The tea is perfect. Jazz is lightly playing in the background of the cozy café, a quiet sanctuary from the ceaseless commotion of commerce that makes Hong Kong one of the busiest and economically prosperous cities in the world. I am waiting for a friend, a former student from a summer program at Hong Kong University, sponsored by the Fund for American Studies. The Sheung Wan neighborhood is peaceful and quiet, with Hong Kong hints of cosmopolitan London and a bit of Chinese grit. I love this city, with the best cuisine from around the world, a dynamic population, a beautiful urban skyline, and some world-class hiking. In the morning, it’s monkeys in the jungle; in the evening, sipping a cocktail with a 118th-floor view of the harbor at the heart of the world’s freest economy (Hong Kong has been ranked #1 in the Economic Freedom of the World ranking since 1970). Hong Kong made me fall in love with Asia. It’s got the best of Asia, the best of China, an Anglophone population, and street signs in English.
But this afternoon, things are different. I’m joining my former student and her friends for a protest in support of liberty in Hong Kong. When I first heard of the troubles in Hong Kong, I initially thought I’d play it safe. This was not my fight, and there wasn’t much I could do. I would teach my classes and stay away from demonstrations. But I was faced with a moral choice. Hong Kong has a tradition of rule of law, Hong Kong is a land of liberty, Hong Kong has become a second home."