Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Umbrella Movement at Lion Rock, Admiralty and elsewhere in Hong Kong

Spotted at Admiralty earlier today

A popular area for lunch at Admiralty

Among the thousands of messages at 

The unrest continued in Mongkok today but as serious as it was, the big news that people were reporting to one another via social media, phone messages and other means was about a group of climbers hanging a giant yellow and black banner emblazoned with the Chinese characters for "I want real universal suffrage", an umbrella symbol and the words "Umbrella Movement" on Lion Rock.* (To watch a video explaining why this action was undertaken, go here.)

I was lunching at Admiralty when I received word from a friend about the Umbrella Movement on Lion Rock act.  Minutes before, I had been in an office high above Admiralty discussing the Umbrella Movement and 689's brazen comments about democracy and the poor with a woman working there who told me that several of her colleagues as well as her have taken to spending lots of time in the protest areas, including regularly at lunchtime but also after work and during the weekends.

And minutes after I finished my lunch and was strolling about in the area, I was hailed by someone else I knew and proceeded to have a fairly lengthy conversation with him whose topics included -- you guessed it -- 689's recent comments that have incensed much of Hong Kong in an interview South China Morning Post columnist Alex To has described as having "set the gold standard on how not to do a media interview for generations of politicians to come"!

Something else that I discussed both before and after lunch today was how the authorities seem to think that the Umbrella Movement has just a very few supporters as well as participants.  For example, during the talks held on Monday evening between Umbrella Movement representatives and the authorities, one of the latter looked to have inferred that people at home (rather than out in the protest areas at the time) all weren't Umbrelle Movement supporters; to which I wanted to shout out "Little do you know!"

On a similar note: In a letter to the editor published in the South China Morning Post a few days ago, someone drew the inference that there aren't many Occupy Central supporters out there because he hadn't seen anyone sporting a yellow ribbon while taking a ride in the MTR.  I hereby wish to tell that person (and interested others) that if they were to go to the protest areas -- be they in Central, Admiralty, Causeway or Mongkok -- they will find that not all people there sport yellow ribbons.  

Actually, I'd go so far as to say that very few of them sport yellow ribbons.  Also, not everyone in the area is clad in a black or yellow t-shirt.  For that matter, there actually can be seen quite a few people there who are attired in shirts, blouses, dresses, etc. rather than t-shirts of any color! Because lots of the people are more inclined to demonstrate their support by doing such as spending time in the protest area(s) rather than by altering the way they regularly dress.

Put another way: Umbrella Movement participants and supporters dress and look like the kind of people that you find in "regular" Hong Kong -- because, well, they are regular Hong Kongers (and constitute a far wider range than "just" "students", "radicals", etc.)!  And I bet that there are far more of them about and around than the authorities and "anti-Occupy" folks do or want to realize. 

*An update: a video has been uploaded on Youtube showing how the climbers got the giant banner hanging from Lion Rock (see here).  Well done guys (and at least one gal) -- and thank you for speaking out and lifting spirits up!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The inconclusive talks, and the eye-opening interview given before them

If only members of the government would come under the yellow 
canopy in the flesh (Yes, you may say I'm a dreamer but...)

So the talks between the protesters and the authorities finally happened... and as widely expected, neither side looked able to convince the other of the validity of its views.  But on the bright side, they were talking -- not shouting at and haranguing the other.  And Hong Kongers got to see and hear that the Umbrella Revolution representatives aren't radical revolutionaries but, rather, overly idealistic students at worst.

Also, it may be empty words but it's still interesting that Chief Secretary Carrie Lam included the following statements in her concluding remarks:-

- The framework for 2017 is not final.

- The government is considering how to make a report to central government to reflect people’s views.  

Still, far more illuminating to me -- and most definitely damning -- is 689's remarks ahead of the talks in an interview carried in The Wall Street Journal, the International New York Times and the Financial Times -- and reported by such as the South China Morning Post in the past 24 hours.  And while the International New York Times' article's headline read "Hong Kong Leader Reaffirms Unbending Stance on Elections", the South China Morning Post got closer to the crux of it with its headline of "CY Leung: 'Democracy would see poorer people dominate vote.'"

For those who missed it, here's the opening paragraph from the International New York Times piece: The Beijing-appointed leader of Hong Kong, Leung Chun-ying, said Monday evening that it was unacceptable to allow his successors to be chosen in open elections, in part because doing so would risk giving poorer residents a dominant voice in politics.

And here's more from the South China Morning Post's piece:-

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying told media that if the government met pro-democracy protesters’ demands it would result in the city’s poorer people dominating elections.

...Leung said that if candidates were nominated by the public then the largest sector of society would likely dominate the electoral process. 

...“If it’s entirely a numbers game and numeric representation, then obviously you’d be talking to the half of the people in Hong Kong who earn less than US$1,800 a month [HK$13,964.2],” Leung said in comments published by the WSJ, the FT and the INYT.

...Semi-autonomous Hong Kong has one of the biggest income divides in the world, with growing discontent at increased inequality and exorbitant property prices fuelling the protests which turned increasingly violent at the end of last week.

...Leung’s latest comments are likely to further fuel the anger of protesters who see him as hapless, out of touch and pandering to the whims of a small  number of tycoons who dominate the financial hub.

And this man is supposed to be a Communist?  Only under China's brand of Communism...

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 about -- and some "unfriending" one another over -- 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! :)