Friday, June 02, 2006

Falun angel

On my way to work every morning I cross a pedestrian bridge over a busy highway heading up from the harbour to Mid-Levels. A pocket sized woman mans the bridge every day from about 8am, handing out free newspapers to passers by and calling out "jo san!" (good morning) to the passers by, if they're Chinese, and "morning!" to the gweilos.

As the newspaper she's giving away is in Chinese, I've never picked one up, and after a few half-hearted responses in kind, I started ignoring her as I walked by. She seemed to take this very personally and whenever she saw me she'd leap like a dervish across the pathway to stand right in front of me and shriek "morning!" at me reprovingly. Eventually I gave in because she started to make me feel guilty: after all it's a pretty lonesome furrow she's ploughing and it must be extremely depressing when everyone walks past you stony-faced. So now she says "morning!" and I say "jo san!" and we smile complicitly at each other, although she still seems faintly dissatisfied with my behaviour.

It was only very recently that I realised what she was giving out: it's a Falun Gong newspaper with garish pictures of beaten bodies. She has started to put up pictures on the railings all the way along the walkway, which is surprising in itself that the police haven't tried to move her on. It's an appropriate place for her to be: just over the way looms the former British Army base, now home to the Chinese Army. I can see it from my office window: soldiers marching across the square, and the swimming pools and tennis courts from colonial days lying unused. It certainly explains her look of forbearance and determination, but not her personal gripe at me. Whenever I've seen them before, the Falun Gong have been demonstrating peacefully, chiefly it seems by sitting in the lotus position, closing their eyes, and sitting incredibly still for hours, but I don't think my wee woman has read the manual.

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