We spot the shop from the other side of the street, remarkable, it sits on the corner of the narrow road, the sign barely legible. I’m pretty sure it’s older than I am, I remember thinking.
Mr Ho, a friendly, 60-year-old mahjong set seller, had sat at that very counter every weekday for the past 40 years, as had his parents. Mahjong was in full trend when his parents first opened the shop. Today, very few people of the third generation know the secrets of the art. He remarks that his children aren’t interested in taking over the business. They are still in school and will be attending university next year.
Mrs Ho sits behind the counter with her husband and mentions that when the shop opened, the commerce of ivory was legal. However, ivory legalisation having changed today, they have no way of selling the rest of their stock. (Unfairly, some could assume).
The two explain that their ascendants are from Hong Kong, "100% HongKonger" they point with pride. Their single origins give them a particular view of mainland China. They explain that the culture is different; although the Chinese tend to speak loudly, they are not necessarily impolite. The mindset is different, they say. Per their opinion, after the cultural revolution, people who stayed on the territory learned to be individualistic, selfish. Hongkongers aren’t like that. The people of Hong Kong arrived weren't left with very much, after the British left, and they strived to build an identity all the while maintaining the city's development. He affirms that holistically, Hongkongers are more hardworking. Could this perhaps be due to their open-mindedness resulting from their exposure to the rest of the world? I ask what the couple thinks of China reasserting it’s control over Hong Kong. “There are different views. We understand why Beijing would want complete control over Hong Kong, it does in the end and officially, belong to China.” My mind goes to other Chinese territories upon which Xi Jinping's government imposes its authority in a much stricter way. “On the other hand, Mr Ho continues, Hong Kong may be part of China, but the agreement was, one country, two systems.” (and ever since Hong Kong has done nothing but thrive on a global and national scale.) “China, therefore, should be careful not to assert their control with too much intent as it could interrupt Hong Kong’s momentum as a fast-growing, multilateral, city.” It is in the end, one of the only doorways to the rest of the world that China possesses.
(Mr Ho refused to have his picture uploaded to the internet, we therefore attached one of Cloe Zielinski's gorgeous snapshots. Keep an eye out for the UNESCO exposition to see the real Mr Ho!)