Every Burning Flower: How I Escaped Hong Kong
November 1, 2019
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I turned off the TV as I got my Octopus card. Today was the day. These games have finally come out! I can’t wait to go to the game center at Tsim Sha Tsui to get them!
I am a student at The Hong Kong University. It closed a month ago due to the protests and vandalism. So now, I have an apartment room in the Mid-Levels for myself, since my roommates all left the city.
The good? I can do whatever I want.
The bad? I have to take care of myself. Not that bad for an 18-year-old student.
My Octopus card was an eligible Personalized Student Octopus I got 11 months earlier. It was a grey one. So I got major discounts.
My name is Adam Jackson. My mother passed away when I was 4 months old. My father is a businessman and a protester fighting to make Hong Kong an independent country. But two weeks ago, he suddenly disappeared. He may have fled, been killed, or something else.
So I decided to buy the game with my father’s old credit card. I just found out that it was an Octopus card/credit card hybrid. That was why he was using it to pay for his public transport. I thought all credit cards could also work, but I was wrong.
You know what? I ditched my Student Octopus and used my father’s instead. I also got my phone, my Nerf™ gun, and my wooden light saber with a wooden blade that I made myself.
Why a Nerf™ gun and a wooden light saber? To attack protestors in my way. Simple answer.
I put my clothes on, opened the door, and pressed the elevator button. After what seemed like an eternity, I heard a ding and the door opened. I went inside and the door closed as I pressed 0.
The elevator went to 0. I found a taxi on the street.
“Do you accept Octopus or Credit Cards?” I asked the taxi driver.
“No,” replied the taxi driver.
I didn't have any cash so I used my light saber to knock him out temporarily. I then drove the taxi myself to the nearest exit on Central Station.
When I approached the station, I saw two protesters guarding the exit. They had belts with weapons.
“Put your hands in the air,” they commanded.
“I am going to strike if you don't let me through,” I warned.
I took out my Nerf gun and shot at them. As soon as they were down, I collected the gun’s ammo and headed inside the station. I tapped the Octopus card, and took the first train to Tsuen Wan. I got off at Tsim Sha Tsui and was looking for the store when a rubber bullet narrowly slid across my head. I managed to get to the store.
But it wasn’t the same store as the photo I had taken previously and was displayed on my phone. It was vandalized, and they had to abandon shop. The lock was broken, and only the staff room was untouched.
I found a huge stash of games. I picked Let’s Go Pikachu! And Let’s Go Eevee!, as I couldn’t find Sword nor Shield. I hid in there to play for a few hours. Finally I left the shop.
I saw 1 protester in front of me.
And then I was surrounded.
They thought I was in support of the police, and tried to trap me.I took my light saber and tried to scare them away by waving it. I took out my Nerf gun and shot at them too. They were closing in when a mysterious man appeared and held the protesters back, saving me.
We escaped the scene. I sat down next to him afterward, curious to know who he was. He was old. He looked like he was in his 70s.
He showed me his passport. His name was Jim Brooks.
“Hello,” said Jim.
“Hello,” I replied.
“I am a close friend of your father.”
I told him about how my dad has left Hong Kong and how I want to find him. I told him I needed to go to continue my studies too.
“Ah, yes,” Jim said calmly. “You want to go to a good university. Your father and I went to Harvard together. I believe he is in the US. I'll find a way for you to get on an international flight undetected, through Shenzhen.
He pulled something out of his pocket. Another passport. He gave it to me.
“This is a fake China passport,” he explained.
“C'mon, I’ll take you to the Hong Kong West Kowloon station.”
The station was huge. The ceiling was made out of glass. It was lined with metal.
“So why did we have to go here instead of the East Rail Line?” I asked.
“With the East Rail Line, the train is not very fast, and protesters are throwing things on the railway and through the windows when the train stops,” he answered. “But with the High Speed Rail, you can get to a protest-free airport quickly!
So we approached the automatic ticket machine. He bought me a ticket to Futian. I was to board an international flight from there.
“Good luck,” he said as I passed through the entry gates.
I got on the train. The doors closed and headed towards Futian.
Jim didn’t forget anything. He even gave me a bag. Inside, there was a bottle of alcohol, a box of bandages, and even a piece of crumpled piece of paper with the emergency telephone numbers for contacts in Shenzhen. He told me to check into a hotel and wait for further instructions.
It wasn’t long before the train arrived at Shenzhen. There, I inserted the ticket into the exit gates and, because my SIM card was a global one, I went and googled up the best hotel to stay in Shenzhen. But, unlike Hong Kong, the webpage took forever to load. A local then went up to me and told me that Google is banned in China. He also told me that Mariott was the best hotel.
I used my credit card to pay for a taxi to the Mariott. Then I paid for one of the most luxurious rooms. I went on my phone and played with some games, waiting for Jim's contact to get in touch. A notification on my email popped up and showed me that the protests were intensifying. I ignored the messages, though. And then another message came. And another. And another. And another.
I went to my inbox and threw the messages in the spam folder. I didn't want to think about what was happening in Hong Kong.
That was when the police came in.
What the heck?
They dragged me into the police car from the hotel. I was driven back to Hong Kong and sentenced to two weeks in Lai Hang Rehabilitation Centre in Kowloon, for using a fake passport.
I woke up in my cell. It had a bed, a toilet, and a sink. It was boring living in prison, even if only for two weeks. Thankfully, I was a minor so I did not have to stay in jail too long.
The meals were very bad, I couldn't get to sleep, since the bed was so hard, and I had only an hour of recreation time.
It was seven days into my sentence when a protester who recently got arrested ended up next to my cell. It was only a few hours since he came in when he tried to escape. Friends of his came and knocked the guards unconscious, and they handed me the keys to my cell. I ran out. Seizing my chance, I ran out and recovered my phone and backpack.
I hailed a taxi, and once on the way to my apartment, I checked voice mails on my phone. I saw that my father had left me a message.
“Hello Adam,” he said. “I am currently out of Hong Kong, and I am in Ma *static* setts, in the *static* US. I am in the city *static* ton, and hope to see you soon.”
He is in the city of something-ton in the state of Ma-something-setts? What?
I was thinking hard about it. Hinton in Malonisetts? Lenton in Matinnsetts? Bunton in Madisetts? Denton in Manhattansetts? What does that last one even mean?
Then it struck me. Boston in Massachusetts! That’s where I had to go! I told the driver to change course, that I had to go to the airport.
Thankfully I still had my father's credit card, so I bought an American Airlines plane ticket to Boston. The plane gates were far, so I ran towards them. I got in just as the doors closed.
My seat, 54A, was a window seat. I also got free snacks, in-flight entertainment, and those crap-quality headphones that many people do not use.
After many long hours of waiting in the plane, sleeping, watching movies, playing games, it finally landed. I checked out, and when I walked to the nearest taxi stop and was waiting for a taxi, when someone called my name.
It was my father.
“Dad?” I asked.
“Yes, it's me” he said. “I moved here to escape Hong Kong and for another job. I left you a note. Did you not read it?”
I remembered washing my jeans the day I put his note on my pocket. The note got wet and broke.
“Do you know Jim Brooks?” I asked him.
“Jim was my boss when I had my old job,” he explained. “Why do you ask?”
“He helped me to get out of Hong Kong.” I told him some of what had happened while we were driving to his apartment.
I dared not to tell him the rest, especially the prison and escaping from it part.
We hung out in his room while I played videogames on my phone. Soon, he had converted his empty room into my bedroom, and we had a happy life. He even got me those Pokemon games that the Hong Kong stores never sold.
December 1, 2019
My father drove me to this area that was called Cambridge. He said that he made an application so that I could get into Harvard.
“Dad, will we be okay?”
“We will be.”
He gave me a smile before saying, “Have fun.”
That was the last I saw of him this year before his taxi drove away. I walked inside with my suitcase packed with clothes, tech, notebooks, textbooks, and of course, my Nintendo Switch and my Pokemon games.
A NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR
The Hong Kong protests began on March 15, 2019. They were due to the introduction of the Fugitive Offenders amendment bill by the Hong Kong government. Many people marched around crowded areas like Central, Tsim Sha Tsui, and West Kowloon Cultural District asking for the bill to be shelved, and for freedom for Hong Kong. Many people were injured in the protests. MTR stations were vandalized. Many of the city's facilities closed for a period of time, including schools. The protests count among the biggest events in Hong Kong history.