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To Gouda, it is a natural right to speak up against injustice and oppression, and he has written many poems about unspeakable suffering and oppression under dictatorship. “Once one gets mature, one understands much more about life,” he says. “You start to see the sufferings of the people and the sufferings of life. Life is not just a love story.”

Having lived in Hong Kong for more than 22 years now, Gouda feels that Hong Kong is no longer the city he knew. The Mainland’s political influence and control is growing and there has been a big inflow of rich people from the Mainland. Gouda is worried Hong Kong people will one day be forced to leave their city due to the exorbitant cost of living. “In the end, Hong Kong gradually will turn into another Chinese city like Shenzhen,” he sighs.

The way the central and Hong Kong governments responded to the Occupy Central with Love and Peace movement serves to confirm Gouda’s fear that the Mainland is exerting greater control over Hong Kong.

And there is the ghost of Tiananmen. Scenes of young people joining assemblies and occupying the streets remind him of what he saw in Beijing 26 years ago – it is as if he could feel the atmosphere in Tiananmen Square once again. What truly frightens him is seeing the Hong Kong police turning violent against citizens, and the possibility that history could repeat itself. These changes make him consider whether he should stay.

Sayed Gouda speaks at an international poetry festival in Beijing in 2014 Photo courtesy of Sayed Gouda
Sayed Gouda speaks at an international poetry festival in Beijing in 2014
Photo courtesy of Sayed Gouda

Although the Occupy Movement did not end in bloodshed like the Tiananmen protests did 26 years ago, Gouda believes Hong Kong people face the same difficult situation. “They are dealing with the same enemy, same opponent, same person, same government, different name but the same mentality,” he says.

Gouda is currently working on his third novel which features the Occupy Movement in Hong Kong. Even though there were consequences after he published his previous novel, he will never give up the right to speak out against injustice. Likewise, he urges Hong Kong people to keep holding onto hope and to stay united. “Hong Kong people have to go on, fight for their own future. It’s their future,” he says.

Edited by John Cheng

*An earlier version of this story, and the print edition incorrectly says Sayed Gouda taught in the Department of Chinese and History of City University instead of the Department of Linguistics and Translation, where he in fact taught. We apologise for this mistake.