This is the third finalist in Young Post’s 2016 Summer Story Competition which offers the winner a Samsung Gear VR headset and a 32GB Samsung Galaxy S7. Each week, we will publish one of the finalists’ stories, with the winning entry appearing in Young Post on August 27
Tomorrow was going to be a day that would go down in history. Tomorrow, July 1, 2047, would mark a new beginning for Hong Kong. In a few hours, the Basic Law would expire. Its revised version would be brought in. At exactly 12.30pm the next day, officials from Beijing would arrive to attend the ceremony for the renewal of the One Country, Two Systems concept.
Everything had been planned months before the event: the suit Chief Executive Edwin Lam would wear; the route he’d take to Pacific Place, where the signing would take place. They had chosen the shopping mall deliberately, and the ceremony would be open to the public. The idea was that Hongkongers would feel involved in the day. This was ironic, given that they had had little involvement in the legislative changes. The chief executive would even use a custom-made Mont Blanc pen – which was stored in a special glass case inside Government House – to sign the revised edition of the Basic Law.
Although no one had seen the pen besides the makers, there were many rumours surrounding it. Some said the ink was liquid 24-carat gold, chemically modified to still be in its liquid form at room temperature. Others said that the pen was encrusted with the finest diamonds. There had been a lot of speculation about where the pen was being kept, but Ambrose knew that it was safely stored in his dad’s study at home along with the document.
In the build-up to the ceremony, many had spoken out against the soon-to-be- introduced changes, believing that simply renewing the system was better than revising it. Or, that if the system was to be revised, the people should at least have a say in the changes. As Hong Kong had been thriving for 50 years, many felt there was no need to make adjustments.
Ambrose lay in his bed staring at the ceiling. His bedside clock read 8.17pm.
“Great,” he said to himself. “Only 17 hours left until I have to go stand in front of a crowd of thousands of people and watch my father sign a piece of paper using a HK$14 million pen.
Ambrose had been involved in politics from a very young age, being the son of Edwin, a man many regarded as the greatest chief executive in Hong Kong’s history.
Although Ambrose did not have his father’s striking personality, he could not help but admire his father’s seemingly endless list of achievements. Having been born to a butcher and a seamstress, his family was not rich, but he had managed to attend one of Asia’s finest schools, Chinese International School, on a full scholarship. He later graduated from Harvard University with a law degree.
Ambrose could see his father was a great man, but he had learned from personal experience that great men did not always make great fathers.
“Why couldn’t you have just simply chosen to renew the deal. Was it really necessary to change things?” Ambrose sighed to himself.
“I really hope you made the right decision for this city.”
Unlike his father, Ambrose was not quick to make changes. He preferred to evaluate his options before doing anything drastic – especially if that something drastic involved changing the structure of the entire government.
Should events play out as planned, however, Edwin would become the most celebrated man of the decade, having been responsible for Hong Kong’s rapid rise to a global power. Soon, he would either become the man who gave Hong Kong its wings or the man who ruined everything he had built.
“Ambrose, dear, are you alright?” asked his mother in a soft voice, walking in through the door which he had accidentally left open.
“I’m just worried. About tomorrow,” replied Ambrose, exhaling deeply.
“There’s nothing to worry about. Everything will be OK.”
“The resistance groups. They will try to stop the event.”
“It’s OK. Your father will take care of it. He’s been through much worse. You may wanna go to bed early today.Tomorrow will be a big day.”
“Good night, Mum,” called out Ambrose as she turned to leave the room.
“Good night, sweetheart,” replied his mother in a kind, sympathetic voice. It was almost as if she knew exactly what was troubling him. Few people would understand. A month ago, Ambrose’s best friend, Charlie Lee, had been arrested for organising protests criticising the decision to scrap the old system. The protests had lasted an entire week during which business had practically come to a halt.
Eventually, the government grew tired of trying to appease the crowds and simply arrested the organisers. Even worse, if anyone was to find out that he and Charlie had been friends, the consequences could potentially be serious.
A sudden realisation hit Ambrose. If the bill was passed, Charlie could face up to 20 years in prison, thanks to one of the new regulations that prohibited public protests.
“I can’t let that happen,” he said to himself, before reaching to his left to turn off the lamp.
“Ambrose! Wake up!” called his mother. “Breakfast will be cold soon,” she continued as Ambrose opened his eyes, rubbing them numerous times. He seemed to be in a daze.
“Ambrose, get ...”
“Coming, Mum,” interrupted Ambrose, quickly getting dressed. His clock now read 8.15am. Arriving in the kitchen, he saw that the rest of his family was already up, including his sister who usually slept in.
His father was more stressed than usual, intently staring at that morning’s paper.
“Are you in it, Dad?” Ambrose asked, trying to start a conversation.
“Front page,” he replied.
“Cool. What does it say?”
“Nothing much. Just the regular ‘New Era for Hong Kong’ they’ve been discussing for the past month.”
“Good luck, Dad. I’m gonna go step outside for some fresh air,” said Ambrose, leaving the house with a piece of toast in hand. “See you later.”
“Be back by 12, honey. You still have to put on your suit,” chimed in his mother.
“I wonder where he’s going,” said Edwin to his wife. “If he’s late, I’m grounding him for a month.”
“I trust him,” she replied.
Soon it was noon. Unsurprisingly, Ambrose was right on time, not a minute early or late, narrowly avoiding a scolding from his father. A tense atmosphere lingered in the house as he stepped through the door. In the middle of the room was a glass box with a cloth draped over it. Ambrose immediately recognised it.
It contained the soon-to-be-signed bill, along with the pen his father would use. The pen had received worldwide media coverage; it was as if the events that would play out later depended on this one, very expensive, piece of stationery.
Ambrose was worried. His face was very pale. His hands were as cold as ice.
“Hey, cheer up! You don’t want to be seen on TV like this. Why are you so sad all of a sudden?” asked his mother.
“Be happy! Today’s a big day!” she said enthusiastically. “Your suit is in your room. Go put it on quickly. We’re leaving soon.” She was in high spirits. The same could not be said for Ambrose, though, as he forced a smile and retreated to his room.
Quickly putting on the suit his mum had picked out for him and slipping on his leather shoes, Ambrose was out the door within fives minutes, making an effort not to be too late. The rest of his family was already on their way to Pacific Place, where the event would take place. Looking down at his wrist, his watch read 12.13pm. He made his way towards the spot where a self-driving car was waiting for him.
The journey was largely uneventful and consisted mainly of Ambrose checking his watch, and staring back at it once every few seconds. He was almost there. His watch read 12.21pm. Looking ahead, however, one last thing stood between him and being on time. The crowd was massive. The A.I. in the car didn’t seem to know what to do, forcing Ambrose to go through the crowd on foot. As soon as he got out of the car, he was met with a swarm of reporters. A few precious minutes passed as he tried to shake them off. He finally made it to the basement of the complex. There were a lot of men wearing suits and ties standing around, waiting for 12.30pm. He spotted his father, pacing back and forth, impatiently checking his watch.
“Where have you been?!” scolded his father. “Do you have any idea how poorly it would reflect on me if you were late? You’re grounded for three months.”
“Dad! I’m not late,” replied Ambrose.
“It doesn’t matter, let’s just get this over with,” replied his father. The next few minutes passed slowly and silently.
For Ambrose, the build-up was both exhilarating and nerve-wracking. His heart was pounding. Finally, it was 12.30pm. His father, being the Chief Executive, was the first in line as they went up the escalators towards the main floor.
The roar of the crowd was deafening; a mix of cheers from those seeking change as well as boos from those who wanted things to stay the same. In the centre of the room was the glass box. The velvet cloak was still draped over it just as it had been half an hour ago at Government House. Eventually, the excitement of the crowd died down. Ambrose tried to stand as still and straight as possible while the Chinese national anthem played, followed by Hong Kong’s national anthem.
Finally, the ceremony began. His father steadily approached the box. He paused for a moment before he reached for the cloak. In a quick, sudden motion, he pulled it aside. It was gone. The pen was gone, and so was the bill. For Ambrose, however, this was no surprise.
“Is this some kind of joke,” demanded his father. “Someone tell me who is responsible for this.”
The crowd stayed silent. Absolutely silent. Putting his hand in his left pocket, Ambrose felt it. The cold embrace of the pen as well as the rough surface of the parchment, on which the laws had been written.
“I’m sorry, Dad,” said Ambrose stepping up, taking the pen and parchment out from his pocket. “We want democracy,” he began. “The people of Hong Kong should be given a choice, and I know for certain in this case, the citizens of this city were not represented well, if at all.”
“Ambrose, that’s enough,” commanded his father.
“Any new laws should be passed democratically, or not at all.” He took a deep breath. Swiftly and cleanly, he ripped the bill in half as the world watched in absolute silence.