2020: A reflection

This year has been a wild ride.

At the start of this year, I made a list of all the things I wanted to do. If only I knew, I would tell 2019 me to throw the plans out the window. 2020 was not what any of us expected.

I’m not here to write another article about how “COVID-19 changed our lives”. You know it, I know it, everyone knows.

The global pandemic definitely played its part in making 2020 a challenging year. But even before the pandemic, we all know about the systemic and institutionalized injustices that weighed us down. All the inequalities of our society were only exacerbated and highlighted by the pandemic. While many of us struggled to pay bills and keep a roof over our heads, the rich continued to grow their wealth at an unprecedented rate.

This is not another piece about systemic oppression or how we must move beyond it. I have thoughts, but that is for another time. Follow me & you will see ;)

This past year, I have spent many hours reflecting (and probably overthinking) on how I can be a better leader, ally, advocate, person. I wanted to write and ramble about all the things I have experienced, witnessed, and reflected on.

Along with activists across Canada, we launched Alliance Canada Hong Kong in January, I was named as the Executive Director. I traveled to Vancouver in January, to launch our campaign and to host a series of panel events. The trip was going really well, until a stranger called my hotel room, the voice on the phone said they were coming to get me.

It did not come as a shock, but almost like a scheduled appointment.

I wish I can say I was unafraid, but I was scared shitless. I sat in silence for ten minutes before I texted the local team for support. A couple of volunteers came to my room, they brought me food and coffee, asking if I was ok.

The phone call was a reminder that I must fight for my liberation and survival, even if I have to put myself into the crosshair of the Chinese Communist Party. I chose to show my face and use my name to speak up, because I knew many others are not able to. I am not here to speak for Hong Kongers, but to make space so that others may feel empowered to do the same.

As the ED of ACHK, I strived to create an equitable and gainful working environment for our volunteers. I acknowledge that activism is not always a safe space, and I refuse to continue the cycle of violence. But first, I needed to confront my own traumatic workplace experiences.

In my previous work at Equal Voice, the violence inflicted on me had manifested as self-doubt, anxiety, imposter syndrome. These burdens weigh me down, even knowing I am fully qualified and equipped to tackle everything in front of me. I was so afraid that I would drag others down with me. Instead, I was lifted up by the encouragement and support of those around me. I am so fortunate and privileged to work with these amazing volunteers in the ACHK community. With time and their support, I confronted these traumatic workplace experiences and emerged with confidence. Together we achieved things that were unimaginable a year ago.

Today, I am still healing and learning. And I will be better than those who inflicted abuse upon me. Quoting the Dragon Queen from Game of Thrones: I’m not going to stop the wheel, I’m going to break the wheel.

I found myself to be filled with wrath from the injustices and oppression of the world. Instead of allowing the wrath to consume me, I turned my anger into energy. It is clear that we have to fight for our survival, whether we are pro-democracy activists from Hong Kong or a regular blue-collar worker in stolen Turtle Island.

This past year has been rough, I wrote about how I’ve lost joy this year. My mental health plummeted from all that room scrolling. Even with all the bad and ugly, I witnessed the incredible power of grassroots mobilization. The people across the globe came together to call for change, from Hong Kong to Thailand to Belarus, the people raised up. The pandemic might have placed physical distance between us, but the people have grown to be closer than ever.

2020 has truly been a disgusting fucked up year. There is so much more to say, but I fear this is getting too long. I am proud of how far I have grown. I am even prouder that I survived another year.

I found hope, not from myself or blind optimism. I found hope from the beautiful intelligent community leaders around me. Despite the overwhelming sense of doom, I know we can build a beautiful future together.

Fuck you 2020. I will not miss you.

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Cherie Wong 王卓妍

Cherie Wong 王卓妍

Settler. Third-Culture Kid. Non-Partisan Politico. Intersectional Feminist. 自由閪. she/her. Executive Director of Alliance Canada Hong Kong