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Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement: Four Poems

“In the smoke, they forget their bare feet / as they see their faces more clearly than ever… No trial can strike down / their small and fragile umbrellas.”

By Chung Kwok Keung, Tang Siu Wa, Dorothy Tse, and Liu Waitong

This collection of poems is edited by Louise Law with an introduction by Henry Wei Leung.

By now the world is coming to recognize the lasting cultural importance of the Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong. The streets of Admiralty, Mong Kok, and Causeway Bay have been occupied for an unprecedented two months in an ongoing protest against Beijing’s recent denial of genuine universal suffrage for Hong Kong’s 2017 elections, originally provisioned in the Basic Law when the British colony was handed back to Mainland China in 1997. The protests caught the world’s attention when police launched pepper spray and tear gas at a peaceful gathering on September 28, and protesters opened their collapsible umbrellas to shield themselves. Then the open-air mobile democracy classrooms and study areas, the paintings, sculptures, installations, and banners blossoming at an unprecedented scale, held the world’s attention in a city misconceived by many as nothing more than commercial.

Presented here are four translated poems from the protests, written by eminent local writers and edited by the local Chinese literary magazine Fleurs des lettres. Fleurs des lettres and its writers were involved from the first week of student strikes: they organized poetry readings and lectures (on Lu Xun and Xi Xi, among other topics), printed a special issue of poems for the strike, and were responsible for the start of free libraries at the protest sites. When and how the protests will end is yet to be seen. The art and tents and desks are tinged with the threat of destruction and disposal. The language of the protests might last longer than the materials—but what will history say? The Chinese and Hong Kong governments have already classified this cultural awakening as nothing more than an illegal gathering. How might future Hongkongers’ representations of themselves be sanctioned or erased?

These poems are crossing languages and oceans to be heard. The translations are a preservation, but they are also a call: rendered into English, published abroad, they discover a new audience. How will you answer?

—Henry Wei Leung



“Trek” by Tang Siu Wa

“Open Now, So That It Can Be Folded Again” by Chung Kwok Keung

“Noise Reduction Machine” by Dorothy Tse

“Hong Kong Lullaby” by Liu Waitong




by Tang Siu Wa


Waking up one day, people see
they no longer need inessential cover.
They see an umbrella in their hand for
their trek to the distant sky. Their pulled out wisdom teeth
grow back, and they awake in pain.

The hardware store refuses to offer iron, but only eye masks.
The bathroom refuses to offer foam, but only towels.
The kitchen refuses to offer knives, but only plastic wrap.
The scripture refuses to offer prayer, but only surgical masks.
The flag refuses to offer crest, but only the imagery of flower.
In aubergine melancholy, a kind of flower that refuses to bleed
but blossoms at will against the command of the seasons.

They move light from carrying no possessions.
They act gently from nursing a strong will.
Raised to the sky, their arms turn into trees
sprouting olive green leaves.
Abstract sculptures, plain as
a pair of white sports shoes, light as
a school bag and enduring,
like a beech wood chair does, the kind of freedom
of roses growing through rugged iron fences.

To endure in freedom. To move forward
while enduring. To remain gentle
before the caustic. To stay calm
in the state of shock. To connect in
independence. There is no metaphor
in the final moment. The truth is blazing
nakedly and the echinaceas are rolling in flame.
In the smoke, they forget their bare feet
as they see their faces more clearly than ever.
The music of death cannot stop them.
No trial can strike down
their small and fragile umbrellas.
They are trekking into the depth of the sky
without thinking too much.

All shackles have lost their weight.
Conquering all memories, and to which all birds shriek and fly,
as we have never seen before,
an enormous cloud.

(Translated from the Chinese by Nicolette Wong)



Photo by David Hill
Photo by David William Hill


Open Now, So That It Can Be Folded Again

by Chung Kwok Keung


Roads have now been made by our footsteps
A distinctive umbrella, visible far away in midst of tear gas
Open now, so that it can be folded again
For use later on countless sunny days…
We march again with the children.

Let’s put silence to a coma in the dark of night
Let’s allow our voice, clear and loud, to be heard at dawn
Occupy, so that it can be put back in place
Sit down, and then stand up, one by one
When our names are called,
Each and every one of us, say: Here.

(Translated from the Chinese by Tammy Ho Lai-Ming)




Photo by David Hill
Photo by David William Hill

Noise Reduction Machine

by Dorothy Tse


Tear the skull open from the chin.
From the inflamed throat
rises and blooms

the reared,
beautiful waterlily

that emerges from the water
and sweetly chants:
“I love you.”
“I love you.”

Only a petrified ripple
contains the terror in the dream.

Stand back from the train doors.
The skull in the reflection is about to close.

To meet again in the mobile billboard
the shape of one’s mouth.
A cast of infinite speakers
screaming, wide open at an arc
perfect for

the iron train to enter, again and again.
A cluster of collectively reared throats.

“I love you.”
“I love you.”

(Translated from the Chinese by Nicolette Wong)



Photo by Eddie Tay
Photo by Eddie Tay

Hong Kong Lullaby

by Liu Waitong


Goodnight, Hong Kong, little Hong Kong
Never mind the airport is new, is old
Never mind the people who come and go
Night is a beast, even if
Air still moves past your lips
Goodnight, Hong Kong, little Hong Kong

Go to sleep, Hong Kong, little Hong Kong
A million lights in the sky, never mind the fleas,
Sprinkled along Reincarnation Road
We flow like starlight wine
Tsing Ma Bridge, taken by the dew
Go to sleep, Hong Kong, little Hong Kong

Are you dreaming? Hong Kong, little Hong Kong
Pack it up, send it to No. 1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8
Container terminal. The workers all strike,
The sea rejects your weakling reverie
Are you dreaming? Hong Kong, little Hong Kong

Drift away, Hong Kong, little Hong Kong
From the waist of Victoria Harbor
The aftermath, we as blind people
felt our way like an old ferry in the dark
Farewell to the weeping breast of the Queen
Drift away, Hong Kong, little Hong Kong

Goodbye, Hong Kong, little Hong Kong
At mid-mountain they’ve already dug
your diamond encrusted grave of gold
From this deep sleep, will you
wake up and fight?
Goodnight, Hong Kong, little Hong Kong

(Translated from the Chinese by Amy K. Bell)



Photo by Eddie Tay
Photo by Eddie Tay