寧靜的新年漫步，然後…… | A Quiet New Year Walk, Then…
by 約翰百德 (John BATTEN)
at 10:27am on 23rd June 2018
1. 假日小販在深水埗擺賣的貨物 Sham Shui Po casual trader’s goods laid out on the ground
2. 荔枝角道的熟食小販 Hawker offering street food on Lai Chi Kok Road
3. 深水埗的街頭餐桌Tables set-up on street in Sham Shui Po
攝影：約翰百德 ，2016年2月8日農曆新年Photographs: John Batten, Chinese New Year, 8 February 2016
(Please scroll down for English version)
兩年半後，上星期：一名年輕友人Raze（化名）給我在Facebook留言說：「今早的新聞令我很難過……梁天琦被囚6 年……試想想他出獄時已經是32/33歲……他的黃金時間都要在獄中渡過……」之後幾個小時內，我反思了她為什麼這樣慨嘆。她和梁天琦年紀相若。她感觸香港是她的家，她唯一的家。她有強烈的道德原則，對是非黑白有深切感受。她對歷史的瞭解，以及歷史對現在與未來的影響越來越有體會。她喜愛新意念，別是音樂方面。她努力工作，並為香港付出時間、精力和熱誠。她不反對內地，當然也不是港獨主義。她只是因為梁天琦和其他人被針對對待而感到「憂傷」，也可能是忿忿不平 。是的，擲磚應該受罰，但是那一夜，情勢極度出錯。
A Quiet New Year Walk, Then…
by John Batten
It’s become almost a tradition: for many years now, at Chinese New Year, I meet Dave, and we walk around Sham Shui Po to take photographs together. The market streets are the same, but for regular Sham Shui Po-goers, it is a different place, the street booths closed, not the usual sellers and buyers, and the market is extended to every street corner and all along Cheung Sha Wan Road. The regular, permanent vendors take a three-day holiday and their places are replaced by casual traders who spread old clothes, knick-knacks and house-hold goods they no longer need and have accumulated over the previous year out on sheets of plastic or cardboard. The slightly more organized will have a selection of items that can be sold at a slightly higher price: some camera gear or discount umbrellas. It is bustling and crowded and the MTR Station entrances are almost-dangerously blocked by close sitting vendors and sellers of roasted chestnuts, sweet potatoes and pigeon eggs. We wander around taking photographs and Dave likes to stop and take a recording of street sounds or conversations, which might end-up on a YouTube clip. We stop frequently and make bad jokes, usually puns and word-plays, between chatting over coffee and noodles, often sitting at tables set-up on the footpaths. It is Chinese New Year and the many chan cha teng we visit take advantage of the Food & Environmental Health Department inspectors also being on holiday. Normally, the simple action of placing tables outside a restaurant and serving food would be an infringement of health regulations. But it is New Year and everyone is flexible and generally easy-going about rules and regulations for a few days – especially as it’s Sham Shui Po.
It is always an enjoyable day, no matter the weather, as we wander our way through Lai Chi Kok or Shek Kip Mei or Tai Kok Tsui or Prince Edward and then head for dinner in Yau Ma Tei or Mong Kok. In 2016, I clearly remember we were near Mong Kok Road and I said to Dave: “OK, choose, do we go left or right.” A right turn would have taken us to Langham Place – a shopping centre, an easy choice to avoid! “I think left”, he said. “Yes, Soy Street will have restaurants open,” and, I thought, outside tables to sit at!
Later that night I got home and could not believe hearing about the disruption in Mong Kok – on Portland Street, near Langham Place - involving fish-ball and noodle street vendors, Food & Environmental Health Department inspectors, the police and other members of the public. In what soon became known as the ‘Fishball Revolution’, it sounded to me like a terrible case of misunderstanding. I mean, I justified to myself, it is New Year, and everything should be relaxed at New Year. There should be flexibility and nothing should get so out-of-hand that it disturbs the ‘good atmosphere’ that we all want at New Year. Also, there were lots of similar infringements of health regulations throughout Hong Kong that night, why were these vendors picked-out to be stopped from selling? If the vendors were left alone (like other vendors), what harm would they have done?
Two and a half years later, last week: A young friend, Raze (name changed), sent me a Facebook message saying “I’m really sad about the news this morning…Edward Leung being jailed for 6 years…imagine when he’s out he will be 32/33 years old already…having to spend his golden years in jail….”. Over the next hours, I reflected on her underlying emotions. She is a similar age as Edward. She is sensitive that Hong Kong is her home, her only home. She has strong moral principles and a strong sense of what is right and what is wrong. She has a growing understanding of history and its influence on the present and the future. She loves new ideas, especially in music. She works and contributes time and energy and enthusiasm to Hong Kong. She is not anti-mainland, and, certainly not pro-independence. She is “sad” and probably pissed-off that Edward Leung and others have been singled-out. Yes, throwing bricks requires a punishment, but something went terribly, terribly wrong that night.
The following night, I went back to Portland Street to see what was happening: the fish-ball vendors were (back) serving on the street in true New Year-style. The world did not collapse! Edward Leung and others caught up in the frenzied emotions of that night have been singled-out for what went terribly wrong that night. But, they are only part of the story. What did the food inspectors do, what did the police do, before bricks were thrown? We still don’t know what happened – and that is not good enough.
This article was originally published in Ming Pao Weekly on 23 June 2018, translated by Aulina Chan.
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