“Go, go, go” a protester screamed as they loaded up a make-shift slingshot with another molotov cocktail to be fired at the police.
“Ollin, we need to leave” I heard my mother’s soft yet anxious voice say as she tapped me on the shoulder. We have been trapped inside the Hong Kong Polytechnic University for three days, the police have slowly been closing in on us. “A couple of people have said they’re going to try to sneak out through the sewer, we’re going with them,” she whispered as I followed her down the trashed corridors of the university.
As we turned the corner, I could see my father along with several other people disappearing into the opening of a manhole. My mother and I followed. We rushed through the sewer lines until we found an opening far enough away where there were no police. Within an hour of arriving home, we received word that the police had stormed the university campus.
To understand why we were at the university, throwing petrol bombs at police, you need to first know, Hong Kong was originally apart of mainland China, but after the first opium war, Great Britain and China signed the Treaty of Nanking, which permanently gave Hong Kong to the Brittish. After China lost another war with Japan, Britain took advantage of the scramble for land and managed to obtain a ninety-nine-year lease on more land in 1898. When the lease end was coming up in the ’90s, Britain and China signed a joint declaration agreeing to the “one nation, two systems” model. China would take Hong Kong back, but we’d be able to govern ourselves for fifty years. This allowed us to have our own constitution, have our own law-makers, we got the freedom of speech, and press. However, as the end of “one nation, two systems” experiment approaches, China has already been asserting its control of Hong Kong.
The protests this year started around March because a new bill was proposed allowing for suspected criminals in Hong Kong to be sent to mainland China in certain circumstances. This not only would make for unjust trials and treatments of Hong Kongers but would give China greater influence over our activists and journalists. After months of protesting, the bill was withdrawn. However, the protests continued. This was no longer about a bill, this was about democracy.
My parents are co-CEOs to a large IT company, which has branches all around the world. They have been very involved with the protests but on the down-low. If the Chinese government ever found out they were involved, they would send someone to “silence” them, if you know what I mean.
3 Days Later
“Did you see this?!” my mother urgently asked as she ran into the kitchen where my father and I were eating breakfast.
I had no idea what she was talking about, “What?” I asked. She held up her phone and on the screen, I read the news headline: ‘Wealthy CEOs Haskell and Amisa Chan Suspected to be Arrested for Their Involvement in the Riots in Hong Kong Polytechnic University: Could They be Facing Execution?’.
“Our financial accounts are frozen,” my father said, looking up from his phone. My parents looked at each other with concern.
I read the headline again, “How did they even know we were there?” I skimmed the article and, at the bottom was a video of us going down into the sewer.
“We need to leave, now! The Ministry of State Security could already be on their way,” my father barked.
“What? Where are we supposed to go? We have no money” I said.
“There is a cargo ship full of computer parts leaving Victoria Harbour to Singapore in an hour, we can stow away on it until we get to Singapore where I can transfer money from offshore accounts and we can take a plane somewhere”
“We can go to Canada, start a new life,” my mother added. “We have friends there, they speak English, and our company has a branch in Ontario.”
“Okay, go pack any essentials you might need, we leave in ten minutes” my father ordered. “Leave your cell phones. We can get burners in Singapore.”
I ran to my room and glanced around my room. I threw some clothes into a backpack, along with my passport and a little bit of cash. I grabbed the blanket off my bed and my cell phone.
Within ten minutes we headed out, never to return to our home again.
When we arrived at the port, we had to weave in between shipping containers, hiding behind them whenever someone came near. We found the vessel docked and being loaded without any issue. My father spoke to the captain in a hushed voice and slipped him a handful of bills. He nodded at us and gestured with his head to come aboard. We snuck on as the final container was loaded.
The three-day trip was miserable. Our makeshift beds were nestled below deck, between containers full of CPUs and motherboards. It was uncomfortable and crowded. I was hungry and irritable. I went up on deck quite a bit to get fresh air and just have space to move around. We hit a storm and it rained hard. I was wet and shivering. By the time we got to Singapore, I had a bad cold.
We found a hostel, which took the last of our cash, but were finally able to sleep on a real bed. My mother and father had been quiet during the trip and the concerned looks between them were starting to freak me out.
The next couple of days were a blur. I wasted my days by sleeping. I could hear my parents arguing about our next move outside the room. On several occasions, my mother tried with no success to motivate me to get out of bed.
One morning, my father announced “I’ll be back. I have business to attend to.”
“When will you be back?” my mother asked.
“Where are you going?” I asked, sitting up in my bed.
He looked at us both. “I’ll be back shortly. I’m going to the bank to transfer funds from our overseas accounts and get a burner phone. Then we can make arrangements to leave. Don’t worry.” with that, he headed out.
“I’m uh,” my mother looked at me, “I’m going to get us some breakfast,” she walked out of the room.
I sat up in my bed and reached for my bag where my phone was. I knew I shouldn’t, but I really needed to know what was going on in Hong Kong since we left.
I turned on my phone and opened Twitter. The first headline I read was: ‘Hong Kong Violence Escalates’, followed by ‘The Chan Family Betrays Hong Kong’.
After reading the posts from each headline, I had to respond. People just didn’t understand that we had to leave. We didn’t want to abandon the protests, but our lives hung in the balance.
Just as I tweeted my response, my mother came back into the room with our breakfast. She stared at me wide-eyed, looking between me and my phone, still in my hand. “Ollin,” she gasped, “what did you just do?!”
“They were saying we abandoned them. I had to respond”
“Now they know where we are.”
“What do you mean?”
“The Ministry of State Security has probably been trying to track us down, and you just gave them our location. We need to leave right now.” I shoved all my stuff into my backpack while my mom quickly put all her and my father’s stuff into their bags. “We need to find your father.”
About half an hour later, we found my father in the Development Bank of Singapore, where he got 10,000 Singapore dollars. From there we took a 9-minute cab ride to a private airstrip. My father paid a pilot to take the three of us to Canada, but we had to wait half an hour for a plane to arrive.
We sat in the airport waiting room. “Ollin, how could you be so stupid?” my father said, frustrated.
“I’m sorry,” I whispered. We sat in silence for twenty minutes. Then I heard yelling, in Mandarin coming from the entry of the airport.
“Your plane is here, and you need to board it quickly,” a man said, running to us, “they’re here for you.”
We ran outside as several men in green suits carrying guns started chasing us, firing their guns at us.
Luckily we made it onto the plane, shut the door, and took off before they got too close. My mother was crying. “They were like storm troopers,” I joked, trying to lighten the mood. “They all had a terrible shot.” Just then, I looked down at my arm and saw I was bleeding. “Oh dude, I’ve been shot.” With all the adrenalin, I didn’t even notice. My father wrapped up my arm and said it was just a flesh wound and I’d be fine.
When our private jet arrived in Ontario, Canada, we headed straight to the immigration office. Due to our financial status, we were granted citizenship under the condition that we promise to invest at least $183,000 in Canada within the next three years. My father quickly agreed.
Awwadawnan, Eyad. “I Have Become Lost Like My Homeland”.” Slate, The Slate Group, 2 Aug. 2018, slate.com/news-and-politics/2018/08/one-refugees-firsthand-account-of-his- harrowing-journey-from-Syria-to-greece.html.
In 2012, Awwadawnan and his friend were going to get bread when his friend was shot. That’s when his father decided they had to leave Syria. They paid a smuggler $500 to get them to Greece. When they got to Greece, they stayed in a refugee camp. Where Awwadawnan slept for days, just reflecting on the circumstances that brought him there. He slept to waste time. I used the feelings Awwadawnan felt at the refugee camp as the feelings Ollin Chan felt once he and his family got to Singapore.
Cuffe, Sandra. “‘They said leave or else’: Why a Honduran family is fleeing to US.” Al Jazeera, 17 Nov. 2018, www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/11/leave-honduran-family-fleeing- 181117175706623.html.
Obedi Miranda and her husband, Allan Escobar, along with their two-year-old son, fled Honduras after they received death threats. They first fled to another part of Honduras, then to southern Mexico, and finally to Tijuana. Miranda said, “they told us to leave, or else.” I used the fact that Miranda and her family were fleeing Honduras. Except, the Chan family was fleeing the Chinese government/ the Ministry of State Security (it’s the same push factor).
Rechtzeit, Seymour. “Relive a Boy’s Journey to America.” Scholastic, www.scholastic.com/ teachers/articles/teaching-content/relive-boys-journey-America/.
Seymour Rechtzeit was born in Poland, 1912, to a Jewish family. He had an uncle living in the US, and he sent them two tickets for Rechtzeit’s father and him to sail across the Atlantic Ocean. The trip was horrible, they slept in steerage at the bottom of the boat; it was uncomfortable and crowded. Rechtzeit would go up on deck all the time to have space to move around. Growing up in the US, Rechtzeit became a child star, he even sang for the president who helped get the rest of his family to the United States. I used the similar conditions Rechtzeit had on the ship in my story.
Visser Ney, Anne. “The Stowaway.” StoryNews, www.storynews.net/the-stowaway/.
Anne Visser Ney was working in the Department of Homeland Security when she encountered a stowaway on a cargo ship. An immigration inspector asked the stowaway if he had any papers. He only had the clothes he was currently wearing, no passport, ID, wallet, money, or birth certificate. The stowaway said he had left Rwanda in 1999, after the genocide. He spent five years walking across Africa. I used the fact that the man was stowing away on a cargo ship in my story.
Why more Hong Kong residents consider a. , YouTube.com, 2019, youtu.be/gpkb1jjbS1c.
Chris Ho immigrated from Hong Kong to Canada days after the protests broke out in Hong Kong. He said people are very scared of speaking publicly in Hong Kong. Although he has lived in Hong Kong for twenty years, he’s decided to immigrate to Canada due to China tightening their grip on Hong Kong and rising housing prices. I used immigration from Hong Kong to Canada in my story.