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  For another, she still has not withdrawn the much dreaded extradition bill she proposed that got her into this mess and threatens the city's political and economic future.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. :(