While young protesters in Hong Kong call for massive strikes across the city to paralyze public transport, businesses and schools, many diligent Hongkongers continue to stand their ground, calling for the rekindling of a core value - the "Lion Rock Spirit," which helped shaped the city's economic phenomenon.
Months of anti-government protests have taken their toll on the city's economy, as they damaged subway transport, left hotel rooms and restaurants empty, and small- and medium-sized businesses struggling. Black-clad protesters have been launching a citywide, non-cooperation movement and have been calling on workers to go on strike. On Wednesday morning, a giant banner showing an anti-government slogan appeared on Lion Rock, a symbolic place located in Kowloon Country Park.
Local residents who rejected the citywide strikes said they feel sad about the misinterpretation of the Lion Rock Spirit by anti-government forces. The spirit, which is supposed to represent the resilience and diligence of Hong Kong people, cannot be used to achieve political purposes.
Lai Siu Chung, a 48-year-old bus driver, starts work at 4 am every morning, and he usually works for more than 10 hours each day. "I don't think young Hongkongers really understand what the Lion Rock Spirit is," he told the Global Times on Thursday morning.
"Many of them complained about the HKSAR government, highlighting difficulties they face. They express dissatisfaction by escalating the violence, which would ruin the treasure that we, as the elderly generation, have been striving for all our lives," Lai said.
Anti-government protesters launched strikes in the public transport sector, urging bus drivers to join the movement earlier this month. Lai rejected this. "Our work has been seriously disrupted, and we all feel the pressure. However, Hongkongers should respect each other and express their opinions in a rational way," he said.
To Lai, Hongkongers were born with perseverance. He believes it is the previous generations' contributions that make Hong Kong a prosperous international metropolis. Real Hongkongers are modest and hard-working.
He felt sorry that Hong Kong youngsters do not cherish their fathers' achievements through hard work. "I hope they (protesters) could calm down and reflect, and that social order could be restored and tranquility returned to Hong Kong. And the Lion Rock Spirit could be inherited," said Lai.
"Below the Lion Rock," a well-known Cantonese song, contains the lyrics, "Hongkongers are in the same boat and help each other, abandoning differences to find a way out." These words should be the core values that the Hong Kong society holds today, according to local residents.
The Lion Rock spirit has been thriving since the 1970s and has become a collective memory of older generations in Hong Kong, following a popular TV show Below the Lion Rock, featuring working-class people who lived below the Lion Rock.
In an interview with the Global Times, Junius Ho Kwan-yiu, a Hong Kong lawmaker, said that the TV series and lyrics focus more on Lion Rock instead of Victoria Peak (another famous mountain and tourist spot in Hong Kong)because Victoria Peak represents blue blood groups, while Lion Rock speaks more of the grassroots, who live near the area. "So Lion Rock is the best representation of Hong Kong's ordinary people," said Ho.
Ho said that he and his peers followed the footsteps of his uncle, who started from scratch and became the only well-known lawyer in his village. Their class started rising when Hong Kong's economy began to take off.
In the same boat
With the rise of Hong Kong from a fishing village to an international financial hub, Lion Rock has become the city's most iconic sight with an evolving spirit.
On a Wednesday afternoon, Global Times reporters visited Lion Rock Park, where rugged and bumpy roads lead to the mountaintop. Several local residents enjoying their leisure time at the park said it usually takes about an hour to climb the mountain, which requires persistence and energy.
"There's no one in Hong Kong who does not know the Lion Rock; it is very symbolic. However, what it represents now could be interpreted in the wrong way," a middle-aged resident who lives in Wong Tai Sin told the Global Times.
Anti-government protesters have recently hung banners on the cliff in Lion Rock Park, trying to use the spirit of Lion Rock during these weeks of protests. Some even called it "the fight for Hong Kong."
Compared to them, the experiences of LegCo Finance Committee Chairman Chan Kin-por provide a far better interpretation of the Lion Rock Spirit.
Chan grew up in a poor family. He said his family background is the collective memory of Hongkongers born in the 1950s and 60s.
"We lived in shabby public housing without a private toilet and kitchen," Chan told the Global Times.
He worked at a bank after graduating from preparatory schools, and gave up eight years' vacation to study just to pass the insurance exam. He lives a modest life, and rarely goes to restaurants. He likes to climb mountains near his residence because "it costs nothing and is good for health."
Chan said that young people should seize and even create opportunities, and make good use of their time and energy to fight for Hong Kong and themselves.
Decades ago, many people on the mainland moved to Hong Kong to chase better lives. In spite of poor living conditions, their parents never gave up fighting for themselves and their families. "Since that time, Lion Rock has become a common landmark for Hongkongers. It reminds us to disregard our differences and overcome difficulties as we're all in the same boat," Ho told the Global Times.
"We should not tolerate anyone sabotaging this boat for their own purpose," he said, noting that it is time for the younger generations to understand the core values of the city.
The real meaning
The success of Hong Kong today lies in the efforts of older generations and the hardworking middle-class, who helped elevate the city's economy to one of the most important free markets, a major transport and logistics hub, and the center of the global financial market.
"Compared to their parents, young generations today grew up in a comfortable environment. Many have not experienced hard times and the burden of supporting the whole family, like we did," Li Pui, chairman of Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area Youth Society, told the Global Times.
With such a privileged environment, young protesters today lack the adventurous and fighting spirit for success through hard work, and instead resort to expressing their dissatisfaction with reality and shouting out anti-government slogans, he said.
A widely circulating online cartoon shows a vivid depiction of protesters: thinking of going to work or school the next day kills them; cell phones stick to their hands, and reply to whatsapp messages immediately; and their dorms are extremely messy. Other posts about the group also show they do nothing but playing video games and sleep. Many are unemployed.
Those youth use their decadence as an excuse for their violence, and an escape from failure in real life.
As violence escalated during recent protests, black-clad protesters damaged public properties, scared away tourists and investors to Hong Kong, and injured police officers and ordinary passersby, casting a cloud over the city's future development.
Some local residents urged young people to cease the violence and instead reflect on what the real meaning of the Lion Rock Spirit is.
"They call themselves fighters for Hong Kong, but they are ruining the core spirit of Hongkongers and sacrificing the city's future for their own illusions," Lai, the bus driver, told the Global Times.
Witman Hung Wai-man, principal liaison officer for Hong Kong at the Shenzhen Qianhai Authority, said some young Hongkongers see the Lion Rock Spirit as outdated and belonging to the older generations. "They're now interpreting it as a way of fighting against the government, which is a distortion," he told the Global Times.
National People's Congress deputy Stanley Ng Chau-pei blamed education for the lack of Lion Rock Spirit in youngsters.
"Education has its fair share to blame for hostility against the HKSAR government from young people involved in the violence. It is also against the Lion Rock Spirit for many youngsters' anti-social violent behavior," said Ng.
"I hope the Lion Rock Spirit, which represents hard work, mutual assistance and solidarity, can be inherited," Ng noted.