Monday, October 20, 2014

My Monday evening plea

Let's hope the anwer is "yes" to the question posted
at the entrance to the Legislative Council Complex

stands near the gates to the complex

Please do good by Hong Kong and don't let the people down!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Hong Kong protest area photos taken this past week (Photo-essay)

Since September 28, the day I returned from my wonderful Japanese vacation which I still have yet to blog about, I've not only been preoccupied by what I now come to think of as the Umbrella Movement but have heard of family members arguing and friends quarrelling -- and some "unfriending" one another -- about the protests.

For many of us who have been to the protest areas: we are inclined to think "if only more people were more willing and less afraid to go and see what's out there for themselves..."  Then, we firmly believe, people would not only better understand the situation but also be more sympathetic towards -- and even inspired by -- what the Umbrella Movement's members are doing (or at least trying to do).

For those who have been relying only on the reports of -- and views given by -- others, here's adding my own.  One reader commented in a previous blog entry that "cameras don't lie".  I'll say that mine may be particularly truthful since I never do such as Photoshop my photos!

 Spotted at Admiralty this past Monday

 An artist's view of the Mongkok protest area
-- shared over at Admiralty

The scene in Central late Tuesday evening
(which, yes, was quieter than in nearby Admiralty)

A barricade at Central that was manned by the police 
on Tuesday night but looked to have been reclaimed
by protesters come Friday evening

Whose side would you rather be on: that of Totoro 

and do over at Admiralty

The people in the photo taken earlier this evening look relaxed 
but my friend and I were uneasy about the considerable number
of police vans about -- and grew even more worried when 
a bunch of them drove away with lots of officers with gear inside

For those who need a reminder: the protestors here in 
Hong Kong's greatest (defensive) weapons are umbrellas

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Thoughts on the protest area at Causeway Bay

Spotted at Causeway Bay this evening

After I wrote one of the messages in the above picture, 
an old guy nearby gave me a thumbs up! ;b 

If this were a normal Saturday evening, I'd currently be watching on TV my favorite association football team battling an opponent thousands of miles away.  But because these are unusual times in Hong Kong, I am instead blogging once more about a protest movement that, as recently as the afternoon of September 28, many people were doubting would survive into the next day -- and happily putting up a photo in which the "You'll Never Walk Alone" phrase which I hitherto have associated with an opposing football team is prominently displayed.

For the record: yes, I was in Admiralty once again this afternoon with a number of other people (at least 1,000 -- maybe over 2,000 at any one time?) -- and after dinner this evening, went and checked out the much shrunken Causeway Bay protest area that, in all honesty, I had expected to disappear before Mongkok's, not least because when the police moved in to remove some barriers and open up some roads in Causeway Bay, they did not meet with much resistance at all.

If truth be told, I got to feeling sometime last week that Causeway Bay was in danger of being a freak show and protesting akin to enacting performance art -- since it often felt there that tourists, casual onlookers and people posing for photos far outnumbered the Umbrella Movement participants.  Consequently, I found myself feeling more comfortable -- and inspired -- at the Occupy Admiralty area and began spending more time there rather than the area that's two MTR stops east of it.

At the same time, I felt and saw more "anti Occupy" dissent in Causeway Bay -- be it in the form of "anti" people yelling at protesters or rude and/or just plain pathetic messages written there (and then put up in the protest area itself!).  Re the latter: last week, I saw a sign purportedly written by a kid complaining that the Umbrella Movement protests had made it so that he no longer was unable to go to Central.  Unable to help myself, I scrawled a retort to "Take the MTR" on it!

This evening though, the mood was calm, and even positive and encouraging with a couple of speaker's "corners" having popped up and the speakers being listened to attentively and applauded when they finished saying what they wanted to.  And while there were some policemen milling about, they didn't appear aggressive -- and I would even believe that a few of them were actually listening to what some of the protesters had to say in a way that seemed unexpectedly open.

Seeing this got me thinking that the continued existence of the Causeway Bay protest area may indeed serve its particular purpose -- in that it may well be the space which doubters, who would not venture into Admiralty (because it's too strongly "enemy territory" for them) or Mongkok (because the atmosphere there is too intense and/or "grassroots"), can go to actually see and hear things for themselves and, at some point, maybe get "converted" to the cause.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Mongkok these past weeks and Admiralty earlier tonight

Occupy Mongkok on the evening of October 1

Protester-erected barricade at Admiralty earlier tonight

Earlier this week, a friend of mine disclosed that it would be his birthday this Friday and that he hoped to celebrate by sharing his birthday cake with Umbrella Movement members at Occupy Mongkok.  But Mongkok doesn't sound like a good place for happy moments today -- since this morning, there were reports of the police having cleared the protest site in that area and this evening, while I was out in Admiralty with three other friends, I was told by another friend that there were clashes in Mongkok between the police and protesters who were trying to reclaim the space occupied since September 28 by members of the Umbrella Movement.

I have friends who have played a part in the Umbrella Movement over in Mongkok (and at least four who demonstrated their support by spending nights sleeping on the streets there) but I only ventured out there once myself -- on the evening of October 1.  Even with one visit though, I noticed how the mood there was different from those of the other protest areas -- with it feeling by far the most intense of the four I visited that day.

Some time back, I came across an interesting piece on the Mongkok protest area and the people to be found there which made very good points about the important to the Umbrella Movement of this area and, also, the different vibe felt there vis a vis Admiralty and Causeway Bay.  And it was a bit surreal -- and hard to believe even -- that thousands of people could be protesting in a fairly relaxed fashion in Admiralty (and presumably also Causeway Bay too) this evening while Mongkok saw clashes that included the police once again using pepper spray and batons against protesters.

In truth, I also was surprised by the mellow mood of much of the large crowd at Admiralty this evening because of predictions made by a fair few that the police would be moving on to clear the protest sites on Hong Kong Island once Kowloon was completely cleared of Umbrella Movement protest sites.

Was it fatalism or a determination to enjoy one last happy hurrah before the movement's inevitable conclusion?  All I know is that the same civility and good manners that has characterised the Umbrella Movement for me continued to prevail in Admiralty tonight -- and ditto re the generosity that was exemplified tonight by several people (including one large extended family that looked to include grandparents and their grandchildren) going up to offer food to others as part of their support for this protest movement and its participants.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Umbrella Movement updates, and misconceptions hopefully waved away

White collar workers on a lunch break 
and pitched tents at Admiralty this afternoon

When in the area, it's hard to resist the urge to go
check out the messages on Hong Kong's Lennon Wall

Spotted at a Causeway Bay restaurant this evening

First, some updates: The seven policemen caught on video beating up a protester whose hands were tied have been suspended from duty.  Also, at a news conference this afternoon, Leung Chun Ying said he was open to holding talks with the students -- but with restrictions that make it sound like not much good will come out of them -- and again showed himself to be so deaf -- or, at least, have a tin ear -- to public opinion that his removal from office surely would immediately improve the chances of a more successful dialogue between the protesters and the authorities!
Now for some perspective: from recent emails that I've received from friends living outside of Hong Kong, the Big Lychee sounds like a super scary place to be in at the moment.  But the truth of the matter is that I continue to generally feel far safer here than in many parts of the world.

For one thing, despite so many police having been deployed to the protest areas, Hong Kong appears as free of crime these past few weeks as it usually is.  Secondly, life continues to go on as usual -- including in a law-abiding way -- in much of the Big Lychee.  Put another way: people may be upset with the police right now but that hasn't incited them to do such as loot, pillage, destroy... or even jaywalk more than usual (i.e., not much at all!).

Actually, I've thus far not heard of a single shop window broken or store looted by protesters -- or petty crimes such as pickpocketing having taken place in the often crowded protest areas where, furthermore, I've not seen a single person drinking alcohol and taking drugs, and only have seen or smelt a very small number of people smoking cigarettes.  Indeed about the only illegal acts that has significantly risen in numbers in the past two and half weeks involves acts of civil disobedience like sitting or lying on the roads!

And while it sure did feel pretty tense when I was in the "occupied" areas of Admiralty late Tuesday night and somewhat so also there Monday evening, the mood was pretty mellow at the same site at lunchtime today -- with the scene being one in which camped out protesters and office workers on their lunch hour, hung out in the space with the odd tourist or five. (Re the last group: I have to admit I'm not sure what to make of them, especially those from mainland China, but I do try to think positively that maybe they'll actually learn something while visiting the area.)

And on the subject of false conceptions or misperceptions: not every business in Causeway Bay or other sections of Hong Kong that continue to possess "occupied" space is against the Umbrella Movement.  While it's true that I've heard dissenting voices, I've also seen signs of support -- such as the yellow umbrella on the maneki neko (fortune cat) at one of the restaurants in Causeway Bay that I like to go to! :) 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Seen in the cold light of day

I don't think there will be many people wanting
to answer that call now...
Can they possibly be proud of their (colleagues') actions
and still believe that they are doing what's best for Hong Kong?

For those who don't know what I'm referring to, go here for one of many reports of Hong Kong police brutality which took place in the early hours of today.

The police and the protest areas tonight

Close to the PLA Central (Hong Kong) Barracks, the police 
openly lay out their gear for the public/protesters to see

 A police cordon stands between the protesters and

Police, with their gear nearby, on guard near the

A protester acts defiant -- but seconds later, is asked by
another protestor to be less confrontational

It's after midnight as I write this, and I'm dog-tired -- not least because after dinner in Central this evening, I decided to walk from Central to Wan Chai, being unable to resist heading to the protest areas to see for myself what's it like tonight.

In brief: the size of the protest area at Admiralty has contracted -- with Queensway now being open to traffic as well as the road in front of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, etc.  And I expect the area to contract some more in the next day or so, with Gloucester Road perhaps being the next "take back" target of the police.  

But trust me when I tell you that there are a significant amount of protesters out there still -- and this despite reports of the police having resorted once more to using pepper spray and even batons against them this evening.

At one point this evening I myself witnessed a hairy moment -- whereby a team of police equipped with Darth Vader-like helmets marched into the vicinity...but then laid out their weapons for people to see rather than actually make use of them.  Soon after, a bunch of plainclothes cops, to shouts of "CID", came running into the area.  In response, the protesters went on alert, with many slipping masks onto their faces and some goggles too.

The atmosphere tonight is definitely not as laidback as it was last night, and a friend who I met there told me that a scheduled outdoor film screening (of South Korean drama The Attorney) had been cancelled due to the tense situation this evening.  Even though some would deny it, there's also a sense that the end is nigh.

But many of these people are not going quiet into the night, without a fight -- and also one last hurrah at least.  And don't bet against them returning in force when the situation allows it, as the anger and indignation sure has not died down --  and may well have built with each passing day.