and self-painted signs, chanted “Freedom for Xinjiang” and demanded an end to the zero-Covid policy. The protesters sang the Chinese national anthem and shouted „We are all Chinese“. Later they called for „democracy instead of dictatorship“ and „freedom of the press“. At times, the Shanghai demonstrators also attacked the political leadership in Beijing head-on in a manner that was extremely unusual for China, shouting “down with the party” and “down with Xi Jinping”. On Saturday, the crowd was surrounded by hundreds of police officers, who initially barely intervened. A few demonstrators were arrested late on Saturday. Numerous other arrests were made on Sunday.
‚Down with the party! Down with Xi Jinping!‘ Free Xinjiang!‘ pic.twitter.com/q5jwUQrz5Z — Eva Rammeloo (@eefjerammeloo) November 26, 2022
Individual demonstrators held up white sheets of paper in what appears to be a reference to Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement. Young people and members of parliament protested there in 2020 with blank slates against the introduction of the National Security Law, which criminalizes any criticism of the leadership. In the meantime, the blank slips of paper have become the hallmark of the new movement. The demonstrators also held up white pieces of paper at Beijing’s Tsinghua University. In Changsha, capital of Hunan Province, students pinned white paper to trees. At the University of Hong Kong, students silently stood on campus with white slips of paper. A student from Xinjiang gave a speech at Nanjing University of Communication on Saturday night. „I speak for my hometown, for the people who lost loved ones in the fire, and for all those compatriots who have died across the country.“
He was referring to numerous deaths associated with the harsh zero-Covid policy to be linked. They are one reason why the anger has continued to mount over the past few months. There is the woman in Xi’an who lost her child after the hospital refused treatment for a missing PCR test. Or the 27 victims of a bus accident in Guizhou. They were to be taken to a quarantine center in another city in the middle of the night, despite the mountainous region’s night-time bus ban. Street protests were reported from other cities, including Wuhan. The protests on the Internet were also directed against Xi Jinping in an unusually direct manner. This is how a well-known article that Xi’s father wrote forty years ago as party head of Guangdong Province was circulated. It contains the sentence “Fear of democracy is a symptom of a neurosis”. The title of the text is „Let the people speak“. “Uyghurs cannot protest” It all started in Urumqi. The people there were the first to take to the streets after the deadly high-rise fire on Friday evening. Videos showed, among other things, a crowd in front of the provincial government headquarters chanting “serve the people” and “end the lockdown”. They, too, sang the national anthem to refute the usual accusation that they are unpatriotic rabble.
Norway-based activist Abduweli Ayup, with the help of relatives, has identified seven of the fire victims, including a woman and her four children. Ayup says on the phone that he is in contact with their relatives in Switzerland, Finland and Turkey. They also confirmed the authenticity of an audio recording in which the woman appeared to be begging for someone to open the door shortly before she died. The activist sees this as a possible indication that the family was locked in from outside because of the corona measures. The husband of the woman who died, a businessman, was arrested in Hotan in 2017 in the course of mass arrests. All of the victims he identified are Uyghurs, Ayup said. The skyscraper in which the fire occurred is located „in a historically Uyghur residential area“. The demonstrators in Urumchi, on the other hand, appear to be mostly Han Chinese. „Uyghurs cannot protest and shout slogans on the street,“ says Ayup.
Protests were also reported from Korla, another city in Xinjiang with a majority Han Chinese population. There are no corresponding reports from southern Xinjiang, which is inhabited mostly by Uyghurs. At the solidarity rallies in Shanghai and at numerous universities, the ethnicity of the victims of the high-rise fire is not an issue. Ayup finds this „very regrettable“. The Xinjiang government responded with repression and concessions. The local party leadership announced that the corona measures would be relaxed. Large parts of the city have been in lockdown for more than three months. There will be a „gradual return to normal production and normal life,“ it was announced after a meeting chaired by party leader Ma Xingrui. In fact, residents of Urumchi later reported the first easing. Ma Xingrui also announced financial aid for financially weak households and particularly affected companies. At the same time, he called on the security forces to take tough action against „illegal acts such as spreading rumours, inciting to stir up trouble and violent resistance to the corona measures“. According to the police, a woman was taken into administrative detention for ten days for spreading alleged „rumours“. She had spread that there had been more than ten fatalities in the high-scraper fire.
Almost three years ago, millions of people vented their anger at the initial cover-up of the first corona outbreak and called for political reforms on the Internet. The trigger at the time was the death of Wuhan doctor Li Wenliang, who had tried in vain to warn about the virus. But back then, people didn’t take to the streets to voice their demands. Protests in China are mostly limited to local issues such as an environmental or banking scandal or outstanding wages. It’s different this time. The anger is aimed squarely at the Communist Party. From the point of view of the communist leadership, it must also be worrying that the protests come from different social groups. By students and residents of closed residential areas who can no longer stand the Corona measures. Apparently emboldened by the protests, residents in numerous lockdown settlements in Beijing have clamored for an opening and the right to self-isolate at home if they test positive. The local government in Beijing also announced limited easing on Sunday. Apparently the government is trying to appease the demonstrators and buy time in this way.”
The German press, especially BILD, has presented the protests in China in a very exaggerated manner, although the potential should not be underestimated. On the one hand, there have only been a few hundred and sometimes a few thousand demonstrating. Most of the demands are towards changing Xi’s corona policy and only a very few demand the fall of Xi or the CCP. With 1.4 billion Chinese, not particularly threatening at first, especially since a change in corona policy could take a lot of steam out of the boiler, even in the event of Xi Jinping’s resignation, aa an allegedly purified Chinese Communist Party, which is finding its way back to collective leadership and a more moderate course offer the dissatisfied protesters an alternative. In addition, Xi-China is not as “liberal “ as China was in the 1980s, it is also more prosperous and has also systematically built up its suppression apparatus far beyond normal surveillance systems, using the social bonus system and its sanctioning options and total recording, as well as a fairly comprehensive censorship. Unless hacker groups, Elon Musk, or intelligence agencies succeed in neutralizing the CCP’s information monopoly and making the news available through social media and other means of communication, it will be a race between the CCP, which wants to prevent the protest information from spreading, and its dissemination like the hare and the hedgehog, with the CCP currently having the advantage. Furthermore, these protests are spontaneous and not organized. However, with the establishment of his one-man dictatorship, Xi Jinping is now also a point of reference and opponent of everything. So it depends on whether Xi changes something or whether he doesn’t give in, also causing a opposition within the CP China thereby spreading the previously scattered calls for an overthrow of Xi or even the CCP and broaden the mass protests across China due to intransigence by his leadership if he cannot brutally suppress them by further increasing its neo-totalitarianism as he has as last resort, the People’s Liberation Army and as vanguard the martially armed People’s Armed Police, which even has a much higher budget than the entire PLA military. The reasons why the protests could spread quickly with the current no-Covid lockdown strategy, are the fairly arbitrary and large-scale lockdowns in densely concentrated cities (in the 1980s China still had an urbanization degree of 20-30%, now mostly over 60%), the narrower density of housing and workplaces as well as public spaces, a still underdeveloped health system , hardly any mass hospitals with exceptions for a small part of the wealthy middle class and the upper class, which has not yet carried out a national vaccination campaign for most Chinese, yes even with the few vaccination campaigns, especially on Sinovac and national, less effective or even ineffective patriotic Made in China 2025 vaccines openly and wants to hold back and ignore foreign productions due to national pride, hardly any intensive care units, which often have to be set up quickly and provisionally in large camp tents (especially since quite quickly and well organized Potemkanian villages are feigned in front of state television as a model for some mass media hotspots, which in width and number they usually do not have at all). No Biontech, no Moderna, just patriotic Made in China Sinovec and that too has only been vaccinated on a few million of the 1.4 billion Chinese – a country that is almost not vaccinated and has too few intensive care beds and hospitals. Actually a declaration of bankruptcy in health policy and a self-inflicted shortage economy. Because the money in the health care system would rather end up in high- rise buildings and skyscapers like Pudong and other real estate mega investments including gentrification and even the symbolic regulation of Evergrande does not solve the problemss, yes there are no plans for a more comprehensive modern health system to be considered, let alone realised. In addition, loss of work and wages as well as the not only personal, but collective, large-scale restriction of freedom with brute means, in which one no longer feels like a citizen, but rather a guinea pig and slave. In addition, the accompanying economic crisis, the whole container getting stuck in the ports, the entire collapse of supply chains including the income of workers, profits of companies, which also shakes up the national budget – even if you are not lured away, but all this also indirectly , but even then you feel very directly about your own life and wallet, along with friends and colleagues you know. It can spread very quickly through economic networking and the setbacks to all workers, businessmen and tradespeople. However, this is still limited to a few cities and not all of China, and the lockdown can also be lifted again after 2 weeks to 1 month at the latest. However, the high degree of urbanization also means that such protests could spread more easily due to the concentration of people, although it is disputed whether the newly created urban middle class (1980s: 40 million Chinese, now; 700 million Chinese) are politically more mature and rebellious than the poor, uneducated rural migrant worke who previously settled there without hokou, are indeed more educated and therefore supposedly more politically aware and recalcitrant. In any case, the latter are the factors that lead Western regime changers to believe that it is not a matter of a revolt, but rather of a pre-revolutionary phase of the middle-class Gen Z revolution, which is doubtful at this stage, if not in the next weeks an exponential increase takes place.
While China does not have a democracy where the people can elect their leadership, democratic Taiwan has now had local elections that have resulted in the Taiwanese president now resigning from her party leadership; Because at the same time, the local elections turned out to be quite disastrous for Taiwan’s DDP and Tsai Yingwen, who wanted to hold them as a referendum for their China policy. Apparently, most Taiwanese don’t want their offensive China policy, or were municipal issues also important? Funny that Chiang Kaichek’s great-grandson became the mayor of Taipei. It almost reminds me a bit of Bongbong Marcos jr. in the Philippines.
„Taiwan local elections: Taiwanese don’t want to vote on China
By Friederike Böge, Beijing -Updated on 11/27/2022-17:44
Tsai Ing-wen resigns from her party office. Taiwan’s President Tsai stylized the local elections as a referendum on her China policy. The voters were not convinced. . Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen resigned as party chair after her Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) did poorly in local elections on Saturday. The results, which she „humbly“ accepts, required „deep introspection,“ Tsai told disappointed supporters Saturday night. The President had tried to stylize the election as a referendum on the different China policies of the two most important parties. The voters were not convinced. Instead, local issues and candidates were probably decisive. Voter turnout was just 59 percent. The DPP lost control of two key cities, Taoyuan and Keelung, to the opposition National People’s Party (KMT). In addition, the DPP’s hopes of winning the post of mayor in the capital Taipei were not fulfilled. There, the KMT candidate, Chiang Wan-an, won by a clear margin. According to his own statements, he is a great-grandson of former President Chiang Kai-shek. This gives him additional prestige within the KMT. However, the former business lawyer, who worked for a number of years in a law firm in America’s Silicon Valley, only uses the great-grandfather card sparingly because many younger voters see Chiang Kai-shek as a dictator. After being defeated by Communist troops, he fled China with more than a million followers in 1949 and established a military regime there. A new party completes the political spectrum 43-year-old Chiang Wan-an will be Taipei’s youngest-ever mayor. He is considered a beacon of hope in the party, especially since the KMT has a hard time reaching younger voters. This is because the party has so far clung to the long-term goal of unification with China, albeit not with a communist-ruled China. However, most young Taiwanese do not see themselves as Chinese.
The DPP, founded in 1986, generally does worse in local elections than in national elections because it lacks local networks, especially in the north, says Anna Marti, office manager of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation in Taipei. Tsai managed to win re-election in 2020, even though her party suffered a bitter defeat in the 2018 local elections. After the local elections, all eyes are now on the selection of candidates for the presidential election in January 2024. After two terms in office, Tsai cannot run again. The newly elected mayor of New Taipei, Hou You-yi, is considered a possible KMT candidate. One of the winners of Saturday’s election was the Taiwan People’s Party (TPP), which was founded in 2019 and wants to establish itself as an alternative force. She surprisingly won the mayoral post in Hsinchu. So far, the competition between the DPP and the KMT has dominated political life, contributing to the fact that Taiwanese society is deeply divided. A referendum to lower the minimum voting age from 20 to 18, which would have benefited the DPP in particular, failed to achieve the required majority.
In any case, the DDP and the pan-green Taipei Times, which is close to it, claimed in an editorial before the election that the KMT only embodied the so-called benshengren, the KMT Chinese who fled to Taiwan after 1949 and their Greater China elite claims, and therefore for actual Taiwanese and the waishengren who had already settled the Island before, although often of Chinese descent was not eligible and indulged in an illusion of power:
„Fri, Nov 25, 2022 page8
EDITORIAL: The deep-blues’ illusions of power
As campaign fever for tomorrow’s local elections turns white hot, supporters of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) have been going head to head on social media. The latest row was triggered by a Facebook post on Nov. 13 by songwriter and KMT supporter Liu Chia-chang (劉家昌), who rebuked United Microelectronics Corp founder Robert Tsao (曹興誠) for advocating independence.
“Although you regained your ROC [Republic of China] citizenship after returning from Singapore, you continue to help the green independents by guarding their flank,” Liu wrote, adding that it was an “insult to the nation.”
“When [KMT Taipei mayoral candidate] Chiang Wan-an (蔣萬安) is elected, you people will know the power of ROC citizens,” Liu wrote.
Tsao said Liu’s rant has revealed the mentality embedded in the KMT camp. He wrote that Liu believes that only those who show allegiance to the KMT are ROC citizens, whereas the DPP supporters are not.
“Using political affiliation as the determining factor is an argument that harks back to the US south’s Ku Klux Klan [KKK], made up of white people who could not stand seeing black people — their former slaves and inferiors — acquire political power,” Tsao wrote.
When the KMT was in power in Taiwan, it acted similarly, he wrote, citing its treatment of independence advocates before Taiwan became a democracy.
Tsao’s post hit the nail on the head with his insight into the mindset of the KMT’s deep-blue faction and its supporters. Although the KMT has been established for more than a century, power and leadership have rarely fallen out of the hands of the deep-blue faction, a group consisting of generations of waishengren (外省人) — those who fled China with the KMT after 1949 and were given important positions, privilege and power by former president Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國).
Used to holding authority, the deep-blue faction has always viewed benshengren (本省人) — people who came to Taiwan in the centuries preceding World War II — with suspicion and contempt, more so when they remember former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), a KMT benshengren who turned out to be an independence supporter and curtailed the KMT’s monopoly on power.
This is most obvious with the KMT’s treatment of former legislative speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) and New Taipei City Mayor Hou You-yi (侯友宜), both benshengren party members. Despite their broad appeal over the political divide, they have both been pressured not to run for the presidency, because they are not “blue-blooded” enough to garner support from deep-blue voters.
The deep-blue faction’s obsession with “blood” and traditional racial order is also reflected in the way children of prominent deep-blue members enjoy elite status and access to public positions. This can be seen in the way Chiang Wan-an rose to power and acquired rock-star status simply because he is a grandson of Chiang Ching-kuo.
This is also why during his campaign Chiang Wan-an proclaimed himself as a candidate nominated by the KMT, a “legitimate blue” who stands for the ROC. Under this banner, he has appealed to deep-blue voters as the one who would fight to “reclaim” their entitlements, as well as restore their lost “aristocracy” and right to discourse.
Tsao’s comparison of the deep-blue faction to the KKK has laid bare its sense of superiority and entitlement and a wish to return to the good old days. Liu and other deep-blue voters seem to have forgotten that Taiwan is now a democratic society. As the US has closed its page on the KKK, it is also time for Taiwan to put an end to any deep-blue mentality, and acknowledge that the benshengren who are akin to “slaves” and “commoners” in the past are also masters of this nation.
It remains to be seen how the Taiwanese People’s Party, which was newly founded in 2019, will develop in the future and whether it will become a serious player alongside or ahead of the DDP and KMT. What does the TPP actually stand for politically? Whether it was KMT waishengren Lee Denghui and the Taiwan Crisis or Tsai-Yingwen, the enthusiasm for the more separatist people didn’t last very long and Chen Shuibian has already been forgotten. This is probably also due to the arrogance and corruption of the KMT that they lost elections before , less to their China policy. It remains to be seen whether the party chairman Ke Wenzhes (柯文哲) of the Taiwanese People’s Party will grow stronger in the medium term and perhaps even take over the government as a result of the DDP and KMT frustration. Funny name of the party chairman, who suggests more literature (文wen) and philosophy (哲zhe), whereby he is a doctor and speaks out for a technocratic meritocracy, far removed from party politics, although he himself chairs a party. .But apparently also more in the direction of more autonomy and independence. Party color turquoise-white-apparently the alternative color to pan-blue and pan-green and apparently the TPP sees itself as a synthesis of DDP and KMT.
Finally: What actually happened to the Milk Tea Alliance, that anti-Chinese,. anti-authoritarian alliance of pan-Asian democracy opposition groups from Hong Kong, Burma, Thailand and other Asian states: You don’t hear anything about it anymore except an article in the Taipeh Times. In any case, in British exile they still seem to prefer milk tea to British tea. As the saying goes: Wait and see. It’s tea time.
Sat, Nov 26, 2022 page13
Hong Kong emigres seek milk tea in craving for taste of home
The beverage is so beloved that members of Hong Kong’s protest movement have called themselves part of a ‘Milk Tea Alliance’ with activists from Taiwan, Thailand and Myanmar
- By Kanis Leung / AP, HONG KONG
In London, Wong Wai-yi misses the taste of home. A year ago, the 31-year-old musician was in Hong Kong, earning a good living composing for TV and movies and teaching piano. Today, she makes about half as much in London working part-time as a server alongside her musical pursuits. She chose the job in part because staff meals allow her to save money on food. It’s a difficult adjustment. And Wong, who left Hong Kong with her boyfriend in January, has turned to a beloved hometown staple to keep her grounded: milk tea. She brings the beverage to parties with Hong Kong friends and gives bottles to co-workers as gifts.
“It’s like reminding myself I am a Hong Konger. It will be fine as long as we are willing to endure the hardships and work hard,” said Wong, who left as part of an exodus that began after Beijing passed a law in 2020 that curtailed civil liberties.
As tens of thousands leave Hong Kong for new lives abroad, many are craving a flavor from childhood that’s become a symbol of the city’s culture: the sweet, heavy tea with evaporated milk that’s served both hot and cold at diner-like restaurants called cha chaan tengs. Workshops are popping up to teach professionals to brew tea like short-order cooks, and milk tea businesses are expanding beyond Chinatowns in Britain.
In Hong Kong, milk tea is an unassuming beverage, something you use to wash down sweet French toast off a plastic plate. It’s so beloved that members of Hong Kong’s protest movement have called themselves part of a “Milk Tea Alliance” with activists from Taiwan, Thailand and Myanmar, who drink similar beverages.
Following a law that silenced or jailed most political opposition, over 133,000 residents have secured a special visa that allows them to live and work in the UK and apply for British citizenship after six years. Official figures have not been released on how many have gone but most recipients are expected to do so, given the visa’s cost.
The pathway was introduced last year in response to China’s 2020 enactment of the National Security Law, which the UK called “a clear breach” of the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration. The declaration included a promise to retain the former British colony’s rights and freedoms for 50 years after it was returned to China’s rule in 1997.
Exiled activist Lee Ka-wai said that immersing himself at a Hong Kong-style cafe in London with a cup of milk tea was a “luxury.”
The 26-year-old fled Hong Kong in March last year out of fear of being arrested. He is wanted by the city’s anti-graft body for allegedly inciting others to boycott the legislative election in December last year. As an asylum seeker in Britain, he is not allowed to work and is living on savings.
Even if the taste is right, he said, the feel of a cha chaan teng and the sounds of customers chatting in Cantonese cannot be replicated. “It’s strange because I can feel a sense of home overseas. But it also has another meaning — there’s something that cannot be replaced,” he said. “What we long for most is to go home and see a better Hong Kong. But we can’t.”
Some emigrants, like Eric Tam, a 41-year-old manager at an insurance company, enroll in milk tea lessons before leaving. Visiting Hong Kong this month, he stocked up on a milk tea blend, a recipe that evolved from British teas in the colonial era. While tea is easy to find in England, he said, the taste isn’t the same: “British milk tea is just watery milk,” said Tam.
Before moving to Liverpool with his wife and two younger daughters in June, Tam signed up for lessons at the Institution of Hong Kong Milk Tea. The two-year-old organization teaches students skills like pouring tea back and forth between a kettle and a plastic container to enhance its flavor before mixing it with evaporated milk.
Yan Chan, the school’s founder, estimated that about 40 percent of the 2,000 people who have studied with her were planning to emigrate.
HONG KONG IDENTITY
Milk tea only began to emerge as a symbol of the Hong Kong identity over the last 15 years, said Veronica Mak, associate professor at the sociology department of Hong Kong Shue Yan University.
Mak said that many young people began to think about Hong Kong identity after the government removed Queen’s Pier, a landmark from the city’s colonial past, in 2007. Childhood memories, marketing and a fashion for localism came together to make milk tea a totem of Hong Kong culture.
“When you ask young people what kind of milk tea they like to drink, they will tell you it’s the bubble milk tea,” she said, referring to a drink from Taiwan. “But when you come to the identity part … they will not say the bubble tea but the local style milk tea.”
Most milk tea lovers interviewed said that milk tea isn’t political. But Tam said it’s a form of silent resistance.
“We can choose to preserve the culture that we want to keep. It cannot be destroyed even if other people try,” he said.
Contemporary Asian tea culture is catching on globally. Outside Chinatowns, at least five Hong Kong-style milk tea brands have emerged over the past two years in Britain. One set up a pop-up cafe in the trendy London neighborhood of Shoreditch in September, attracting Londoners and tourists as well as Hong Kong emigres.
Eric Wong, a tea wholesaler, began selling bottled milk tea last year after moving to the UK, and offers milk tea workshops. He said he’s making 500 to 1,000 bottles of milk tea a week, and his south London business broke even after about six months. His Trini Hong Kong Style Milk Tea products are available online and at major Asian supermarkets.
The taste of home can provoke strong emotions. A young woman from Hong Kong once shed tears after tasting his tea, Wong said.
Between people planning to leave and growing interest in local culture, Chan is busy. On Nov. 3, nine people attended her class, none of whom had plans to emigrate.
Cooking enthusiast Dennis Cheng had a class with her in late September and practiced the signature pouring while preparing to leave Hong Kong with his wife and children.
He said the taste will help remind him of Hong Kong and friends back home.
“This may help me feel emigrating overseas isn’t really that sad,” he said. “It’s just that I need more time to adapt to it.”
At the moment, the Hong Kong exile opposition is drowning their frustration in drinking tea and wants to use the milk tea to serve their nostalgic and local patriotic feelings about home and find or search for an identity of whatever kind in it, if they have nothing else left at the moment. But it also remains to be seen whether the milk tea alliance will be revitalized again in view of the protests in China.