Sunday, November 17, 2019

More agony for Hong Kongers on International Students' Day

Hong Kong is burning on the 30th anniversary

Messages on a cardboard mock-up of the Berlin Wall
erected this evening in Edinburgh Place, Hong Kong

What many Hong Kongers want

In a since superseded November protest schedule for Hong Kongers, there had been plans to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall with a rally at Edinburgh Place on November 9th.  But the death of Alex Chow Tsz-lok on the morning of the day before put a stop to what would have been a happy as well as peaceful protest event.  

Although Hong Kong's troubles have continued into this week -- and, in the eyes of many (including myself) actually increased in intensity and seriousness -- no such decision was made to cancel a rally at Edinburgh Place this evening to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the beginning of Czechoslovakia's Velvet Revolution (and defacto beginning of the end of Communism in Eastern Europe).  And while public transport problems had caused me to abandon plans to attend a rally in support of, and to praise, Hong Kong's firefighters and ambulance workers on Thursday night, I arrived in Central this evening with sufficient time to peruse the messages written and plastered on a cardboard wall that had been erected there, and even add a couple of my own!   

A few minutes after 7pm, the rally officially began with announcements, including of the main themes of today's event, in Cantonese and English (with sign language interpretation also utilized at the rally).  A video was also screened which began with a look at Eastern Europe in the years immediately after the Second World War, included film footage showing the emergence and rise of Poland's Solidarity along with the creation as well as fall of the Berlin Wall, and ended with a recap of recent events in Hong Kong.

Also shown at the event were video recordings of what took place over in Mainland China in the summer of 1989.  And it once more tore at my heart to see idealistic students with little idea of what lay ahead for them and their country on June 4th of that year as well visual documentation of the massacre that Hong Kongers have continued to commemorate and mourn even while many Mainland Chinese can't, won't or are outright ignorant about.  

Three other things compounded the agony of this evening's re-watch of the massacre of students by the People's Liberation Army 30 years ago.  First was the fact that we were doing so just meters away from the Hong Kong headquarters of the same military force under the absolute control of the Chinese Communist Party.  Second was the same People's Liberation Army having ventured out into the streets of Hong Kong yesterday afternoon for what was clearly a propaganda stunt that I sincerely hope that the vast majority of Hong Kongers can see through (and thus react to with horror).  

Most upsetting of all was that midway through this evening's events, participants were sharing images posted online of Hong Kong Polytechnic University in flames (on the evening of what happens to be International Students' Day) and messages of the Hong Kong police having threatened the protesters there with the use of lethal force, resulting in an exodus of a good portion of the rally's crowd -- presumably to head over to try to help out the beleaguered protesters over across Victoria Harbour.  In all honesty, this was one of those occasions when one gets incredibly tempted to cease being a wo lei fei (peaceful, rational, non-violent) protester and one could sense the frustration and shame of people who elected to stay at Edinburgh Place and be so.  

A friend visiting from Germany invoked the protests led by Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King last night as examples of successful non-violent movements and why Hong Kong protesters should eschew violence.  But when I asked her if she thought Gandhi or King would have successful against the Nazis, she fell silent.  

And yes, I know that it can seem like a cheap shot to some to compare Communist China to the Nazis.  On the other hand, one can't deny that Communist Chinese leaders have been responsible for a whole lot of atrocities and deaths, including of democracy-seeking university students and their supporters at Tiananmen Square.  Also, it can't be too much exaggeration to state that, after what happened over at the Chinese University of Hong Kong on Tuesday, people have good reason to fear that the Communist China-backed Hong Kong police may carry out their version of the Tiananmen Square massacre at Hong Kong Polytechnic University tonight. :(   

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Mid-week musings on what has been a really bad week in Hong Kong

Protest graffiti in Taikoo Shing
Not installation art but brick road blocks!
While things could be said to be quieter on Wednesday than the two preceding days, we're still talking about a day with ample violent clashes around the territory and major traffic disruptions to prompt various universities to suspend classes, some for the remainder of the semester.  Also, there is a distinct sense of fear spreading -- at least among store owners as well as individuals -- with a number of shops, eateries and bank branches closing early for the day in my neighborhood despite it actually turning out to be one of the parts of Hong Kong that didn't see any violence yesterday.  In addition, last night was the second time this week that a Hong Kong Asian Film Festival screening I had a ticket for was cancelled, with the cinemas closing early: something they don't do even when Typhoon Signal No. 8 is hoisted! 
Amidst the death and destruction though, many Hong Kongers still are spiritedly resisting and showing support for one another as well as the anti-government protests that now have been going on for more than five months now (even if you "just" count from June 9th rather than the dates of the two earlier anti-extradition bill protests which took place in March and April).  You might say it's inevitable, given how the government has lost all credibility (not least because it's shown itself to be controlled by Beijing), but the fact of the matter is that protesters are taking risks and making sacrifices to exercise what rightfully should be their freedoms of speech, movement, assembly and such. 
Amidst the horrors of this week, I'm going to take heart from the fourth consecutive day of lunchtime protests in Central not having elicited tear gas being shot in that part of town today (unlike on Monday and Tuesday) -- and the lunchtime protests having spread to Quarry Bay and Taikoo Shing this afternoon.  So too that a rally to show support for firefighters and first aiders took place at Edinburgh Place this evening.  And that, despite there having been so many attempts to destroy them, Lennon Walls old and new are still blooming in various parts of the territory. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Another terrible tear gas-filled weekday in Hong Kong

A quiet corner of the Chinese University of Hong Kong
on a day that feels like an eternity ago

A sight I loathe and never want to get used to seeing

A week or so ago, I was talking with a friend about the sad situation that Hong Kong currently is in. At one point, she said: "We must never get used to this."  These words resonated with me and I found myself quoting them to a couple visiting from England earlier today when discussing the turmoil and unrest that has beset this part of the world that I still very much love.

More than incidentally, on my way to meet that couple in Central this morning, I found myself in an MTR station crawling with riot police (the sight of whom I'm honestly getting pretty sick and tired of, and tends to fill me with foreboding -- I think with good reason).  And while I thankfully managed to escape inhaling more tear gas today, that by no means is because the local constabulary have reined in their use of it in recent days in Central and elsewhere.       

The main battleground today has been the campus of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, with the police having attempted to storm it since this afternoon and the battle still ongoing as I write this blog post.  After raining tear gas and rubber bullets on students for hours, the police have now also deployed one of their water cannons.  

I know of at least two friends have headed over to try to help the students there.  My unfamiliarity with the campus, among other things, have made me not join them.  Following what has been happening online, I feel so helpless as well as so very upset.  At one point this evening, I found myself shedding tears: probably the first time this has happened not as a result of tear gas since June 12th, the first time -- but sadly by no means the last time -- this year that the actions of the Hong Kong police got me shocked and filled with horror.    

When will it end?  How will it end?  This I know: the more the police fire tear gas at students, business executives and other office workers, area residents of various neighbourhoods, passersby (including children), etc., the more people they get angry at them.  And these include short term visitors to this fair city like the English couple I was with earlier today -- who arrived into town on Sunday, got tear gassed yesterday while strolling around near their hotel in Central but, hopefully, did not inhale more tear gas again today (what with the police having fired more of this chemical weapon in Central another two times over the past 12 hours)!   

Monday, November 11, 2019

A Remembrance Day to remember with horror

One can't help but wonder if the District Council elections will go on 

No one cares about Midway -- the battle and movie -- 
with skirmishes going on in Sai Wan Ho and elsewhere today!

Did the riot police check out what was on Sai Wan Ho's 
Lennon Wall while in the area this afternoon?

After Saturday was unexpectedly peaceful, I expected some action to unfold on Sunday since I know that plenty of Hong Kongers still feel that they have a lot to protest about as well as seek revenge for It had been suggested that protesters go "shopping" from 2pm but while I did catch sight of riot police standing guard outside Times Square yesterday afternoon, I didn't witness any protest action taking place in that shopping mall -- or for that matter, any other part of Causeway Bay -- when I was there.  

Upon returning home that evening though, I saw reports of there not only having been protests in a number of shopping malls in other parts of Hong Kong but also their descending into skirmishes that had the police firing more tear gas and making more arrests.  I proceeded to spend a number of hours glued to my computer following the news -- and was particularly disinclined to go to sleep until late last night as a result of watching a live stream and reading reports of journalists seeking in vain to locate a man beaten up by police at Festival Walk into unconsciousness; with many strongly suspecting that that he had been killed and that the authorities were going to hide his death, like is believed to have been the case at Prince Edward MTR station (on August 31st)

It would not be an exaggeration to say that I had dark forebodings last night of what would ensue in the next 24 hours or so.  And things were not helped by my knowing that protesters had called for another general strike to take place today, Remembrance Day.  Nonetheless, I still wasn't prepared for the news that greeted me after I woke up this morning and began checking to see what had already happened: not only of widespread transport disruptions having already occurred but also protesters having been shot with live rounds by a police officer at Sai Wan Ho, with one left critically injured though you'd not know by the way he was being treated by the members of the local constabulary in the immediate aftermath.  

Soon afterwards, I came across a video of a traffic cop using his motorcycle to ram into protestersEspecially with the police appearing to feel like they have a license to kill, I really did get a sense that there would be carnage on the streets today; and this since, unwilling to let up even after the shock actions of the morning, the police soon returned to Sai Wan Ho and gave the residents there even more cause to get angry by unleashing tear gas onto the area.  

Amazingly, even though one increasingly gets the sense that the police can't kill us all but wish they could, there still was protesters determined to resist out on the streets of Hong Kong beyond Sai Wan Ho today -- and, frankly, so much of it that it's well nigh impossible to mention them all in a single post.  As an example though, the Central Business District once again saw lunchtime protests by area office workers this afternoon.

Late into the night, the protests are continuing and so too the clashes.  To put it mildly, Hong Kongers remain very angry and defiant as well as distraught.  For Hong Kong has fallen further along the deepening cycle of violence than many of us could ever have imagined just a few short weeks or months ago; with the likes of the evening of the peaceful Hong Kong Way feeling like an eternity ago, never mind those days before Carrie Lam decided to go about proposing an extradition bill that has brought millions of people out on the streets and, sadly, way more violence than we ever wanted to see too.   

Saturday, November 9, 2019

An eventful Friday night followed by an unexpectedly peaceful Saturday

One of the many Lennon Walls still up in Hong Kong

Seen at Victoria Park late last Saturday: Yes, Hong Kongers 
still are asking for the fulfillment of "Five demands, not one less"

I wrote up yesterday's blog post ahead of my going over to the Broadway Cinematheque in Yau Ma Tei to attend an evening screening of dissident Iranian director Mohammad Rasoulof's Manuscripts Don't Burn (which has no crew or cast credits besides his own to protect the others who worked on this daring film from retaliation by the state).  Upon exiting the cinema, the friend I was with -- who's visiting from Germany and was rather shaken up by the movie, like she was by what weekends in Hong Kong now are regularly like -- commented that at least conditions in Hong Kong still are nowhere as bad as in that Middle Eastern country.

Seeing the text message that popped up on my phone, I told her to not be so sure.  At the very least, we were going to have to brace ourselves to deal with some amount of danger right there and then, as another friend had alerted me to black flag (tear gas) warnings having been hoisted and a police officer had fired a live round at around 10pm in the area where the cinema was located.  And when we got to our bus stop over on Nathan Road, it became clear that stuff was indeed going on further up the Kowloon Peninsula that made it so that we would have to find alternative transportation back to my home and her hotel.

This being Hong Kong (where the infrastructure is pretty good, etc.), a red minibus soon appeared and whisked us to the places we wanted to within minutes -- and, in fact, faster than on the usual bus route because its driver opted for a route that bypassed the central part of Causeway Bay.  Upon returning home and going online, I discovered why: for crowds had gathered and protests had broken out in Causeway Bay along with Mongkok, Tseung Kwan O, Sha Tin, Tuen Mun, Yuen Long, Tsim Sha Tsui, Central, Aberdeen, Tsuen Wan and elsewhere that evening.

Predictably, the local constabulary had reacted by firing more tear gas that evening, including into Tsuen Wan MTR stationAsia's finest (not!) had also inflamed the situation by doing such as arresting and beating up -- the latter when in the process of arresting -- more people, and were heard shouting "Go back to spawn, cockroaches. Come and revenge [the student protester whose death has plunged much of Hong Kong into mourning]. We celebrate with champagne today!"

In addition, on a day when nerves were already fraying, they decided it would be a good time to go about announcing the arrests of at least seven pro-democracy lawmakers -- including "king of votes" Eddie Chu Hoi-dick -- who had attempted to stop the progress of the now withdrawn extradition bill in the Legislative Council back in May; a move many see as a further attempt to provoke pro-democracy protesters into giving the government enough justification to cancel the District Council elections scheduled for later this month.

If truth be told, I expected today to be another day when protests would turn violent -- and am happy to have been proved wrong.  Considering that riot police showed up to a memorial event that paid tribute to Alex Chow Tsz-lok at Admiralty this evening, I credit the restraint of both sides -- but more so the mourners present -- for their restraint.  For the record: there also was a memorial event held at Tseung Kwan O this evening.  It too also appears to have been free of incident and violence.  So, yes, mass gatherings and protests still can be peaceful; this especially when the police presence is minimal or the police present are able to control themselves from firing pepper spray, tear gas or live rounds, including when there is no clear and present danger to themselves!    

Friday, November 8, 2019

Hong Kong mourns again 
"Rest on the other shore and wait for our good news.”

Back on June 15th, Hong Kong's most unpopular Chief Executive in its short history as a Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China announced the suspension, but not withdrawal, of the hated extradition bill whose very proposal sparked off the months and months of unrest that Hong Kong has been beset by.  That same day (which happened to be the day before the largest ever protest march Hong Kong has ever seen), a 35-year-old protester plunged to his death at Admiralty -- and while it is not certain to this day if his death was accidental or a suicide, it is commonly accepted that he gave his life to the anti-extradition bill cause.

Amidst the reports of "the first anti-government protester death in Hong Kong", there were those who tried to suggest ways to write about it in ways that didn't make it sound like more anti-government protester deaths would be inevitable.  The longer the protests have gone on though, the sad fact of the matter is that other protester losses of life have become reality; with a number of (other) suicides coming amidst a noticeable growing mental health crisis in the territory.

At some point during the summer though, the fear of more protester suicides was supplanted by the fear as well as suspicion that the Hong Kong police had killed people and were disguising some of these deaths in the form of suicides.  This was tied to the events that took place at Prince Edward MTR station on the night of August 31st (where it has come to be believed by many that deaths occured but have been covered up), and also the goings-on at San Uk Ling Holding Centre (from which have filtered out reports of detainees having been sexually abused and physically tortured in other ways). 

Then, after people started getting shot by police officers -- initially by bean bag rounds and rubber bullets, then by actual live rounds on Communist China's 70th birthday -- came fears that protesters (the vast majority of whom are unarmed) would be killed by the police.  Considering the amount of protesting that has been done in the past five months or so, it is a miracle of sorts that it has not happened until now.  Sadly, however, that "lucky" streak ended today: with the death this morning of Alex Chow Tsz-lok, a 22-year-old university student who died from injuries sustained on Monday night after he fell from height during a police clearance operation in Tseung Kwan O.

The continued uncertainty over what caused him to fall -- with an early suggestion being that he was running away from tear gas fired by riot police being joined later by a suggestion that he had been trying to escape from pursuing riot police -- as well as accounts of the police having delayed the ambulance for him for up to 30 minutes absolutely do not help the situation.  But the probability is low indeed that any proper investigation will be conducted into the circumstances of Alex Chow's fall even though many observers are agreed that it should be carried out

Already this afternoon, protests have erupted in various parts of the territory in mourning of his death.  I fully expect this weekend to be similarly, if not more, protest-filled; with the spontaneity and emotional intensity of today's protests reminiscent of those that took place in the aftermath of the announcement of the Face Covering Regulation which caused a further escalation of protests and violence, the reverberations of which have continued into this month and week.  

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Continued resistance on Guy Fawkes Night partly fueled by dramatic events that took place two nights ago

Passing by a Lennon Wall at Tai Koo this past September

In my previous blog post, written on Sunday night, I wrote of protests and riot police invasions in a number of shopping malls around Hong Kong having taken place that evening and expressed my hope that the local constabulary wouldn't fire tear gas into those enclosed spaces.  While that mercifully did not happen, that doesn't mean that there was no tear gas shot at all that evening -- with the police having filled the air of Tai Koo (as a departing "present" to the area whose resident had  made it patently clear that they were not welcome) and Tseung Kwan O that evening with what appears to be their favorite "non-lethal" weapon of choice.   

I've seen photos of the attack in Tai Koo and its aftermath, and they are seriously terrible.  Sadly, they are not the most horrifying visuals I've seen from that night -- with that "prize" going to those showing a young man under police arrest in Tseung Kwan O who was hit with batons until his whole head was covered in blood and who, it has emerged, had been attacked by police officers after he had sought to aid the critically injured student who the police appear to have delayed ambulance access to for 30 minutes.

According to at least one report, the prognosis for the critically injured student is really not good.  There is speculation that he is currently being kept alive only by way of machines, and for fear that his death will inflame protesters still further.  On the one month anniversary of the implementaition of the Face Covering Regulation, which also happens to be Guy Fawkes/Bonfire Night, it's not like anti-government/police Hong Kongers need a further reason to protest -- but what happened to him on Sunday night has indeed been cited as to why at least some of the people have gone out onto the streets once more tonight.

With the Hong Kong police intent on denying people their freedom of assembly, one just knew that there would be a police reaction to tonight's protest actions.  In Tsim Sha Tsui, a water cannon was deployed and further arrests made.  (The number of protest-related arrests have increased exponentially by the month; with October having seen almost double the number of September's, and more on the first three days of November than in the entire month of July.)  And, all too predictably, still more tear gas has been fired in Tseung Kwan O, the part of Hong Kong where a young man reportedly seeking to flee from tear gas sustained injuries so serious that there is genuine fear that he is not going to last the night.