Hong Kong, China – Downtown Hong Kong is ghostly quiet as town struggles with its worst wave of coronavirus infections because the pandemic started. However on the primary ground of a business constructing within the coronary heart of Central, one Ukrainian-owned restaurant is heaving.
For the previous few weeks, Ivan the Kozak, like most Hong Kong eateries, has been battered by a number of the world’s harshest social distancing measures.
However new prospects began pouring into the restaurant, a mainstay of town’s a number of hundred-strong Ukrainian neighborhood, after Russian tanks rolled over the border into Ukraine on February 24, plunging the world into disaster.
“I used to be actually depressed when the conflict began,” Viktoriia Tkachuk, the restaurant’s supervisor, informed Al Jazeera.
“I couldn’t sleep or eat, I felt responsible doing small issues like going for a shower, understanding folks again dwelling couldn’t even do this.”
Tkachuk, whose household opened the restaurant in 2001, stated bookings have tripled prior to now few days, with patrons turning up in droves with donations, ideas and messages of encouragement.
“Weekdays are usually quiet, simply six to 10 tables, however this Monday we had 25 to 30,” she stated.
Tkachuk, who was raised within the Chinese language territory, stated her prospects’ generosity and help have been uplifting.
“When persons are supporting you on this life or demise state of affairs, it’s a deep feeling,” she stated.
On Monday, one native buyer left a tip of $1,279 with a word saying “God Bless Ukraine,” she stated.
“He took out an enormous wad of money in an envelope and simply gave it to me,” she stated. “We had been all so touched, we virtually cried. We’ve already donated it to the Ukrainian authorities.”
Tkachuk stated the person was impressed by Ukrainians’ bravery within the face of the Russian assault in opposition to their nation.
“He had been following our democratic actions since 2014,” she stated. “Hong Kong folks really feel related to us in that manner, they are saying we’re each up in opposition to bullies.”
For professional-democracy Hong Kong residents, Ukrainians have been a supply of inspiration because the 2013 and 2014 “Euromaidan” demonstrations, when a student-led motion supporting European integration of the nation ultimately toppled the pro-Russia authorities.
In 2019, throughout the top of pro-democracy protests within the former British colony, hundreds gathered at dozens of areas throughout town to look at screenings of Winter on Hearth: Ukraine’s Battle for Freedom, an Oscar-nominated documentary in regards to the unrest.
Crackdown on dissent
Following the Hong Kong protests, which started peacefully earlier than descending into road battles with police, Beijing imposed a sweeping nationwide safety legislation on town that has been used broadly to quash political opposition and dissent.
Regardless of Beijing’s ensures that it will safeguard Western-style rights and freedoms within the metropolis till a minimum of 2047, authorities have arrested scores of outstanding pro-democracy voices and compelled the closure of essential media and civic teams.
“I noticed the movie again then, that’s why I got here to eat right here,” Hong Konger Mimi informed Al Jazeera as she dined along with her mates at Ivan the Kozak.
“It was that motion in Kyiv that first introduced my consciousness to the state of affairs in Ukraine.”
Though Mimi doesn’t take into account herself an activist, she sees the problem as black and white.
“It’s about standing in opposition to conflict, and for peace,” stated the Hong Kong resident, who requested to solely be referred to by her first title.
One other buyer, Thomas, travelled for greater than an hour by bus to have lunch on the restaurant as a manner of quietly providing help.
“I’m only a regular man, I’m only a civilian. I wish to do my half, nevertheless small it’s within the large image,” he informed Al Jazeera.
“Three years in the past, the Ukrainian folks supported Hong Kong. After I take a look at their state of affairs, I can see they’re combating for freedom, democracy and human rights. We’ve comparable experiences, between Hong Kongers and Ukrainians.”
Professional-democracy activism in Hong Kong has been successfully outlawed because the introduction of the nationwide safety legislation in June 2020.
The brand new authorized surroundings, together with pandemic restrictions that embody a two-person restrict on gatherings, has made it troublesome for folks to publicly voice their anger on the Russian invasion.
Nonetheless, a number of Ukraine supporters have held up slogans and indicators across the metropolis in one-person protests.
On Monday evening, two Hong Kong males of their late 20s introduced a conveyable projector to the Kowloon harbourfront and beamed the Ukrainian flag onto the well-known Tsim Sha Tsui clock tower, together with the slogans “Hong Kongers stand with Ukraine” and “Glory to Ukraine”.
“I wasn’t scared as a result of it’s nothing in comparison with what Ukrainians are going by way of,” stated one of many males, who spoke to Al Jazeera utilizing the pseudonym Eric.
The 26-year-old, who was actively concerned in Hong Kong’s 2014 Umbrella protests and the anti-extradition legislation protests 5 years later, stated Hong Kong residents can relate to the plight of being up in opposition to an authoritarian ruler.
“We’re appalled by Putin’s invasion and many people haven’t been capable of sleep in current days, following each replace on the state of affairs.”
Eric stated that he’s one in every of many Hong Kong activists world wide who’ve joined forces to help the Ukrainian resistance by donating cash and spreading data.
“We perceive that such assistance is little,” he stated. “However we already realized in 2019 that now we have to attempt all the things – no matter works.”
That’s a sentiment echoed by Tkachuk at Ivan The Kozak.
“Sadly nothing will change the state of affairs, there’s a conflict happening, and persons are dying in Ukraine,” she stated. “However nonetheless, someway, I really feel that we’re not alone.”