David C. Bates

The Apology

Via inter-dimensional fold in time and space, a courageous press release was spat out from government headquarters to masked and goggled kids decked in cling-wrap, splashed on streets outside. Shortly before, the long-threatened mass protests had begun.

Addressed directly to those beyond bunkered walls, the document was very, very well received. So well received was it, in fact, that shock and awe rippled out from Tamar Park, followed by delight, which gathered wave-like momentum until it became a storm ripping through the city and out to the world watching around it. After a momentary glance of disbelief, the news was promptly reported, twittered and blogged by gape-jawed journalists.

From there, it appeared on the feeds of international media agencies and hastily buzzed, chimed and blinked onto millions of personal devices. Newspapers snipped dire headlines just before pressing, replacing them with a single stark word of staggering profundity.

The message, straight from the heart of the Hong Kong megalopolis, was written sans legalese and bombastic claptrap. A message for the ages, it read: “Woops!”

Outside Tamar, protest became party, and an impromptu civil celebration movement began.

Six-lane highways were immediately stuffed with people hosting vigorous offshoot debates over how best to implement the democratic solution, now assured, with prominent professors and band-one secondary school scholars voicing their well-deliberated suggestions.

A sustained roar mixed with high-pitched screams of laughter. Police officers, sweating inside their riot gear, ditched sinister helmets and batons and joined the steady stream of thousands in setting up makeshift campgrounds, now spontaneously erupting throughout the city.

Journalists flocked to a press-con cum egalitarianism lecture in the newly dubbed Citizens Square, where a sheepish CY Leung, chief executive of the city, was attempting to damper the cries from the crowd with gentle, confident coos. In that moment, he was adored.

Tourist hot-spots, like Mong Kok and Causeway Bay, became urban festivals, occupying once busy streets with music, BBQ, mahjong tournaments and unbridled luxury shopping from Chinese tourists, entertained by the city-wide elation. On street corners, bamboo craftsmen began erecting towering structures as an artistic expression of creation. Dissident voices, now convinced, said “huh!” Some thanked God and/or Buddha. USA spies and Beijing lapdogs allegedly shook hands in secret, darkened corners.

Reports speculated a package would be fast-tracked through LegCo and, after dawn, a plenary session on implementing reformed election plans was said to be coming, with a vote taking place ASAP if enough lawmakers could be siphoned from the crowds. “Stay tuned,” phones chirped.

Meanwhile, estimates rose, stocks shot up, spirits soared, the Geni took a walloping, and the pent-up emotion of a long-stayed promise, once fulfilled, flowed out in tears from plain ol’ folks.

The leader, bedecked by a ring of microphones, carried on to the masses of men.

“Now, I’ve been listening. And, by god, you’ve got a point. Turns out it’s up to policymakers to take decisive action to amend this city. These problems—or should I say concerns—will only go away with decisive action. No more pussyfooting.” He seemed to be looking hard into the eyes of each and every soul.

But that ever so perceptive gaze spied a funeral shrine made out to himself, hours before, with joss sticks poking out his eyes. A caring citizen quickly snubbed it out, but it was too late. The leader had already smelled the burning. “There’s no easy scapegoat here,” he continued, choking up suddenly. “Which is why I’d like to officially announce my resignation as of like right now.”

The crowd stopped him short. The masses were hysterical. Someone wailed as if for a son or mother. No, they bellowed, No! We need you!

There was a threat of tears, until a government aid whispered in his ear, no doubt reciting the super sudden universal approval of all governing officials—academically verified via official referendum not but just a few min ago. Politicians’ marks in HKU’s Public Opinion Poll had peaked. It was a miracle.

He paused, steadying his gaze on the glittering towers of opulence around him for the courage necessary to speak.

“I’m … touched,” he stuttered. “Thank you. Thank you very much. In that case …” he straightened, “I’d like to brief you on our five-point plan to amend our infrastructure to address your valid concerns …”

The informed citizenry listened with rapt attention.

Down in the masses of men stood Winky Li, a 17-year-old student at Diocesan Girls’ School. Her mum hadn’t given a rat’s ass for all this, she remembered, though she did say it was OK to stay out late with her big sister. Wendy was big into marching, and reminded her that desperate times call for reckless, illegal courage. “Rats are a Chinese dish,” she had said back to her mum, sticking tongue out.

Mum used every appeal to honor to convince her otherwise, but they were already wearing all black, with gel-pads stuck to foreheads and umbrellas in tow. “There there,” she heard from the speakers, from her leader, and all doubts were wiped away.

Last night, Winky helped her sister write out large calligraphy poems on sheets of A4. Wendy would write and Winky would post them up all over the site. Her favorite was “Changes” by the American rapper Tupac. Wendy liked a poem by Gu Cheng. She used a free hand to steady the other as she carefully made each stroke, in wet, thick, drifting ink:

once we were weak as morning cicadas
with wet wings
the leaves were thick, we were young
knowing nothing, not wanting to know
knowing only that dreams could drift
and lead us to the day

Beyond the sisters was April Wong, middle-aged, trundling by with a cart. “The har gow is always the first to go,” she said with a smile. Revelers lining the streets plucked their pick of steamed treats from the cart while she walked. “This is just a small contribution to the festivities. Students do their part, I do mine.” Rolling away, she called out into the din, “Gutter-oil free!” All laughed a TV-set happy ending laugh.

A greedy rollicker wafted the dim sum steam, inhaling deeply, face full in. April chastised him with pointed finger. “Don’t breathe the smoke in, my dear.” She said she’d return with hot soup next.

Beyond her, ironclad plans were made to hold talks between the government and student leaders over yum cha of a similar kind.

“… nascent democracy …” The CEO’s voice carried on, a steady undertone to the movement. “… and we’ll post or fax or email a supplementary report to the national legislature reflecting our desires for good governance and rule of law … indeed, our northern friends will understand a few tweaks to the NPC's electoral reform demands. After all, politics is the art of the possible …”

Mr. Todd Lynch, an American banker, snapped a celebration selfie, which promptly got upwards of 25 likes on Facebook. He praised the police action in gently handling the influx in numbers on the streets. His presence among the crowds was warmly welcomed, more like a concerned neighbor and less like a foreign backstabbing goat-bunging meddler. He shuddered at the thought, and politely reminded himself to stop bombarding Chinese-language websites with so much democracy-inspired rhetoric, well-articulated though his rants were, given that things were so kumbaya now. He continued taking photos for his blog.

“… political reform will be swift, transparent and complete … maximum tolerance … radical ideologues possibly considered … full trust …”

Albert Lau, a KMB bus driver, was seen parking his double-decker in what would normally be a busy intersection. The way was obviously totally blocked. After locking the doors, he took a much-needed nap in the back.

Former HKU professor David Yuck-yee, boss of the It’s Grammar Time brand of cram schools, peppered around the city, said children were advised not to come out and brave the crowds, and could instead do their homework via online modules or Skype. Pre-kindergarten teacher Carol Wong sternly agreed.

Over in Mong Kok, teen heart-throb and/or star Joshua Wong shot craps with Long Hair and Carrie Lam on Nathan Road. The city’s poor all trundled out of the woodwork of underpasses, cages, dish pits and bathroom attendant’s stalls and resolutely decided to become middle-managers. Financial Secretary John Tsang gave everyone a free iPhone. No one swore and everyone recycled properly.

Mr. Lynch was ordering an Extra Value meal at McDonalds when he decided to go for broke for any hungry police officers outside.

Mm goi, yee man baht cheen dong ga fe tong mai Big Macs,” he said horridly.

A string of blue-shirted officers, arms interlocked, swayed in rhythm to “Boundless Sea and Sky,” those untamed freedom-lovers.

“… unwavering support,” the leader said with vibrato, thus ending his speech. Now it was time to listen.

The leader’s wife made an appearance to renewed applause, along with his son and daughter, and they hugged. They four hugged. It was a bear hug. The leader stepped down from the podium, entering the crowd, which swallowed him up as if he were once part of it, only now returning to the fold. A politician who can be pedestrian. An Übermensch who is yet part of mankind.

He shook hands with Winky and Wincy holding brushes, lip-becrumbed Mr. Lynch, steam-smelling Ms. Wong and professors and ex-cardinals and celebrities and thugs and tourists and tycoons and everyone. “I’m sorry,” he whispered softly to each one. His tiny voice and hot breath on ears sent orgasmic shudders down spines.

And then, as if heaven was leaking, it began to rain, and the people lifted their brollies together.

David C. Bates

David C. Bates is a Hong Kong-based copywriter and editor. Some of his available corporate taglines include: "Reach for the fogosphere!", "Extremely enjoyable and exclusive experiences, for god's sake!", "Dai pai dong, all night long" and "Wan Chai, 2 a.m., a new cologne for men". Please contact him for pricing or w/r/t any malfunctioning slogans/jingles.