Wong remembers when she and her family were preparing to make the journey to Hong Kong, people told them that women and girls in Hong Kong all had curly hair so they would immediately be recognised as Mainlanders. So they permed their hair only to discover when they arrived in Hong Kong that it was not true. “We originally wanted to pretend to be Hongkongers but finally we showed that we were Mainlanders,” she laughs. “We believed in anything, even if did not make sense.”
When Wong finally arrived in Hong Kong, what she saw was a city that was completely different to her expectation and imagination. “I had been told that there was gold on the ground for people to pick up in Hong Kong and I asked people if I could collect it,” says Wong, unable to stop laughing at herself as she tells the story.
As one after another myth was knocked down, Wong faced the challenges of being a new immigrant from the Mainland. Wong recalls there was quite a lot of discrimination against Mainlanders at the time. Her primary school teacher scolded her and her mainland classmates nearly every lesson. “I remember that one time my teacher called my name and said ‘Wong Wai-fun, why did you come to Hong Kong?’ and I answered sincerely that I thought we could pick up gold easily in Hong Kong.” After replying, Wong says she was scolded and humiliated by her teacher.
Although the reality did not match her expectations, Wong still cherished the good things in Hong Kong. In the first years, her family settled in the squatter area of Diamond Hill where she found happiness and companionship. “I thought people were very friendly, not like in the Mainland, where I could feel the adults’ fear [of the country],” said Wong. “My parents no longer needed to whisper under the quilt,” Wong says.
Wong was also excited about the sudden onslaught of so much information when she first came to Hong Kong. She did not have money to buy newspapers so she would pick up the newspapers other people had already read or did not want. The easiest one to pick up was Wen Wei Po, the content of which was similar to those that she read in China. However, one day she accidentally picked up Ming Pao and read an article with the headline “Mao Zedong is a devil”. “That was the first time I experienced freedom of speech. From then onwards, I start to read Ming Pao since it is so exciting,” Wong says, smiling at the recollection.
It is these same freedoms, which she has enjoyed since coming to Hong Kong all those years ago, that Wong now wants to defend. After stepping down from Unison, she has not had time to plan her next move as she has thrown herself into supporting the Occupy Movement. Since the occupation began in late September, Wong has been a regular sight at the occupied areas – whether camping out in Admiralty and discussing politics or giving open-air democracy lectures in Mong Kok.
She says she has seen many things that make her angry since the movement started and it may seem the protesters have been unable to wrangle much out of the government. But she has also been inspired by the movement and stresses the importance of holding on to hope. “I’ve seen the good side of humanity [in this movement] and I am very proud to be a Hongkonger,” she says.
Edited by Hilda Lee