Vancouver’s first fair in Hong Kong draws thousands to preserve and showcase beleaguered culture

Vancouver’s first festival in Hong Kong drew more than 3,000 people to the city’s downtown Harbor Center on Saturday to bask in the familiar sights and sounds of this unique culture.

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Vancouver’s first festival in Hong Kong drew more than 3,000 people to the city’s downtown Harbor Center on Saturday to bask in the familiar sights and sounds of this unique culture.

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Among 72 vendors who sold a range of food, clothing, jewelry, art and other culturally inspired creations, the gathering saw attendees take part in Mahjong and Jungle group games, screenings documentaries, celebrity fan clubs, Cantonese workshops and other activities.

“Our idea was to create a safe space for Hong Kong people to come together, to be around people who speak the same language, to showcase our culture and our traditions, because without active preservation of our culture, it will disappear,” Heiky said. Kwan from HK House. , a volunteer-run group that funded the free event.

“It’s a deeply moving event for everyone,” said Kwan, who was born in Hong Kong.

People lined up around the block to attend the inaugural Vancouver Hong Kong Fair at the SFU Harbor Center in Vancouver on Saturday, May 14, 2022. More than 60 vendors gathered to celebrate the artists, customs and traditions of Hong Kong.
People lined up around the block to attend the inaugural Vancouver Hong Kong Fair at the SFU Harbor Center in Vancouver on Saturday, May 14, 2022. More than 60 vendors gathered to celebrate the artists, customs and traditions of Hong Kong. Photo by Jason Payne /PNG

When Sharon Chan’s eyes started to fill with tears when she first entered the lobby and noticed a sign that read “hometown” in her native language. She moved to Vancouver in 2020.

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“Missing that feeling of childhood at home is hard,” said the 41-year-old mother of three from Port Coquitlam, whose parents reside in Hong Kong.

Chan, the owner of Mama In The Kitchen, sold her homemade version of Hong Kong street food tastes, curry fishball sauce and oils, at the fair.

“I want people to remember their childhood sweetheart when they take that first bite.”

The event was not without recognition of the political unrest facing Hong Kong as the Chinese government pushes for greater influence over the city.

Artists Side Lee (right) and Rehk at their booth during the inaugural Vancouver Hong Kong Fair at SFU Harbor Center in Vancouver on Saturday, May 14, 2022. More than 60 vendors gathered to celebrate the artists, customs and traditions of Hong Kong.
Artists Side Lee (right) and Rehk at their booth during the inaugural Vancouver Hong Kong Fair at SFU Harbor Center in Vancouver on Saturday, May 14, 2022. More than 60 vendors gathered to celebrate the artists, customs and traditions of Hong Kong. Photo by Jason Payne /PNG

For sellers “Side Lee” and “Rekh”, who stood behind their paintings on Saturday, the turmoil is no longer such a distant memory.

The couple, who asked that their legal names not be used for fear of reprisals, said they were among 14 people charged with rioting at Hong Kong Polytechnic University on November 18, 2019, during protests in 2019-2020 against a proposed law to allow extraditions to mainland China.

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Side Lee, who lives in Vancouver on a work permit, nearly lost the use of his hands after Hong Kong police arrested him that day on campus.

“The police tied my hands together and forced me to lie on my stomach for 15 hours,” Side Lee said. “My hands turned blue and swollen.”

The young artist said it took him two months to regain feeling in both hands.

“He told me he wouldn’t want to live if he couldn’t make art,” said Rehk, his girlfriend.

For her, the most terrifying part of the ordeal was struggling to breathe after police fired tear gas at protesters.

“I thought I was going to choke,” said Rehk

In January, the 28-year-old was granted Canadian refugee status after fleeing to Vancouver in 2020 following the riot.

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“I couldn’t stay in Hong Kong anymore,” Rehk said. “My family is pro-China and kicked me out of the house. My friends were being watched by the government. Some of them are still in jail.

Alez Fung and Emma So, owners of Metro Vancouver candle company If We Burn You Burn With Us, said the fair was their way of spreading messages of hope to fellow Hong Kongers.

Tealight candles they sold for $2 burned to reveal images of Cantonese sayings including “Fight For Freedoms” and “Stand With Hong Kong.”

“It’s our way of telling people in Hong Kong, like my aunts and uncles, that we haven’t forgotten them,” said So, who has not returned since the 2019 protests.

“I would only return to Hong Kong without a phone, or with a completely erased phone.”

sgrochowski@postmedia.com

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