This article was written by Heidi Lee and was published in Hong Kong Free Press on December 29, 2019. This edited version is published in Global Voices under an agreement to share content.
Since early December 2019, Moon has been writing Christmas cards with his friends at Ryerson University in Toronto. They bought cards in stores and filled them with the Christmas wishes of a card template.
Gathered in a room like workshop elves, they copied the same message over and over again, cut out stickers to decorate the cards, put them in envelopes and attached small pamphlets explaining the ongoing political turmoil in Hong Kong that has affected the city by More than half a year.
His initiative responded to a call to action from the Free HK Xmas Card Telegram channel. Participants were asked to write Christmas cards and send them to people around the world. Fung, the messenger group administrator, said his goal was “to make the wish of the people of Hong Kong a universal Christmas wish for all.”
Volunteer-designed cards were sent to random strangers, to Santa Claus around the world, to the media, to friends and family. Moon decided to send cards to the professors of his university.
He said he had positive comments from some professors when he mentioned this project he was working on:
They thought it was a creative and innovative way to bring activism into conversations… It was a pretty good event where people in our group can try to connect to (people in Canada) by practically putting our hands down (to write) and starting more conversations about what's happening in Hong Kong.
They found it a creative and innovative way to bring activism to conversations … It was a pretty good activity, in which the people of our group can try to connect with (people in Canada) putting our hands (to write) and start more conversations about what's happening in Hong Kong.
With approximately 4000 people subscribed to the Telegram channel, the Free HK Christmas card attracted many participants, including hongkongers like Moon and his friends living abroad.
In October, Fung started the #freehkxmascard (Hong Kong Free Christmas card) campaign because he felt the right to protest was being attacked. The project was designed for peaceful, rational and non-violent protesters who felt they were not contributing enough.
People offered to translate Christmas greetings to different languages and write letter templates for people from different backgrounds. The team had 21 main members, with nine in Hong Kong and the others abroad.
New South Wales Hongkongers, civil organization of Australia, also collaborated with the campaign to make it possible. Fung said:
I think maybe peaceful protesters are able to do more than going to rallies. Spreading awareness to the world is a new way out.
I think maybe peaceful protesters can do more than go to demonstrations. Making the world known is a new way out.
Political figures have also been recipients of cards. According to posts by the Danish politician on Twitter Uffe Elbæk and of the Australian liberal senator James Paterson, both received Christmas greetings from the citizens of Hong Kong.
– James Paterson (@SenPaterson) December 18, 2019
Thanks to New South Wales Hongkongers for these amazing Christmas cards. Defend Hong Kong.
Paterson thanked the group for the Christmas cards. He published a photo of the Christmas cards with characters wearing masks under a calligraphy formed by words representing Hong Kong. The politician declared that they were his favorites.
In Elbæk's post, he posed with the Christmas cards he received and covered his right eye, a gesture that indicates solidarity with a volunteer doctor who suffered an eye injury during a protest in mid-2019.
Last day at my parliament office before holidays starts. I'm sitting behind some of the many, many Christmas greetings I have received from ordinary citizens from Hong Kong. I'm totally overwhelmed. I can only say one thing: #standwithhongkong and may the force be with you #dkpol pic.twitter.com/Vz9tle42w3
– Uffe Elbaek (@uffeelbaek) December 20, 2019
Last day in my parliament office before the Christmas break. I am sitting behind some of the many, many Christmas greetings that I have received from ordinary citizens of Hong Kong. I am totally overwhelmed. I can only say one thing: defend Hong Kong and may the force be with you.
In addition to politicians, participants also received responses from those who contacted Postcrossing, a postcard exchange project that allows you to exchange postcards with strangers around the world.
Fung said he understood that foreign countries had no obligation to help Hong Kong, but believed in the impact of Christmas cards:
If we forcefully shove data and facts (in) foreigners ’faces, they might be overwhelmed by the message and not read it. Christmas cards are more approachable to all walks of life.
If we give foreigners data and facts, they may feel overwhelmed by the message and not read it. Christmas cards are more accessible for all walks of life.
Moon said that the exchange of Christmas cards allowed Hong Kong people to address each one personally:
(W) e tried to connect with them on a one-on-one level, and that gave us a little bit more appreciation. They would be more open to receiving information about Hong Kong.
We tried to connect with them on a personal level, and that made them appreciate us more. They would be more open to receiving information about Hong Kong.
Fung said he didn't keep track of the exact number of letters that had been sent. However, he said that more than 30,000 cards were sent in November alone.
With the end of the holidays, Fung and his team are launching two new projects – Free HK Nengajo and Free HK lunar card to raise awareness of the movement's demands in the new year.
Fung said that Free HK Nengajo is designed for Japanese. Nengajo is a traditional form of New Year's greeting in Japan. Like Christmas cards, it is used as a way to connect with the older generations of Japan, who do not always deal much with foreign affairs.
Similarly, the free HK lunar card would also be used to make known that the New Year is not only for the Chinese, but for the whole world. Fung said:
I hope this event will inspire the peaceful, rational and non-violent protesters to carry on.
I hope this inspires peaceful, rational and non-violent protesters to move forward.
Although some might think that sending Christmas cards may not change anything, Fung said the idea may lead to the butterfly effect – the notion that a small change can make a big difference:
Never underestimate the power of your action… After all, our movement started with something small and turned into something massive.
Never underestimate the power of your action … After all, our movement began with something small and became something massive.
Moon and Fung were given pseudonyms to protect their identity for fear repercussions.
Heidi Lee is a journalism student from Hong Kong who lives in Toronto. He writes for the independent newspaper Eyeopener of Ryerson University since 2018.