Drag queens and refugee stories: a tour of the ‘real’ Hong Kong

Tour guide Michael Tsang speaks to tourists during a tour visiting refugee communities in Hong Kong
Tour guide Michael Tsang talks to tourists during a tour of refugee communities in Hong Kong
Tour guide Michael Tsang talks to tourists during a tour of refugee communities in Hong Kong, China on August 21, 2021. The picture was taken on August 21, 2021. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

September 10, 2021

by Joyce Zhou

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Guide Michael Tsang was able to move tourists freely around Asia’s financial center in 2019, launching the city’s protest movement, explaining “one country, two systems” and giving them an economic Show the inequality scene.

As the coronavirus pandemic cut off foreign visitors and a sweeping national security law passed last year limited who could show Tsang’s tours, his business has been hit hard. So he moved to attract local residents with activism tourism, including the city’s LGBT movement and refugee community.

During an August tour he took 30 people to a drag show with a man named “Miss Tina Ugly Hair”, who styles herself after singer Christina Aguilera. Dancing up and down a bar in the city’s SoHo district in heels and a mesh top, Tina details some of her life stories before lip syncing and gyrating to the audience, who applaud loudly.

Karen Lai, who said she had a “very conservative” upbringing, called the experience an eye-opener.

“I realized my parents didn’t say anything like that,” Lai, 29, said.

Tsang, who left his financial job in 2016 to start Hong Kong Free Tours, said he wants to help bring harmony to society and connect people from different walks of life.

Tourism, which also reflects the city’s fading heritage, religious diversity, socio-economic inequality and housing crisis, is far from typical shopping and foodie trips.

“Society is so polarized these days, so we try and do something to try and resolve this issue,” he told Reuters.

One of Tsang’s tours visits the city’s famous Chungqing Mansion, a labyrinthine complex with ethnic restaurants, guesthouses and stores that sell everything from cheap phones to burqas.

Indian-origin Hong Kong-based social activist Jeffrey Andrews introduced travellers to small family-owned businesses inside the complex. He explained that some were apprehensive because the topics were often sensitive, including political and religious persecution.

“It’s really representing diversity in Hong Kong… that’s what our goal is – to connect people,” Andrews said.

22-year-old Sally C said that in addition to showing off her new stuff, the tour covered a lot of topics that Hong Kongers rarely talk about.

“We meet strangers and talk with more people,” she said. “I think it’s really fun, especially now that we’re stuck in Hong Kong, so I feel like I’m a tourist again.”

(Written by Farah Master. Editing by Gary Doyle)

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