Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Music and Hong Kong protests

This evening, Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) broke the news that the Hong Kong government has delayed the passage of another contentious bill on top of their decision to suspend -- though not withdraw -- the much feared and hated extradition bill that brought millions of people out to the streets in protest last Sunday.  In a sign that the government has woken up to the fact that the people aren't exactly singing to their tune, the second reading of the national anthem bill, which seeks to imprison and/or fine the sum of up to HK$50,000 those who are adjudged to misuse or insult the March of the Volunteers, has now been delayed to at least after the Legislative Council's summer recess this year. 

Earlier today, RTHK also put out a news report about pro-Beijing lawmaker Alice Mak having handed out a profanity-laced scolding to Carrie Lam on Saturday, after the Chief Executive informed pro-government lawmakers of the plan to suspend the extradition bill.  It may be a public broadcasting service owned by the government of Hong Kong but RTHK sure is showing that it's not necessarily going to play the tunes sought by its paymaster; with stories of many of its staffers being pretty irate at recent government actions in Hong Kong, especially after one of its own was hit by a tear gas round fired by the police at the veritable war zone that the brutes in police uniform turned Admiralty -- and parts of Wan Chai and Central too -- into last Wednesday.

Perhaps that policeman had gone mad after hearing Hallelujah to the Lord sung too often at him by anti-extradition bill protesters.  For much more than Do You Hear the People Sing? or any of the other songs associated with the 2014 Occupy movement (such as Beyond's Under a Vast Sky), that 1974 hymn has become the anthem of the current Hong Kong protests (for an actually good legal -- rather than just religious -- reason, actually)!

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Yet another eventful day in beleaguered Hong Kong

Scene in Causeway Bay, on the way to Victoria Park, 

For one thing, she still has not offered her resignation -- nor that of any members of her government.  For another, she still has not withdrawn the much dreaded extradition bill she proposed that got her into this mess and threatens the city's political and economic future.  And while she's backpedalled somewhat from her previous description of protesters having rioted, her suggestion that she did not have the authority to judge if this was the case not only doesn't clarify matters but also sounds pretty ridiculous.  Furthermore, she still has not condemned the shocking police brutality that was on full and open display last Wednesday

Coming on the day after Demosisto leader Joshua Wong was released from prison and there came news of Hong Kong's high court considering an election petition by his party's Agnes Chow, who was barred from running in a Legislative Council by-election last year, Carrie Lam's latest press conference served to bring people back down to earth and remind us that there's still a long way to go before the Hong Kong government is going to give Hong Kongers what we want.  But while it's easy to feel despondent and despair that our goals will never be achieved (not least since it can feel like this terribly arrogant woman can never be made to acknowledge that she's really erred badly), it's worth remembering that just two Mondays ago, 777 had firmly stated that she was committed to seeing the extradition bill become law!

Since then, we have seen the suspension of that controversial bill which now has seen protest marches against it involving unprecedented numbers of people and more backpedalling by "Beijing's puppet" in the past week than she's done in ages.  And unless she actually wishes to increase the ire of the people (who can't vote for her but certainly can make -- and have made -- their disapproval and lack of confidence in her very clear) and risk further -- and more damaging -- shows of their utter contempt and distrust of her (and her government), she surely must go -- or be removed from office by her boss in Beijing whose many problems she now has added to.       

Monday, June 17, 2019

Report and added thoughts on yesterday's historic mega protest march in Hong Kong

It took far longer than 7 minutes to get from Victoria Park
to this point in Causeway Bay by foot yesterday!

Until yesterday, I had never ever walked on 
Lockhart Road on a protest march before :O

The scene on Harcourt Road last night :)

I live in a fairly conservative part of Hong Kong and often suspect that I'm the only person in my building who goes to pro-democracy protests.  So imagine my surprise yesterday afternoon when, after the elevator doors opened for me to get inside, I saw that nearly everyone already inside the elevator were dressed in black -- the designated color for yesterday's protest march -- and I wasn't the only one who got out and headed in the direction of Victoria Park -- the protest march's scheduled start venue -- afterwards. 

A day earlier, a couple of friends and I had discussed our worries that some people would decide to drop their protest efforts after Carrie Lam announced the suspension of the anti-extradition bill that has had so many Hong Kongers up in arms.  One reason was that gullible individuals might have looked upon it as a major concession on the part of her government even though it wasn't an outright withdrawal of the proposed bill that would allow for legal China extraditions in the future.  And in the wake of the unprecedented level and amounts of police brutality that took place in front of cameras and the media on the streets of Admiralty on Wednesday, there also was the possibility of other folks being scared off taking part in protests (despite the vast majority of them being overwhelmingly peaceful and non-violent).

The closer I got to Victoria Park though, the more I got to realizing that my doubts about there being a good turnout were unfounded.  And long before the protest's end, I knew that the turnout was more sizeable than the previous Sunday's -- which already had been one of the largest that there has ever been in Hong Kong!  

Once more, like with the anti-extradition bill protest marches that had taken place in April and last week, the organizers felt obliged to begin the march earlier than scheduled because of the greater than expected numbers of people who had turned up some time before the protest's official start time.  Unlike the case for quite a while though, yesterday's protesters had been allowed to assemble on Victoria Park's football pitches.  (In fact, my records show that this was the first time in some three years that this was so.)  And for the first time ever, all the lanes of Causeway Road were open to protesters right from the start of the march!

With all the lanes of Causeway Road and Hennessy Road opened for the use of the protesters, and sections of the likes of Lockhart Road, Jaffe Road, Gloucester Road and Connaught Road opened up as supplemental protest march routes, I literally found myself marching along new protest ground for parts of yesterday's event -- whose protesters were now also calling for the condemnation of this week's many instances of police brutality and the withdrawal of the designation of Wednesday's protests as riots and along with the withdrawal of the proposed extradition bill, and Carrie Lam's resignation.  But if you thought that all this extra space meant that movement along the protest route was much smoother than easier than last week, here's letting you know that it was far from the case.

Rather than this being the fault of the police, however, the fact of the matter was that the streets and roads were so packed with protesters that there often really wasn't much room to move!  All in all, it was estimated that some 2 million protesters -- more than 25 percent of Hong Kong's population of 7 million! -- turned up to be seen and heard over the course of yesterday's march between Victoria Park and the Government headquarters in Admiralty!!

Having started moving out of Victoria Park at 2.45pm (15 minutes ahead of the 3pm scheduled start), I only made it to the front of Sogo, the Japanese department store that's a Causeway Bay landmark, after 6.20pm.  And it wasn't until approximately 8.30pm that my group of friends got to Harcourt Road -- where I had last been on Wednesday afternoon and had got to thinking, after the events that unfolded later that day, that I never would have the privilege to sat foot on ever again.  

Before leaving Admiralty, we had one last thing to do: go to honor the protester whose death on Saturday night stunned a city already in shock at the events of the past few days.  And because the past few days' events have left us all feeling like we can't take anything for granted any more, I spent the rest of yesterday hoping that there would be no outbreak of violence -- and was so very relieved upon waking up and checking the news to find that was not so, and that peace has prevailed throughout today too.

All in all, I think it helped that the police appear to have not only reined themselves in since Wednesday's insanity but actually have a minimal presence at yesterday's protest march.  And I think it says so much that because -- not inspite -- of their general absence from the scene, the protesters were not only peaceful and in good spirits but also incredibly patient; with this mega protest march having been the very rare Hong Kong protest march where I didn't hear demands of "hoi lo" (Cantonese for "open up the road") even once in what turned out to be the seven hours or so (if I include the time spent getting into, and waiting at, Victoria Park and such) that I spent taking part in the protests yesterday! 

Something else very noticeable about yesterday's protests was that even while many of the participants were very upset and angry with Carrie Lam and the police, these emotions have actually been channelled in a most positive manner to produce actions that have left much of the world in awe and admiration.  Long may this continue, and I sincerely hope -- and it's worth noting that I'm feeling far more hopeful than I was this time last week or any day of the past week -- that all these efforts will end up not being in vain.  

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Today's anti-extradition bill protest march in Hong Kong

View from the ground in the early afternoon
 View from the air of the same protest march after night fall
(photo by Apple Daily

I'm feeling like how Stephen Vines felt on June 5th, 1989.  Do not underestimate the spirit of the Hong Kong people!  It really is awesome to behold.  (More tomorrow when I'll hopefully be less tired and more articulate!)    

Saturday, June 15, 2019

People power but it ain't over yet by a long chalk!

Note this!
We weren't imagining it.  Support for the proposed extradition bill that, if passed into law, would allow the sending of criminal suspects -- even ones on patently trumped up charges -- to Mainland China, where the rule of law is not the rule, among pro-Beijing circles in Hong Kong had dropped so much that Chief Executive Carrie Lam was obliged to suspend the controversial proposal "until further notice".

Even while opponents of the proposed extradition bill do have some cause to celebrate though, it is worth noting that "suspend" is not the same as "withdraw".  For this hated proposal is still technically and legally "alive" -- as in it could be tabled again and discussion of it resumed in the Legislative Council after just a 12 day advance notice of the intent to do so.

Also, "Bloody Carrie" actually went on in her press conference this afternoon to do such as refuse to step down (something that was being demanded very loudly by the attendees of last Sunday's mammoth protest march) and refuse to condemn the police brutality that was on show this past Wednesday as well as in the early hours of Tuesday.  Indeed, she continued to insist that a riot had taken place on Wednesday; this despite not a single store being looted or damaged, or a single store window broken over the course of Wednesday's anti-extradition bill protests.  In fact, it transpired that the luxury Pacific Place mall was a shelter for desperate protesters being pursued and hounded by the police with a crazed ruthlessness, the likes of which Hong Kong had never seen.   
So it's not like the people's grievances have really been addressed.  Consequently, there really should not be any letting up of pressure to get the anti-extradition bill dropped -- at the minimum -- and I urge all with even a smidgen of concern about Hong Kong's future if this very wrong proposal becomes law to go out marching in protest on the streets of Hong Kong again tomorrow!  

Friday, June 14, 2019

Space to breathe -- and reasons to hope? -- in troubled Hong Kong

Peng Chau's Tung Wan last Friday

View from Victoria Peak the day before that

This is all on top of the additional room to breathe that comes courtesy of the announcement that the earliest that the Legislative Council will continue their discussion of the hated extradition bill will be next Wednesday.  And while we continue to await confirmation that there will be no official objection to another anti-extradition bill protest march this Sunday, the sense is not only that it will be granted but that the tide might be turning against the proposed bill itself and also 777, with: the Chinese ambassador to Britain denying in a BBC interview that Beijing was behind the efforts to introduce the China extradition proposal; and a senior government official and pro-establishment legislator as well as 27 former government officials and politicians coming out today to indicate that support for the clearly deeply unpopular bill is wavering even among Carrie Lam's supposed allies.

Of course, it may well turn out to be wishful thinking -- but I am feeling the likelihood that this extradition bill will be passed actually being lower now than it was just two days ago.  More than incidentally, remember the saying that a week is a long time in politics?  Well, it sure feels like it when I look back at the week that has just past; with my having spent a good part of last Friday enjoying watching dragon boat races out on Peng Chau, and my having talked to a Danish visitor I met up on the Peak the day before about dragon boat festivals, like the one that was due to take place this weekend in Victoria Harbour but was cancelled as a result of the current political unrest.  Those were happier times and goodness knows that I dearly hope we can experience them again in Hong Kong.  

Thursday, June 13, 2019

In shock at what the Hong Kong police did and what some people actually believe

How I wish it had stayed at the level of staring contest yesterday 
As far as I know, Hong Kong is not (yet) a police state nor under martial law.  As I write this though, there are reports of the Hong Kong police bidding to go to university residential halls to search student rooms there; this some 48 hours after they went about stopping people with backpacks and asking to see their contents at Admiralty for a time (before they were confronted by pro-democrat lawmakers who rushed to the scene and got grossly outnumbered by civilians -- some of whom, it turned out, were members of a Christian prayer group meeting up to sing hymns in the area).
So the unrest here is not over by a long chalk.  And even though there were attempts to get things back to normal today after yesterday's insanity, I reckon it speaks volumes that for all of today, the upscale Pacific Place Mall was closed for business, and normally busy Admiralty MTR station was also closed for all of the morning and some of the afternoon; something that didn't even happen during the 79 days of the 2014 "Occupy" phase of the Umbrella Movement.  

Left in shock by the police brutality (more so, I reckon, than the actual political protests) that occurred in plain sight in front of cameras, the media and thousands of onlookers yesterday, many of us in Hong Kong spent today trying to catch our breath, trying to make sense of it all and re-thinking our options.  Quite a few of us also have been engaged in discussions, arguments, and a war of words and images on social media.  

The injunction to not talk politics (or religion) in polite company is well known.  And I do get the feeling that it'd be easier to have and preserve friendships if people don't discuss politics with one another.  At the same time, there's a school of thought that is of the opinion that it's valuable to talk politics with friends -- since, among other things, you might learn more about a person that way that will make you decide whether or not you really want to be or remain friends with that individual.
Here's the thing: I actually consider myself fairly open to being friends with people possessing a variety of viewpoints (along with being from a diversity of ethnic backgrounds, nationalities, age groups, educational levels, etc.).  At the same time though, there are certain lines of thought and opinion that, if crossed, make me disinclined to associate with those who do so.  
The key thing though these days, it can seem, is that we appear to be increasingly getting our news not only from a variety of sources but ones that are so divergent in opinion from one another that they fall into the category of "fake news" or untrustworthy sources for one even while being completely fine for the other.  And that, sadly, is what I've been encountering today by way of such as Facebook posts shared by certain Facebook friends.
More specifically, I've come to realize that I have Facebook friends who aren't only apathetic about what's going on in Hong Kong but also ones who actually believe that the protesters are violent thugs who have wronged society and caused the police terrible injury.  Fueled by what the likes of myself look upon as patently false assertions by 777 and the incumbent Hong Kong police chief of protesters having thrown bricks and sharpened poles at the police (but no photos of which appear to have been captured; and which no journalist on the scene, including those working for CNN, look to have witnessed), they appear to genuinely believe that the anti-extradition bill protesters who assembled at Admiralty yesterday were/are rioters.
While that's already pretty shocking to me, what really takes my breath away is their apparent tendency to look upon the protesters' "weapons" (e.g., plastic bottles of water, hardhats (which often were worn far more than thrown) and umbrellas (which I'm sure were used for defence against pepper spray far more than to, if ever, poke at the police)) and somehow make it seem as though they were as dangerous as the trained, armored police's pepper sprays, smoke bombs, tear gas (of which 150 rounds were fired yesterday -- almost double the amount fired during the whole of 2014's 79 day "Occupy" period) , rubber bullets and bean bag rounds!  

Honestly, this kind of thinking makes me want to cry.  One reason is because I'm not sure how it could ever be reconciled with those -- and I truly hope it's the majority -- who see police brutality and a totally unfair "fight" yesterday for what it is.  For another, while in Admiralty yesterday, I saw how so very young many of the assembled protesters were and, also, that those -- and far from all -- of them who were putting on "protective gear" were attempting to fashion "armor" from the flimsy likes of clingwrap and cardboard -- and it really pains me so that they have been so terribly mis-represented, and that those mis-representations are actually being believed. :(   

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

The end of Hong Kong as we know it?

Hong Kong, Asia's World City -- for how long more?

Not for long when there are clashes between the people
and the police (and the government)...

...and not for long when 777 doesn't do as the poster suggests!

Last night, I wrote down my hope that the Hong Kong police -- along with the protesters expected to converge at Admiralty today -- would keep calm and ensure that peace would prevail in Hong Kong.  And for a brief period of time today, that was indeed the case.  As luck would have it, those moments in time occurred when I went over to that part of the city where the Hong Kong government headquarters are located -- and I got to see scenes reminiscent of the more upbeat and hopeful moments of the Occupy phase of the Umbrella Movement.

After spending a few hours in the areas where thousands of protesters -- many of them young teenagers -- had gathered (and figuring that the protesters would be camped there for a while), I decided to go home for a break and a meal.  As it turned out, my growling stomach actually made it so that I was not around when the Hong Kong police decided to, first send smoke bombs and tear gas into the crowd, then fire rubber bullets and bean bag rounds at protesters

Thus it was that, from the safety of my home, I followed what unfolded (and continues to unfold) by way of news media live updates, tweets and live video feeds.  Over the course of the afternoon and this evening, I've read about and seen with my own eyes some pretty horrific actions, including of a policeman nonchalantly attempting to fire directly at a female protester standing just a few feet away from him and his gun, an unfortunate protester bleeding from his nose and mouth (and looking like he was very near death), and a bunch of policeman dragging a protester onto the ground and beating him up in a way that was merciless as well as brutal.  And lest it not be realized, all of those protesters were not wielding any weapons.  (That's par for the course in Hong Kong.)

Before the events of today, I had worried that the passing of the proposed extradition bill that's openly opposed by a very good amount of people in Hong Kong would lead to the end of Hong Kong as "Asia's World City".  Now, I wouldn't be surprised if what has happened in front of cameras and witnesses galore today (and consequently made known by various sources including the one that goes by the moniker of -- ironically named, in this case -- Hong Kong World City on Twitter) makes it so that the end of Hong Kong as we know (knew) it has already begun, thanks in large part to the efforts of Carrie Lam and the territory's thuggish police force. 

I, of course, hope against hope that this is not the case; this not least because so many Hong Kongers deserve so much better.  But when the Hong Kong government -- which, more than incidentally, is not a truly democratic one -- does not listen to, do good by or appear to actually care for its people... well, now surely people can understand why they've wanted to have genuine universal suffrage for a good number of years. :(

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

On the eve of still more scheduled Hong Kong protests

A message from 2014 that's still valid in 2019

 Sadly, the Hong Kong government's actions -- and that of its 
police force -- are prompting people to ask this question even now 

This past Sunday, over one million people took to the streets of Hong Kong to protest a controversial extradition bill that would allow the Communist Chinese regime to officially be able to get its hands on many people it decided were criminal (even while they were not so under current Hong Kong law -- like the booksellers who were abducted by them back in 2015).  If Hong Kong were a genuine democracy (and its official leaders consequently accountable to the people), this would get the Hong Kong government to think twice about ramming through this bill, if not downright abandon trying to get it passed.

Instead, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam (aka 777) reiterated her determination to press on with getting this clearly unpopular bill passed the day after this mega-sized protest in which approximately one in seven Hong Kongers took part.  And the Hong Kong police has continued its unlawful ways this evening by seeking to stop and search people in MTR stations, including journalists, and even establishments like a branch of McDonald's across from the Government Headquarters, and cars passing by that area; prompting the likes of the Chairman of the Swedish Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong to Tweet about how the Hong Kong government is seriously underestimating the reputational damage that its police force's misconduct has incurred, and that will be very difficult to repair regardless of whether the proposed Extradition bill gets passed or not.

Rather than be cowed by these actions, however, many Hong Kongers have become more defiant in their wake.  This can be seen by an exceedingly rare occurence scheduled to take place tomorrow in this city whose people have long been stereotyped as caring about making money far more than politics: strike action by a variety of businesses and organizations, including over 100 commercial art galleries and other arts organizations, along with other forms of protest, such as a work-to-rule action by bus captains and -- yes, really -- picnics by the government offices.

Already, late this evening, many people have assembled outside the government headquarters to make their presence felt -- and protest evident.  I dearly hope that no violence breaks out -- and strongly suspect that if it does, it will be (largely) the fault of the police.  So, more than any one else, I hope that they will keep calm for the love of Hong Kong. Otherwise, by tomorrow morning, many of us will be asking, with serious justification, "Where has my dream city gone?" :S

Monday, June 10, 2019

Musing on yesterday's historic mega-sized protest the day after

Protesters bid to get the police to open up extra lanes
along the march route yesterday

Eventually, all of Hennessy Road's lanes -- and more -- 
were opened up for the protest march! 

 Even so, many protesters took so long to get to the vicinity of
the scheduled end point that a key road leading to it was open again
to vehicular traffic by the time we got there that evening :(

I'm not going to excuse those protestors -- some of them reportedly barely in their teens -- whose tempers boiled over late in the day but here's pointing out that the Hong Kong police spent the good part of yesterday trying to frustrate march participants.  It started with their denying protestors entry onto the football pitches at Victoria Park (from where one would be able to take a more direct path onto Causeway Road to properly start the march) and then refusing for a time to open up extra lanes for the march -- whose large participant size they recognized when they asked the march organizers to start it at least 15 minutes ahead of schedule.   

In so doing, they caused march participants to have to stand for minutes on end at various sections of the route (with the apogee for my section of the protest involving taking one hour to move from one end of Pennington Street to another; something which normally would take less than 10, even 5 minutes).  Because of their employment of tactics obviously designed to delay and frustrate, many elderly folks and parents with children bailed out midway through the march, and some people ended up requiring medical treatment after standing for hours under the hot sun and in super crowded spaces. 

Those of us who stuck it out found ourselves out out on the road for six hours in my case -- which seems to be the average people took to complete the protest march and by no means the lengthiest time spent doing so.  In some cases, quite a bit of time and effort also was required to even get to the march start since up to five MTR stations were bypassed by trains for a time due to "crowd control" needs and there also were crazy queues for the Star Ferry to Wan Chai.

Eventually, all the lanes of Hennessy Road and even sections of road that aren't usually considered part of the protest march route (including a section of Lockhart Road I had hitherto looked upon solely as a bar area!) were opened up for the use of protesters.  Nonetheless, not only had darkness fallen by the time the group of friends I was with got to Admiralty, we also found our path to the official march end at the Legislative Council complex blocked since Harcourt Road was filled with vehicles once more.   

I'm not sure why that was the case but a friend suggested that the scheduled march time had elapsed long before we -- and a good many other march participants -- had got to the area; thanks in no small part to our having been held to a standstill at several spots along the march route by the sheer size of the crowd but also, I'm sure, delays created by the police.  (As veteran protest march participants have come to look upon it, the police seek to "play games" with protesters with the aim of frustrating people, and causing the less patient and tolerant to give up and walk away -- and with the possibility too of tempers coming to a boil and violence ensuing.)

As I understand it, the clashes between the protestors and the police that ended up taking place were because some people wanted very much to cross Harcourt Road over to the Legislative Council complex.  But if the police hadn't delayed and impeded the march progress, I'm sure the majority, if not all, of the over 1 million march participants would have been able to make it to the official march end without any violence ensuing.

On a more positive note: I not only found the sheer size of yesterday's protest awe-inspiring but that, if the official figure of over 1 million participants is to be believed (and why not when you see the crowd images?!), this means that approximately 1 out of 7 Hong Kongers were out protesting in the streets.  Something else I found pretty amazing was that this proposed extradition bill has spurred a number of people who had previously never taken part in an organized political protest in their lives to respond to the call for action yesterday (with one third of my group yesterday falling into that category)! 

As a friend said to me at one point yesterday afternoon, it is sad that there has come to be a time in Hong Kong when people feel that their lives and their Hong Kong is in serious danger.  (To put things in context: Hong Kong's current Chief Executive, Carrie Lam, has now brought more protesters out onto the streets at any given time than the likes of Leung Chun Ying and Regina Ip combined!)  At the same time, it also is heartening to see that so many people do care for Hong Kong and aren't prepared to take the authorities' proposed actions quietly and sitting down. 

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Protest march with over 1 million others in Hong Kong

Just a tiny section of the protesters marching against
the proposed extradition bill in Causeway Bay this afternoon
Crossing from Wan Chai to Admiralty several hours later
The message that Hong Kong people want to send to 
their government, and the watching world
I have been to protests with over 100,000 people before in Hong Kong -- including as recently as this past Tuesday (if you consider a candlelight vigil to be such) and this past April (if you don't).  And I can tell you that their numbers pale compared to the number of people who went out on to the streets of Hong Kong this afternoon to protest against the government's proposed extradition bill (which involves extraditions to Mainland China).

The organizer's of today's protest march estimate that over 1 million people turned up today to make clear their objections to the proposed extradition bill.  For my part, I can report that it took me close to six hours to walk along a route that I've done in a much shorter time because I saw an unprecedented amount of people out on the streets along with me this afternoon -- including a number of friends, and their friends and relatives -- all of whom clearly care very much about Hong Kong.
More later tomorrow.  In the meantime, I need time to rest and process what I've seen and experienced today.  At the same time, I know already to want to say thank you very much to those who made the effort to go out and take part in today's protests: one that was phenomenally large and that I truly hope will make a positive difference.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Dragon boat races in Peng Chau on Tuen Ng!

Dragon boats (and their rowers) getting ready to race!
In the thick of the battle (and paddling)!
The nearest I got to any dragon boat yesterday ;)
The day before this year's Tuen Ng festival, a Danish visitor to Hong Kong asked me if I was going to go look at the Chinese ships due in Hong Kong the next day.  After I figured out that she actually was referring to the dragon boats, I told her yes -- but that this actually was the first year that I'd be doing so!
Dragon boat racing is a big deal in Hong Kong, where the sport -- or, at least, the modern version of it -- originated in 1976.  Over the years, it's spread to a number of other territories and I remember going and watching dragon boat racing as a kid in Penang.  So I guess one reason why I've not been super inclined to check it out in Hong Kong is partly because it's not all that exotic an event for me. 
Another reason is that it's quite the thing for tourists and expats as well as certain local Hong Kongers to go watch the dragon boat races.  So I tend to associate these events with super large crowds (of which I really am not a fan), particularly the international dragon boat championships held in Stanley which a Japanese friend of mine regularly takes part in but I still can't bring myself to attend!
But when a friend living on Peng Chau told me about the dragon boat races being held there and assured me that they are very much a local affair, I was intrigued.  And what really convinced me was that, because the races would be taking place at the bay which her place looks out to, we would be able to watch it from her apartment balcony -- far away from the madding crowd (if such actually were to appear that day)!
As it turned out, she was absolutely right that Peng Chau's dragon boat carnival being quite the local and -- by dragon boat festival standards -- and low-key affair.  Indeed, I couldn't find any information about it on the usual websites with information about dragon boat races taking place at various Hong Kong locations, including ones as far flung as Tai O and Tai Po (such as the Hong Kong Tourism Board's); with seemingly the only publicity about the Peng Chau event having been disseminated on Peng Chau itself!
Leisurely watching the dragon boat racing in the company of friends while drinking alcoholic libations and a spot of lunch, I got to thinking of past experiences I've had of leisurely watching cricket in the company of friends in England and, also, Tanzania, and watching baseball in the company of a friend in the USA and Japan too.  (I guess it's because these are all sports with frequent pauses in between actual action that gives one ample opportunity to chat and relax!)  I also got to associating dragon boat racing in Hong Kong with boat races in England -- and thinking that if we were to do this again in Peng Chau next year, I'll ensure that there'll be Pimms to drink (along with the G&Ts and beer on offer this year)! ;b

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Thirty years on from June 4th, 1989

Thirty years on...

Hong Kong still remembers and mourns...

 This not least because people in Mainland China, including
those who lost their children on that day, are not allowed to

In addition, in Hong Kong, there was the horrified realization that come July 1st, 1997, the territory and its people would come under the rule of a repressive regime that felt it was justified to get its military force to have its tanks run over unarmed civilians as well as get its soldiers to shoot to kill its own citizens.  But rather than be cowed by Beijing, many Hong Kongers have responded by, among other things, making a point to remember -- and publicly commemorate -- what the Mainland Chinese authorities have tried very hard to get people to forget as well as stop caring about and holding a candlelight vigil in Victoria Park every June 4th since.

What with this year's being the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre, hopes were high that attendance at this year's candlelight vigil would be on the high side.  In the weeks leading up to this evening though, I had my doubts after discovering that -- in part because this Friday is a public holiday (ironically, the Tuen Ng Festival actually commemorates a Chinese patriot who commited suicide after his kingdom was attacked, and many of its people massacred) -- quite a few people I knew would be taking vacations away from Hong Kong this week.  In addition, I suspect that the Hong Kong Observatory's forecast of rain for this evening caused some fair weather folks to decide against going to Victoria Park at the last minute.

When I met up with the same friends I attended last year's June 4th commemorations with in Causeway Bay this evening though, no drops of rain were falling; and while some sections of ground were wet when got onto Victoria Park's football pitches, they were dry long before the ceremony's end tonight.  Indeed, the most moisture I felt on my person this evening came when, viewing a video of a representative of the Tiananmen Mothers, tears welled up: particularly when she mentioned that, in the 30 years since 1989, more than 50 of their members had passed away and she thanked the people of Hong Kong for continuing to commemorate the events of June 4th, 1989, and mourn the untimely deaths of their children.      

Midway through the event, I told my friends that I was disappointed that the football pitches didn't seem as packed this evening as I had hoped and worried that many Hong Kongers have stopped caring about what happened in Mainland China all those years ago.  (I frankly think this would be far more likely than that their having turned pro-Beijing.)  In addition, I know of one localist friend who had opted to attend an alternative candlelight vigil over in Tsim Sha Tsui this same evening.  

After leaving Victoria Park and returning home, however, I've learnt of latecomers (some of whom maybe decided to attend after this evening's thunderstorm warning was cancelled at 7pm) having had difficulty getting into the park because of the large crowds in the surrounding streets and heard of people being diverted to the grass lawn.  I also saw with my own eyes people milling about on the sidewalk next to the football pitches (some with lit candles in hand) as well as still other people (also with candles in hand) sitting on the basketball courts next to the football pitches -- and realized that attendance this evening was actually pretty good (and according to the organizers, at a record high)

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Scenic views from a boat sailing across Matsushima Bay (Photo-essay)

While the chance to have a kaisendon feast at the Shiogama Wholesale Fish Market may be a great reason to spend time in Shiogama, my main reason for going to that city actually was to go on a boat ride from there to the nearby town of Matsushima.  To be sure, one can take a train from Shiogama to Matsushima -- and, for that matter, a train from my Tohoku base of Sendai to Matushima.  But I figured that the boat ride across Matsushima Bay would be considerably more scenic as well as pleasant (and can confirm that since I did end up taking the train back to Sendai from Matsushima later the same day!).     

With more than 260 islands, most of them pine tree-laden (Matsushima means "pine tree island(s) in Japanese) and uninhabited, there's plenty to see on the boat trip across what's long been considered one of the top three scenic places in Japan (along with Miyajima -- which I've been lucky to already been to -- and Kyoto Prefecture's Amanohashidate).  I also like the boat travels at what seems like an optimal speed for enjoying the experience: not too quickly so you feel like getting to the destination matters more than the journey itself; yet not so slowly that things feel like they're dragging on and you pine (hehe) to get on shore long before the boat finally arrives in Matsushima town... ;b

 Three different forms of transportation in a single photo
taken while waiting for the boat to get going from Shiogama

A seagull flies past a boat berthed in Shiogama port 
as well as the boat I was on ;b
Definitely the most alien-looking island/islet 
I saw that day (maybe ever)!
Sunlight sparkling on the water adds to the beauty of the bay
Oyster farmer tending to his oyster beds in Matsushima Bay
Two of the pine clad islands that the bay's famed for
This islet got met thinking of a wave but friends 
have told me it brings to mind a whale
Puppet Ponyo pointing to an island that took her fancy :)