Sunday, July 21, 2019

Left close to speechless by today's events

Early on in today's protest march, so much sweat was already shed
Messages that have been ignored today :(
Please don't have the efforts of so many be in vain!

It's late, I have to work tomorrow morning, I'm still catching up on what's happened in the time that I finished today's protest march (at around 7.30pm) and then went to have dinner and a long chat with a friend.  So I'll direct you over to a blog post of a friend whom I marched along with earlier today, and just add that blood, sweat and tears have been shed for Hong Kong today and it's all not over yet. :(

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Natural and other sights along Stage 3 of the Wilson Trail (Photo-essy)

I haven't been out hiking for some weeks now -- not because I've been too busy protesting (against the government's refusal to withdraw the extradition bill that got millions people out onto the streets) but, rather, because of other factors such as it having been so hot that I've come down with heat rash so extreme that I've felt like there are invisible pins sticking into me!  So, this summer, I've ended up joining the ranks of those Hong Kong hikers who take a break from their favorite outdoor pursuit during the hottest months of the year and content myself with looking through my photo archive and waiting for a nice, cool day to arrive that will see me bounding up one -- or more -- of Hong Kong's hills once more.

And actually, even in those years when I've gone hiking in the warmer along with cooler months, there are certain trails that I'd not consider going on when the temperature and humidity are on the high side.  Among these is Stage 3 of the Wilson Trail -- whose 9.3 kilometer length shouldn't be scoffed at, and more so when one also takes into account its routing taking those who go along it up to the top (or near enough) of not one but three Kowloon peaks!

This section of the Wilson Trail is notable for passing
through scenic parts of the Hong Kong countryside that 
actually aren't designated areas within the country parks...
 Something else noteworthy is the expansive views one gets 
while going along it of the very large Junk Bay Chinese 
Permanent Cemetery located on the eastern side of Devil's Peak
It's hard to avoid having to go up at least one hill
when out hiking in Hong Kong...
...and it's true enough that what (and who) goes up,
will have to come down at some point!
One of those scenic views that makes the effort that goes
into hiking feel very worthwhile indeed :) 
How many Hong Kong hills have been quarried for
their stone or levelled in the name of development?
are no more and feel sad that this is so
 Hopefully these farmed lands are still around as I do 
think that their existence adds to Hong Kong's charm...

Friday, July 19, 2019

More on -- and of -- Hong Kong's Lennon Walls!

Notice that colorful pedestrian overpass in the distance? 

A closer look reveals that much of its color is thanks to hundreds, 
if not thousands, of post-it notes stuck on its glass walls

Like other Hong Kong Lennon Walls, there are messages
written in English along with Traditional Chinese characters

A friend living in the US asked me earlier today whether there are protests daily in Hong Kong.  I can understand why, especially from a distance, this can appear to be the case as about the only time that Hong Kong gets mentioned in international news report these days, it's with regards to the many and large anti-extradition bill protests that have taken place over the past month and a half now.

But while it does appear to be so that not a single weekend has gone by since June 9th without at least one protest against the still not yet withdrawn extradition bill -- and, increasingly, Carrie Lam and her government as a whole and police brutality too for good measure -- there remain many week days that are free of protest: that is, if one excludes doing so on social media and on Lennon Walls; both of which have become serious battlegrounds along with the streets themselves and, occasionally, also shopping malls.

Tai Po's Lennon Wall -- which is more of a tunnel as it's really very long and large -- has been particularly targeted by "blue ribbon" protesters, no doubt because of its size and prominence in the public imagination.  Early today came news of pro-government individuals having been bussed in (some say, from Mainland China) to deface it in the hours of the morning.  Even while this act aroused some ire and disgust, people aren't taking it too much to heart as there's confidence among those who have had a hand in creating the Lennon Walls and making them creative environments for people to express their solidarity with one another along with frustrations at the government that the Tai Po Lennon Wall is not only going to be restored but also grow bigger.   

As of July 16th, there were over 130 Lennon Walls in existence in Hong Kong.  And at the Hong Kong Book Fair yesterday, I saw at least three mini Lennon Walls erected by different companies, with messages on Post-It notes contributed by various book fair attendees.  In addition, yet another Lennon Wall has sprung up on a pedestrian bridge near the fair venue

Pedestrian bridges and overpasses appear to be popular places for Lennon Walls.  In the past week, I've come across three in three different parts of Hong Kong -- with the one in Causeway Bay being particularly impressive and, here's a sign of our troubled times, manned by a volunteer presumably on the lookout for those sad individuals with destructive tendencies who evidently don't agree with the messages posted on the Lennon Walls that include ones urging people to do such as "Love Hong Kong" and with such apparently inflammatory sentiments like "Hong Kongers, don't give up"! 

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Many protests add up to a big picture of a Hong Kong united in opposition to the extradition bill and Carrie Lam's administration!

Journalists turned protesters to condemn police violence 
and defend press freedom this past Sunday
The Fourth Estate ensured there were lots of photo ops
during the event ;b

Earlier this evening, thousands of silver-haired individuals took part in a protest march in support of younger extradition law protesters.  Although nominally a silent march, it seemed like many of the participants couldn't resist the opportunity to give voice to their demands (such as in this Tweeted video clip, where they can be heard chanting "Carrie Lam, step down" in Cantonese).

The assembly point for today's march was Chater Garden, the site of protest rallies organized in recent weeks by mothers who also wanted to show that the extradition bill is not just the concern of young Hong Kongers.  With a far shorter route than, say, those for the mega protest marches of June 9th and 16th, many people who would have had major difficulty completing those others were able to take part, including a silver-haired attendee with one leg who propelled himself along on crutches.   

I have to admit: that photo of that determined individual caused me to well up.  It also got me thinking back to an assertion made by someone who refuses to believe that the majority of Hong Kongers are against the proposed -- and supposedly now "dead" but not yet withdrawn -- extraditioon bill that even if it really was the case that two million people went out into the streets on June 16th to show their opposition to it, the fact that "only" two million people did so meant that there still are over five million Hong Kongers who have no problems with it.   

More specifically, I think that assertion doesn't stand to reason because I am sure there are lots of opponents to the bill whose physical health makes it so that they are unable to go out on the streets to protest against it; and this particularly so since some of the marches are now getting so many people out on the streets at the same time as to literally bring traffic -- foot and vehicular -- to a standstill!  And then there also are people unable for other reasons to take part in the protests, including because they have to work on those days and at those times that those protests are taking place.  

Among them are those members of the Fourth Estate whose job it is to cover the protests.  And while it might be said that the press is supposed to be impartial, the fact of the matter is that, especially after being subjected to police brutality or witnessing this happening to their colleagues -- or "just" fellow humans -- in recent weeks, it is only to be expected that they will end up taking sides.  Thus it was that, this past Sunday, Hong Kong journalists and their supporters staged a protest of their own -- against police violence and for press freedom -- and that at this event, signs calling for Carrie Lam to step down along with such as the Hong Kong colonial flag were in evidence as well as blown up photographic evidence of inappropriate policing that has taken place at recent extradition bill protests.    

Taken by themselves, today's silver haired protest march and the press' on Sunday might not amount to much, especially in terms of numbers of participants.  But I think the fact that they have taken place and are among a whole series of protests occuring in various parts of Hong Kong that have included ones organized by mothers and will include one by social workers later this week as well as more "regular" protest organizers like the Civil Human Rights Front says a great deal about the level -- and varied circles -- of opposition that there is to the extradition bill and Carrie Lam's administration in Hong Kong society these days. 

Monday, July 15, 2019

A peaceful protest march in Sha Tin yesterday sadly followed by mayhem in an area mall

At the protest march in Shatin yesterday afternoon

 In the town center, residents on the overhead bridges above 
were cheering the protesters as they passed below

On the other hand, the police -- many without warrant cards displayed,
as should have been the case -- were in a less cheery mood

On yet another weekend of protests in Hong Kong, I elected to sit out the one in Sheung Shui on Saturday but went marching with a few friends and thousands of other extradition bill opponents in Sha Tin yesterday afternoon.  The first protest march that New Territories "new town" had seen in decades attracted far more participants that the organizers -- and probably pretty much everyone else -- had anticipated, and included first time protest marchers (like one of the friends who marched with me yesterday) and people who had not been out protesting in the streets for years (like another of the friends I was with yesterday who, until yesterday, had last participated in a protest march back in July 2003).   

Having also not gone to the anti-extradition bill protest march in Kowloon last Sunday or other protests held outside of Hong Kong Island, much of yesterday's march felt rather novel to me.  In addition to the route taking me through streets and past places I'm not that familiar with, there also was the interesting experience of marching past area residents: some of whom had turned up to watch the parade out of curiosity; others of whom had turned up to cheer the march participants on (as could be seen by their smiles, thumbs up gestures, applause and initiations of interactive chants of "Hong Kong yan ga yau" (Hong Kong people, add oil)!).  

Something else pretty noticeable was how the pace of the march was refreshingly quick for the most part compared to such as the million (plus) people marches that took place this past June 9th and 16th.  About the only two times, in fact, where the procession came close to a standstill was, early on, when people were exiting the football pitch that was the site of the official march start and at one road junction where the police wanted to ensure that a road that we were walking past would still be accessible to vehicular traffic.

While waiting to be allowed to cross to the other side of the road, march participants came up close to a bunch of police officers, some in uniform but quite a few of whom were not.  With time to spare to look around and look closely at one another, many of the march participants could not help but notice that a good proportion of the cops wearing vests atop their t-shirts did not have their warrant cards or any other form of identification displayed in the clear pockets of their vests -- which actually was a clear violation of police regulations
Almost needless to say, this did not endear the police to the protesters.  It also didn't help matters that the police did not offer any explanation of why sections of the march had been made to stop.  In all honesty, I think some attempt at that rather than just menacing glares and robotic repetitions of "Thank you for your cooperation" would have helped keep things calm and got more understanding.

In lieu of being supplied information by the police, people turned to online Tweets and such to figure out what was going on.  And it was through that medium that I learnt via a friend that one reason for our delay was that there had been a far larger turnout than expected and that the narrower streets that the march passed through could easily handle -- and, also, as my section of marchers neared Sha Tin town center, that there already had been incidents involving the police firing pepper spray at protesters nearer the front of the march.

Despite the latter reports though, we protesters kept walking along the designated protest route and the mood actually was quite cheerful even then.  After we got to the area by New Town Plaza (from where the Sha Tin MTR station is directly accessible) though, a good number of protesters decided to call it a day and make for the exit.  Most of the party I was with went for that option; with the one friend who lives in Sha Tin deciding to go all the way to the end of the march.  

As we walked through the mall to go and catch our train out of Sha Tin, little did we know that just a few hours later, New Town Plaza itself would be where utterly surreal scenes involving the riot police, protesters, shoppers and other people who had the misfortune to be in the mall when "Hong Kong's finest" (so not!) decided in their infinite wisdom to chase people into and through it.  In the ensuing melee, more than 20 people -- protesters and police officers -- were injured, two of them critically.  And while Carrie Lam and Co have once again made use of the word "rioters" to describe the protesters, still more videos and photographic evidence have emerged showing the Hong Kong police behaving badly. 

777 may not know -- or be willing to admit -- who really were/are in the wrong here.  But it's not for nothing that the police hunting for protesters yesterday were told in no uncertain terms by area residents to "Leave, just leave, everything will be fine if you leave.  [The protesters] will just go away if you leave".  Also, like in Mongkok the previous Sunday, there are stories of people who were there to just shop or eat ending up getting traumatized by the police.  Put another way: I have a feeling the police made more enemies with their behavior yesterday; enemies who may well decide to join future protests that now are calling for the police to be held to account for the brutality that now chillingly has become standard operating procedure as well as for the withdrawal of the hated extradition bill.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Thoughts on protesting in Hong Kong on the second anniversary of Liu Xiaobo's passing

At a candlelight march two years ago

Statue of the man that the candlelight march was 

A great man died two years ago todayHonored with the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010 and widely respected abroad, Chinese poet-philosopher-patriot Liu Xiaobo was punished with imprisonment multiple times in his homeland and died from liver cancer while on medical parole but still guarded by state security.   

Two days after his passing, thousands of people took part in a candlelight march in his memory in Hong Kong.  Among my strongest memories of that march is our long procession passing by startled Mainland Chinese visitors who appeared to have no idea who was the compatriot of theirs that we were mourning and who also probably were very shocked to see that a protest was being allowed to peacefully take place on the streets of a city that was handed back to their motherland in July 1997.

Sadly, in the two years or so that have passed, we have seen increased repressions in both Mainland China and also Hong Kong.  And while conditions in Hong Kong are (still) nowhere as bad as on the other side of the Hong Kong-Mainland China border, it is indeed appearing to be so that peaceful protests are no longer as much of a given as they were a little than a month ago. 

More specifically: since the police fired pepper spray, tear gas, smoke bombs, rubber bullets and bean bag rounds at anti-extradition bill protesters on June 12th, there have been a number of further violent disruptions of political protests on the streets of Hong Kong -- including earlier today in Sheung Shui.  And the way things are going, this is not going to be stopping any time soon; with incidences of inappropriate police actions of the kind that were captured on video here, here and here looking like they will in fact increase since it is looking more and more like members of the Hong Kong police are increasingly fine with, and brazen about, exercising excessive force against members of the public.

If they think their actions are going to make people afraid to take part in further protests though, I think that they couldn't be far wrong.  If anything, Hong Kongers have shown time and time again that their indignance at police along with other injustice actually results in more people turning up to take part in organized protests than otherwise might have been the case!  

At the same time, it's also true that Hong Kong protesters are more and more inclined now to make sure that they have some sort of protective gear with them.  For my part, even while there only been one occasion (thus far) when I felt a need to put them on, I do bring goggles and a face mask -- and, lately, a helmet too -- with me when I go take part in protest marches.  

To those who actually think this: of course I never have plans to attack the police when I go protesting!  Instead, I want to make sure that, in the event that they decide to do such as shoot tear gas or pepper spray into the crowd, I actually have some protection against the offending chemicals!

Something else that I actually didn't think needed to be made clear until I had certain discussions with people whose natural instinct it is to side with the authorities: yes, protesters are not unafraid; neither are we idiots.  But when asked to stand up for what we care for and believe, we will do so, not least because we truly fear what will happen to the Hong Kong we love if we don't do so.

The fact of the matter is that there have been enough instances over the years of protests not being in vain.  And while we were not able to save Liu Xiaobo, our continued fight for her freedom has surely contributed to his widow, Liu Xia, no longer being under house arrest and, since leaving China for Germany, having regained her health and even been able to recommence her artistic career.  

Thursday, July 11, 2019

A popular Hong Kong activity that's very much worth the sweaty effort! (Photo-essay)

Hong Kong is full of hiking enthusiasts.  Every one in a while though, I'll encounter someone who absolutely can't understand why people would willingly go hiking as they look upon it as involving too much sweaty effort as well as the kind of people who look at anything "wild" as something to be scary, harmful and consequently to be avoided like the plague!

More often than not, these people who look upon me like I'm insane when I tell them that easy access to good hiking trails is one of the pleasures of living in Hong Kong will have never actually given this particular activity a try.  When I learn this, I often find myself wanting to take them out to some place like Tai Tam Country Park and, if they're fit enough, up to the likes of Siu Ma Shan and Mount Butler, from where they can see wondrously scenic vistas on a clear day -- and then expect that they might then be able to see some merits to hiking in the Big Lychee... :)

In Hong Kong, one often goes from city to country, and also from 
sea level up over a hundred meters above that, in just a matter of minutes ;b
 One quick way to change elevation quickly is to ascend 
For the record: yes, I do pause for breaks when going up it
-- to catch my breath as well as drink in the views ;b
The view to the north from Mount Butler
The significantly less urban view to the south 
from the same Hong Kong Island peak!
Only after I got to hiking in earnest in Hong Kong did I realize
that the central part of Hong Kong Island is very green!
 It's indeed well nigh impossible to avoid having to go up 
(and down) lots of steps when hiking in Hong Kong... ;) 
But, as I find myself thinking time and time again,
the views one is then privy to really are worth the effort! :)