Born in Hong Kong in 1986, photographer Lam Yik Fei was only t11 when Hong Kong was returned to China in 1997.
I wonder if he had imagined that two decades after the handover, this would happen to his home.
When the former British colony was besieged for a large part of 2019, Lam’s images were in the pages of New York Times daily, often receiving big plays. Admittedly, I looked forward to seeing them every day and became quite familiar with his intimate approach to the situation.
When he started a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for the publication of Woh Yuhng 和勇 which means peaceful and valiant, the response was overwhelming. Needless to say, most people recognized the importance of this visual documentation. I’m glad I had similar thought.
It is not surprising that Lam’s book was “Published in Hong Kong, Printed in Taiwan.” and shipped from Taiwan too. But I did wonder why didn’t NYT or an established Western publisher picked it up. I’m guessing Lam wanted to nurse it personally, closely and dearly, as we can imagine what this collection means to him.
Perhaps because I had seen most of the photographs of the confrontations in the streets before, I am naturally more drawn to the ‘quieter’ images in the book, such as the opening picture of young students in an underpass, presumably on their way to be a part of history. I like how the book also ends with another youngster in uniform, standing steadfastly, hair flying and eyes looking beyond the frame. What was she looking at? Did she approve of what she saw? I also like the image of six men in the rain on the ground of Chinese University of Hong Kong, I’m guessing taking a much-warranted ‘shower’ after days of unrest.
Sadly, we have not yet witnessed real positive changes after the protests. In fact, things had gone from bad to worse with the new security law. Hong Kong, once upon a time one of my favorite cities to visit, will never be the same.
I don’t know exactly what this book means to Lam or Hongkongers. Is it a reminder of their own bravery? Or perhaps for some, a reminder not to allow the city to go there again? But what does it really mean in practical terms? Do they close their eyes and accept their fate?
And what about us outsiders?
Be grateful that someone like Lam risked his life each day to document history and share them with the world.
At the very least, pray for them and remember to cherish what you have.