Living in Dark Mode

from NYTs

THE LIGHTS IN MY ROOM ARE OFF, and the autumn air is trickling in through the window. It is my favorite season in Hong Kong, finally cool enough to get by without air-conditioning. I’m listening to meditation music a friend sent me to ease my persistent insomnia. My partner is staying up late, hunched over his desk with a tall can of beer, tweeting updates for a local media outlet.

Outside, a revolution is raging.

I check my phone to see whether my ex-flatmate, who has gone out to pick up protesters in his car, has responded to my messages; I haven’t heard from him in two hours. I turned off notifications on my phone a few weeks ago after the news alerts started seeping into my dreams. In one of them, I was on the train heading to a rally when a voice announced that the next stop was China.

This was Nov. 17, when the police rounded up students at Hong Kong Polytechnic University and threatened to use lethal force if protesters occupying the campus refused to leave. But it could have been any other night. Some protesters are stranded on the streets, trying to find a way home and avoid arrest after a long day out. The rest of us wrestle with anxiety. We hold our breaths, praying this won’t turn into a brutal crackdown. Months ago, if anyone had said this, I would have laughed at them for being melodramatic.

Now these are the headlines we wake up to:

More here.

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13 Responses to Living in Dark Mode

  1. Jackson Beltrandi December 3, 2019 at 10:58 pm #

    It is a shame this does not get national attention. Chinese government is running an oppressive regime over their citizens, and Hong Kong is trying to break free from it. This article gives a HUMAN perspective rather than the news which China allows to be accessed by American readers. Hong Kong offers a less oppressive government, and is much more welcoming than the mainland. That is what we thought at first separation. However, Hong Kong is in scary times. At first, I thought this article would be about the dark mode on new iPhones. That shows how disconnected an average American citizen is from events that really matter.In a totally different message, Hong Kong citizen Karen Cheung is scared of the world around her. She describes her “depression.” I thought this part of the article was odd, because she explains depression as “a restlessness, an inability to feel at peace.” In American society, we associate depression with sadness or a life without hope or joy. And the way the author puts it, that is not even the worst of the consequences of living in Hong Kong at the time being. Mrs. Cheung feels stuck in the middle: not brave enough to risk her life for rights, but too dedicated to not care at all. The most powerful quote in this article is: “An American journalist once asked me, what if this went on for 30 years? But that isn’t the most terrifying outcome. It is the world that we would live in if we stopped resisting.” I find this quote truly powerful because there are many citizens in Hong Kong who have not had access to the civil rights they deserve, and which could be easily accessible to them. There are too many people in China for the oppression to continue, and they have to keep fighting. This article also exemplifies how good we have it as American citizens. We truly are one of the few countries that enjoy total freedom, liberty, and justice.

  2. Samantha Russo December 4, 2019 at 12:56 pm #

    I’ll be honest here and say that when I clicked this article, my first thought was that it was going to discuss the new dark mode on iOS and how people are enjoying it. I know that the only reason I downloaded the new system within minutes of its release was so that my phone was finally dark, like my messages, and it was easier for the eyes. I was confused when I realized we were discussing Hong Kong and what is going on there currently. I just recently wrote my senior thesis and in my analysis portion of it, I discussed Hong Kong and how Americans, or more specifically, some athletes, are supporting the protests going on there. When I was writing my senior thesis on athletes’ opinions, I decided to include the China protests because before my paper, I had no idea what was going on.
    I spent a few days learning everything there is to know about why the people of Hong Kong are protesting and what us Americans feel about the protest. I originally heard about it because of Daryl Morey, the general manager for the Houston Rockets. He tweeted about his support for the people of Hong Kong and it inspired my analysis and research of these protests. Following this, basketball fans began showing up to games with signs saying “Free Hong Kong” and showing their support for the Hong Kong protestors. People in the seats at the games began wearing shirts and bringing posters with sayings like “Human Rights Matter Here + There!” Over 300 activists showed up at a Houston Raptors game to show their support for Hong Kong.
    As a political science major, we’ve discussed Hong Kong protests in my IR classes and our responses to it. One athlete’s tweet lead to awareness on the protests and it opened up a lot of eyes on what is happening. Our first thought here in America seeing “dark mode” is completely different from what someone in Hong Kong is experiencing. I think it’s important people familiarize themselves with the protests and learn about what is happening because we don’t live in a bubble. As a political science major, it’s opened my eyes to our foreign relationships and thinks happening outside of the country and I think this is a major event that people need to hear about and lend their support to.

  3. Shamar K December 5, 2019 at 12:20 am #

    Honestly, from just reading the title alone I though the article was going to be about the dark mode update that recently launched with the latest IOS update for Apple iPhones. Then to my surprise, as I’m reading it, I am getting an emotional first account of a writer in Hong Kong who is torn because she feels that she is losing the very city she created memories and lived in. I am not the type to delve into politics let alone outside country politics, but this article really kept me hooked onto to what she was saying. This writer in Hong Kong is giving a very personal account that does not include graphs, statistics, political jargon, or a significance stance. This writer is writing purely from what they feel, and she is giving a platform for people who feel the same way she feels. One line that stuck out to me was when she said, “Not brave enough to dedicate my life to this movement, not detached enough to not care.” This line is what I fell like a lot of people can identify with. Many people are on in the middle of the spectrum of life when it comes to controversy and tribulations that go on nationally/globally. Many people feel like their struggles do not compare to the struggles of others and that they should have nothing to complain about. While others struggle within themselves on whether they should participate or stay neutral. The fact that I though the article was going to cover the recent iPhone update speaks volumes to how little coverage this topic is getting. It also speaks volume to what we as a society pay attention to. I believe Hong Kong came into the spotlight after an athlete and GM of the Houston Rockets spoke out against the mistreatment of the Hong Kong citizens. This article has intrigued me enough to research further about the protests in Hong Kong.

  4. Anthony Freda December 5, 2019 at 1:20 pm #

    The protests in Hong Kong have been ongoing for close to a year now. The Chinese Government is continuing their oppressive ways and lessening the rights of their citizens one bill at a time. After reading Karen Cheung’s first hand experience of the potential loss of the city she grew up in, made me realize the lives that citizens endour under such powerful regimes. By doing research on why the protests occur, I quickly learned how Hong Kong’s citizens want to protect their autonomy. Hong Kong wants their own civil liberties separate of China and recognize their oppressive ways. Protesters are now asking for the United States help with China because large portions of citizens want to adopt our ways of government and freedom. President Trump and the rest of Washington has shown their support for the Hong Kong protesters by recently signing the “Hong Kong Humans Rights and Democracy Act.” The bill would allow the United States to pose sanctions on Hong Kong for human rights violations. As the United States we should want to help not just Hong Kong citizens suffering, but people across the world wishing to live in a Democracy like ours. I hope we continue our support for the Hong Kong citizens and help them to freedom.

  5. Victoria Balka December 5, 2019 at 1:57 pm #

    This article was extremely alarming. As a person who was lucky enough to live in the United States, it is hard for me to imagine what life would be like living in Hong Kong during this time. I have pretty much gone my entire life without seeing a protest, or only seeing peaceful ones in real life. In the article, the author is living through an extremely violent time in her home city, which is causing her to feel a lot of mixed emotions and living her life in fear. Police are going around the city killed, or injuring a massive amount of people which is causing a lot of stress on the citizens since they do not want to be injured but, they also want to stand up and fight for a cause that they believe in. Since there are so many innocent people dying and getting injured, the author feels guilty for anything they do that involves a smile or a laugh. She also tends to feel guilty because she is not an active protestor like the many other people fighting for this cause, but she also cares about the cause and wants these problems to be changed. This article really opened my eyes to see how people who live in places with stricter governments can suffer just for fighting for what they believe in. It also made me much more aware that when people choose to publicly go out and protest, they are risking their lives and are making the hard choice to put their beliefs over their own personal lives. It is sad that the author had to make the decision to turn off her phone and try to keep from watching the news simply because there was so much happening, and it was hard for her to pull herself away from it. Based off the title of this article, I was not expecting it to be about the current situation in Hong Kong and how the author is struggling to live and feel in the current environment. I am glad I read this article because it opened my eyes to something I knew very little about before.

  6. Joe Antonucci December 5, 2019 at 7:28 pm #

    What I found to be so discomforting about this article is the feeling of helplessness that seems to be looming over the citizens of Hong Kong, like a dark rain cloud that threatens to strike at anyone, anywhere, at any time.

    I had thought about the situation in Hong Kong as one that only affected the protestors, who one might also call agitators – but this article makes it clear that even people sitting inside their homes are shaken with fear by what is happening outside – and those who are on the front lines face imminent danger from an oppressive regime that seems to be more and more willing to use deadly force to maintain the order.

    I won’t pretend to be an expert on the matter, because I’m not. But if we look at what is happening in Hong Kong, and even China generally, we see the consequences of excessive authoritarianism and surveillance. Free thought is suppressed and people advocating against the status quo, peacefully or not, are met with violence.

    Just a few days ago, I came across a video on Twitter of a Chinese citizen being interrogated for making remarks against the police on a social media platform called WeChat. The man was restrained in a seat and the ominous government representatives sat across from him, pressing him to explain what he said and why he said it.

    The man, clearly afraid, admitted he spoke negatively about the police because of their confiscation of motorcycles. He apologized excessively throughout his explanation and said he had a bit too much to drink. He added that he would never, in the right mind, question the Chinese police because of all the good they do in the world.

    Now, being quite critical of the police myself, and sometimes in more inflammatory ways, I’ve never felt afraid to speak my mind. I’ve never felt afraid to call a powerful person a stupid idiot, because I live in America and I have a First Amendment. Obviously that right is being encroached upon more and more, but I can at least feel lucky that I do not live in a place like China where I have to figuratively prostrate myself before the state and pledge my undying fidelity.

    The protestors in Hong Kong are not even citizens of China, so we can only imagine the extent of oppression the Chinese are willing to subject them to.

    I generally favor anti-interventionism in foreign affairs unless it favors the interests of the U.S., but there is a cogent argument to be made that we can check two boxes by protecting Hong Kong’s citizens while more strongly opposing China on fronts other than international trade.

    Whether intervening (militarily or otherwise) is a good idea is certainly up for debate, but we should call to mind the American Revolution, and the fact that a victory over the British may not have been possible without the help of the French.

  7. Tyler Abline December 5, 2019 at 8:26 pm #

    In America we are very privileged that we are able to enjoy the luxury of the freedoms presented by our constitution. Those living under the grip of Chinese rule do not have this luxury. It was illuminating to see the perspective of someone living through that tyranny first hand and I hope that one day soon the Hong Kong protests will result in a better Hong Kong and a better China. This story is just one of many highlighting the tyranny of communist China and should serve as a sign to the rest of the world that they need to be stopped. Being able to see first hand how it affected Ms Cheung’s life was both fascinating and heartbreaking. Luckily we do not have to deal with the tyranny that she has to deal with on a daily basis, but I would like to see the rest of the free world try to force China to stop their repression of freedom.

    Just as we have seen with nations such as Cuba and the Soviet Union the rest of the free world needs to start working toward a solution to the China problem. While this is far easier said than done, if the current state China is in is allowed to continue I fear that there will be far reaching consequences. China is already the most populous nation on Earth and is already an economic giant that only continues to grow. With the continued growth in China’s economy China’s power continues to grow, and we may see a situation in the future where they wish to impose their tyranny over more than just those in China or Hong Kong. In order to prevent this, China needs to be stopped, and the free world needs to step in to stop it.

  8. Alexander Nowik December 6, 2019 at 4:38 pm #

    As I have friends online who are either from Hong Kong, or have family who live there, I have been following the developments there since June. It saddens me that there is so little Western coverage/concern for this. That being said just recently congress unanimously passed a Hong Kong rights bill, with the house passing it in October, and the Senate passing it early last week. Surprisingly, to some, President Trump also signed off on the bill, despite being in the middle of trade negotiations with China. However, many have criticized this bill as being symbolic, as it does little to effectively stop China from putting pressure on Hong Kong officials to quash protests. Without even the U.S. government able to stand up to the CCP, it’s hard to imagine that things won’t just continue to escalate in Hong Kong. This article was heartbreaking to read because I just think things will get worse from this point on. I hope that major newspapers like the Times continue to have pieces like this in them because people need to know what’s going on from first hand sources. I hope that America can wake up and figure out a way to stand up to the Chinese and help Hong Kong.

  9. Nicholas Hicks December 6, 2019 at 4:59 pm #

    I’ve been attempting to follow the internal conflict Hong Kong has been suffering through but nothing puts it into perspective like hearing what life feels like as a resident of the city. Reading about the chaos and terror in Hong Kong makes me with now more than ever that the United States could somehow swoop in and save the day, protecting Hong Kong from a hostile Chinese take over and maintaining their prized democracy. But the reality is that the United states has barely taken a stance on the issue and likely will remain uninvolved for a multitude of reasons. First being the US’s already strained relationship with China and attempts to bring the trade war to an end and second being the fact that there is no significant advantage for the US to stabilizing the region. Hong Kong holds no mass of oil fields like Iraq and if it were to fall to the Chinese there would be little to no consequence to the USA. While I can logically understand this is is immensely frustrating to be a citizen of a country which prides itself as the guardian of democracy and see its inaction in the face of such injustice. But such is the nature of the current international climate, self interest drives the actions of states and unless some international force such as the UN or a NATO coalition were to step in there will likely be no foreign assistance for the protesters in Hong Kong, and with China’s major presence in the UN and the United States reluctance to be at further odds with China neither of those alternatives are likely to happen in the near future. All we can do as Americans is pray for the protesters and witness their struggle as they fight for the fate of their city.

  10. Mason Lai January 23, 2020 at 5:31 pm #

    Living in Dark Mode by New York Times details the perspective of a young protestor in Hong Kong describing her experience and her life in the unrest in Hong Kong where millions of young Hong Kongers take out to the streets and defy the government; protesting for democracy among many other demands. In the article, she writes about how she constantly battles insomnia due to being constantly worried about the declining situation in the city through the news alerts she receives as well as her “contacts” (her partner and an ex-flatmate) whom also participate in the revolt.

    The protests in Hong Kong originated from China’s ever-tightening grip on the city’s freedom as what Hong Kongers feel that China is trying to “integrate” Hong Kong back to the Communist nation which this generation would not allow. Many of the citizens in Hong Kong now are constantly battling for what remaining freedoms they have for if they don’t, they believe that Hong Kong wouldn’t “exist” in the next decade.

    I feel that I have the need to voice my support for the youngsters risking their lives, career, and future for fighting what’s left of the autonomy in Hong Kong along with many politicians, celebrities and nations also voicing their support. Some may feel that it’s completely wrong and unjustified to take the issue out onto the streets; vandalizing and marching across busy roads, paralyzing the daily lives of many while others feel the police and the government are wrong for police brutality and the government being bias and be controlled (in other words, being puppets) by Mainland China. The youngster’s determination at fighting for what’s left of their democracy by occupying the streets, rebelling orders from the government and police indicates to us that we should not take democracy for granted as there are those who desperately try to achieve through drastic means such as occupying a University, risking their futures or even risking death.

  11. Steven Kang January 23, 2020 at 10:28 pm #

    Censorship has always been a scary topic for me to talk about. Even in the digital society where information is so easily accessible, there are still people left in the dark. It is frightening that such a superpower like China could easily manipulate people without any repercussions. Chinese people truly believe and support China even with all the horrific headlines coming out. I remember being told by a relative, “No way, the media just makes it look bad.” It shocks me to the core with all the brainwashing that they can’t even question China.
    One quote that stood out to me was “It is past midnight on a Saturday, and somewhere in my quiet neighborhood a group of non-Chinese speakers have spilled out onto the streets, talking and laughing. I feel a stab of resentment: Don’t they know there is a revolution out there?” (Cheung). As an American born Chinese, it feels guilty not being more involved in this cause. I remember being asked, “Are you doing anything to help?” like I had an obligation to say something or act. I remember reading comments how China is going to be the next Nazi Germany. Some might scoff at this extremely bold take, but the facts are terrifying. China has demonstrated extreme cruelty to minorities and will take harsh measure against oppression. One thing that we can be grateful of is the fact that everyone has eyes on China. Events like the Tiananmen square massacre remind us of how cruel the Chinese Communist party could truly be against any sort of protest. I truly hope that more people in the United States are aware of the protests in Hong Kong. The protesters describe it as the fight for their lives, which is completely true. The young people are fighting for a right to grow up.

  12. Wasima Rashid January 24, 2020 at 1:46 am #

    Education is the backbone, and students are the future of the nation. The student deserves to get all of the facilities from the government. The student protest and the way they got treated by riot police in Hong Kong is shocking for me. The disturbance between the police and student is quite common things in Asian countries like India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, etc. But China is more developed than any other Asian country, so I didn’t expect this at all. While I was in Bangladesh, I used to see a lot of pictures of the students (protestors) in the Newspaper. They were protesting for various reasons like to reduce tuition fees, to increase highway safety and infrastructure, to introduce a new law, etc. So, I totally can relate to the feelings of Ms. Cheung. I also used to feel sad after reading or hearing it on the news.

    Riot police are beating the students, throwing tear gas, running after students, firing rubber bullets are the most usual and saddest scene of the student protest. Those violent pictures of the student protests in Hong Kong grabbed the attention of almost everyone around the world. The author tried to describe all of her extreme sentiments through her writing about how she got depressed and felt restless by seeing the violence. She could not endure the condition of poor young students: Some students were trying to escape from the trapped university; some got arrested; some were injured, and some died on the spot. She felt ashamed and discovered her life is meaningless because she could not participate in the protest actively due to her fear and health issues. The interesting thing she mentioned is that one of her friends said to console her, “You get used to it.” But it never worked for her, and she almost lost all of her strength and experienced trauma.

    National issues like this can leave a wrong impression on anyone in the country. The government has the responsibility to established an appropriate law to benefit the public. The Chinese Government needs to learn how first world countries like the United States of America, Canada, etc. treat the people, especially the student. Every person has the right to keep their points. So, the Chinese government must need to listen to people and should need to develop a new strategy for handling a situation fairly rather than creating “CHAOS.” They won’t be able to gain any benefits by breaking the courage of the younger generation.

  13. Morgan Mooney January 24, 2020 at 2:25 pm #

    When I read the title of this article, my first impression was that it would be about someone who noticed that social media was ruining society and just turned off their phone and tried to live without it. To my surprise, I was kind of in the right direction because the narrator did turn her notifications off, but for separate reasons than just not wanting to interact with social media. The article was about the oppression faced by Chinese students and by the Chinese people. The Communist government of China has a stranglehold on the entire country. The people that live there do not get to choose what they want to do or how they want to do it. Everything is done exactly how the government wants. The government sees their success as a success for the entire country, but what they do not like to show is that the government will screw out anyone if it helps them get what they think is there’s. They control everyone’s lives and decide what they can say or see. The worst part is that the government of China is not afraid to use deadly force for those who disagree with their views or opinions. I mean the government threatened students with lethal force just because they were protesting and refused to leave the campus of Hong Kong Polytechnic University. Hearing the narrator explain the different anxieties felt by the student present was breathtaking. I cannot imagine the fear of hearing that your government, the system that supposed to make you feel safe and secure, is threatening college students that they will kill them for protesting is just mind-blowing to me.
    Another factor that shocked me is that Hong Kong is in scary times and I did not even know about this. I mean I thought the article was just going to be on using cell phones less or something. This shows how disconnected we are from the news that matters. Nowadays when we see the news we just see who is dating who and what’s going on with celebrities, but we don’t get the real news and this is all coming from those who are supposed to be telling us the truth. That what this article did that was different. This came from someone who was there and is experiencing the traumatic situations placed upon them by the Communist government of China.

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