Vancouver Hong Kong Fair a ‘reunion place’ for the city’s diaspora

The inaugural Vancouver Hong Kong trade show will be held at the SFU Harbor Center on May 14. It’s the largest celebration of Hong Kong artists, customs and traditions to date, says event organizer HK House, expecting more than 4,500 visitors.Itchyichi/Handout

Sharon Chan is excited about her latest invention: her own version of the sauce used for curry fishball, a popular cultural snack she introduces to visitors at the first-ever Vancouver Hong Kong Fair.

She is one of more than 60 vendors gathering Friday at the SFU Harbor Center to celebrate artists, customs and traditions in what organizer HK House says will be Canada’s largest celebration of Hong Kong culture.

“Taste is not just taste. It’s a memory, and we pass that on in our kitchen,” Ms Chan said of her motivation to cook. “Even though we’ve left our roots, we don’t want to forget it.”

The Vancouver fair takes place against the background of the unrest in Hong Kong, where protests against the Chinese government’s increasing interference in the city’s affairs have led to the arrests and imprisonment of activists. While residents of Hong Kong are increasingly losing their minds, many in the diaspora are now trying to emphasize the city’s distinctive identity vis-a-vis China.

“We’re Hong Kongers, but we’re not your ordinary Chinese,” said Mrs. Chan. “We are a group of unique people from Hong Kong with Chinese descent.” She often makes an effort to correct people in Vancouver when they assume she’s from China: “No, we’re from Hong Kong.”

The Toronto-born foodie lived with her children in Hong Kong until recently, but in the wake of the protests, the family moved back to Canada earlier than expected. She and her friends have looked forward to the fair as a much-anticipated opportunity to re-experience the community.

“This fair is important to many Hong Kongers as a place of reunion and a place of Cantonese culture.”

Trade show organizers try to bring the bustling atmosphere of a Hong Kong market to downtown Vancouver. Heiky Kwan, a volunteer at HK House – founded in 2020 as a Hong Kong diaspora collective made up of both immigrants and those born in Canada – said the scholarship aims to rejuvenate a sense of belonging that is otherwise lacking. .

“As more Hong Kongers landed in Vancouver from 2020, we realized, yes, we don’t really have much of a community. It’s not that strong. The diaspora is here, but we don’t really celebrate together,’ said Mrs Kwan.

“That’s what we want to encourage and encourage, to help nurture that community of creators and small businesses in Hong Kong.”

Esther Yuen, another volunteer from HK House, said the team had set up the scholarship at short notice while members were working full-time.

“You’d be amazed at how many people want to bring something together if they really love their heritage and culture,” Ms Yuen said.

Jeannie Chan, for example, is excited to do tarot card readings at the fair, which she always did when she lived in Hong Kong. The former Apple Daily journalist used the practice as a way to deal with the trauma and stress of reporting the 2019 protests.

Apple Daily, closed last year by Hong Kong authorities as press freedom for the city, was known for its pro-democracy stance and criticism of China. Jeannie Chan said continuing her tarot practice has helped her stay connected to her community.

Tickets to the show are in high demand – and the response shows how many dedicated spaces for Hong Kong’s culture are needed, Ms Kwan said.

And while the fair is apolitical, you can find events and vendors at the fair making ready-made references to the protests. It is an acknowledgment of what Hong Kongers have been through in recent years, organizers said.

“Just speaking in the language of the community is very reassuring for them. That’s not something they can encounter in everyday life, so we become a safe haven,” said Ms Kwan.

“There’s a community we need to nurture and an identity we need to preserve.”

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