Saturday, October 12, 2019

Still protesting despite the many obstacles involved in doing so

A (surveillance?) helicopter hovered overhead
in Kowloon this afternoon
 Catching sight of Lion Rock in Sham Shui Po
Yesterday morning saw the dissemination of an updated Hong Kong protest schedule which included two protest marches starting half an hour apart from Tsim Sha Tsui.  Before the end of the day, updates came that the anti-emergency laws protest march would get priority.  However, other protest events scheduled to take place in various other parts of the territory this afternoon (including a 48-hour sit-in outside the police headquarters in Wan Chai by senior citizens) would go ahead as planned, and did indeed do so (including in shopping malls once more).
At the appointed time and place in Tsim Sha Tsui this afternoon, a crowd -- many braving the Face Covering Regulation and all fully aware that the police could appear to declare it an illegal assembly despite the Basic Law giving Hong Kongers the right to freely assemble and protest (see Article 27) -- assembled to do such as sing Glory to Hong Kong and vocally make their five demands.  Larger than the crowd that had assembled in Causeway Bay for a protest march the previous Saturday, it swelled, like last Saturday's, after the people got going and set off -- first along the edge of the Kowloon Peninsula and then northwards through Jordan, Yau Ma Tei, Mongkok, Sham Shui Po and up to Cheung Sha Wan -- with some individuals opting to go still further to Mei Foo.  
From what I gathered from friends and other sources, the tail end of today's march still was far back as Jordan after its head had reached its end destination.  So I'm more inclined to believe estimates of the protest's size as being in the thousands rather than just a little more than one thousand.  And while I was told that riot police had appeared along the march route at various points, I personally didn't spot any of Asia's not finest in Kowloon this afternoon (even while having done so after coming out of an evening film screening in Kowloon this past Thursday and while out grocery shopping on Hong Kong Island earlier today).
Part of me was indeed expecting to come across at least one team of riot police on the way home today -- since it's become par for the course for me on weekends on Hong Kong Island.  Thankfully, that was not the case -- and ditto re not catching any more whiffs of tear gas; something I particularly do not care to do sans protective mask.  Also quite the relief today was that public transportation was still running in the area where the protest march had ended -- again, not something one can take for granted anymore these days.  

Something those who harp about diminished protest attendance sizes in recent days and weeks don't want you to know: With each added week of protest (and we're into week 18, counting from June 9th -- when what was actually the third extradition bill protest march was held, with the first being back in March), it's not only gotten more difficult to get Letters of No Objection from the police for protests.  Rather, it's also gotten harder for people to get to protest events, and -- this even for peaceful protesters -- leave safely as well as conveniently after attending them.  
This is, of course, particularly after the MTR began pre-emptively closing down stations near protest events (even those which had received Letters of No Objection, like the Kwun Tong to Kowloon Bay march on August 24th) and, worse, began catering to the police rather than civilians.  Throw in the police stopping and searching buses, mini-buses, trams and such for law-breakers -- along with their pretty much taking to suspecting anyone dressed in black and/or who is young for being such -- and it should become clearer how inconvenient -- to put it mildly? -- it now can be to add one's voice to those seeking justice and democracy for Hong Kong.

And yet, people still keep on turning up to voice their love for Hong Kong and seeking what was promised under the Sino-British Joint Declaration of 1997 and Basic Law.  Which brings me to one more point I really want to make clear: that, contrary to popular misperception, Hong Kong's pro-democracy protesters are not restricted to those of a youthful age but, rather, also do have a good number of silver-haired representatives and those in the generation(s) in between

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Incitements to further protest by way of police actions and pro-Beijing politicians' declarations

In Ma On Shan in less troubled times
Hike's end this past Christmas
Things have been on the quiet side the past few days, especially compared to the day that Carrie Lam announced that she'd slap a face covering ban on Hong Kongers and the troubled weekend that ensued after its coming into effect.  This is not to say though that things have gone back to normal though -- with the Mass Transit Railway (MTR) still closing early and not all of its stations being opened for business yet -- and, indeed, there are some of us who feel that Hong Kong's former normal is gone forever.  
At the same time, however, there are many aspects of this current situation that we never want to come to accept as the norm.  Take, as an example, shopping malls being looked upon as zones of conflict; and this especially since the design of many Hong Kong malls makes it so that they connect up to residential complexes and/or offices and down to train stations as well as often house medical clinics, tuition centers and multiplexes as well as a variety of shops and eateries. 
It's almost hard to imagine it now but early on during the extradition bill protests, the Pacific Place mall over in Admiralty was seen as a refuge for protesters because people just couldn't see the police rushing into there to attack and apprehend them.  Especially since July 14th, when mall mayhem ensued in Sha Tin, however, the idea of the riot police effectively running amok in malls as well as the streets of Hong Kong and the MTR is no longer unthinkable.   

Even so, it was quite the shock for many to see -- the majority via video which quickly went viral -- riot police forcing themself through the closed doors of a mall and a line of security guards trying to protect the other people inside it this past Monday.  And as if this was not enough to get one thinking that our world -- or, at least, the local constabulary -- had gone mad, yesterday, it was announced that the police had gone and arrested four of the security guards along with a customer relations officer at that Ma On Shan mall!
Less surprising was that, after news of the arrests spread, local residents went and gathered outside Ma On Shan police station to protest that action.  Incidentally, this happened on the same day that pro-Beijing politician Maria Tam stated that the Face Covering Regulation looked to already have had a deterrent effect in what can seem like a dare to Hong Kong people to go out and protest some more.  And, actually, I don't think she has to wait long for more protests to occur as there's one planned outside Tsim Sha Tsui police station later today, World Vision Day, in tribute of the Hong Kong first aider hit in the eye by police bean bag round in that area on August 11th -- ahead of which the Mira Place mall announced that it would close early today.
Moving away from malls: I can't help but notice how many of the places where I often have dinner -- or, at the very least, taken public transportation from -- after a hike, such as Yuen Long, Tsuen Wan Tsuen Wan and Tai Po, have been the sites of protests and violence in recent months.  Considering how far flung they are as well as were previously pretty free of trouble, it's a further sign of how widespread the ongoing anti-government protests and unrest are.          

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Adding oil to Hong Kong's fire and resistance

Not the kind of adding oil we want to see!

I guess Communist China didn't get its wish on its 70th birthday...
Hong Kong's least popular Chief Executive ever held yet another one of her ridiculous press conferences today.  At least this one didn't take place at 4am and Carrie Lam didn't drop a bombshell at it like she did four days ago with her invocation of a colonial-era Emergency Regulations Ordinance to introduce a Face Covering Regulation.  However, she did raise many people's blood pressure and eyebrows with her statement that it's too early to say if that controversial -- to say the least -- regulation is a failure.

Consider this: the very announcement that the regulation would be implemented led to spontaneous protests that began with thousands of workers going out onto the streets of Central and spreading to virtually every other district of Hong Kong.  A good measure of the scale of the protests can be seen in the Hong Kong police having fired of a total of 267 rounds of tear gas, 106 rubber bullets and various bean bag rounds, sponge grenades and live rounds of ammunition between last Friday and yesterday.  And a good measure of the de facto shutting down of Hong Kong that ensued can be seen by way of the MTR shutting down earlier than is usual for a Friday night last Friday, not being in operation all day Saturday (bar for limited service between Central and the airport), having limited service and closing early at 6pm yesterday, and staying open only until 8pm today.   
Together with the regulation Carrie Lam introduced on Friday and the extradition bill she had sought to make law, the police brutality and officers acting like they are above the law when ostensibly enforcing the law is what has fueled so much of the fury that has made protesters out of peace-loving Hong Kongers.  It is utterly tragic when one realizes that if Carrie Lam had withdrawn the extradition bill before the police over-reaction of June 12th (rather than dragged her feet to do so until September 5th), pretty much all of the tumult that Hong Kong has undergone in the more than 100 days since may well not have taken place (and there would have been just one demand to satisfy the protest camp).
As it stands, many of the people out on the streets were loudly chanting this weekend that there were now six demands, not five -- with the sixth being the disbandment of the Hong Kong police force.  And possibly in light of Carrie Lam having added too much oil to the flames that are engulfing Hong Kong, protesters are no longer chanting "Hong Kong yan, ga yau" (Hong Kongers, add oil)" but, instead, the more incendiary "Hong Kong yan, fan kong (which has been translated both as resist, and revolt)!

Sunday, October 6, 2019

On the third consecutive day of protests fuelled by the Face Covering Regulation

The umbrellas were out for a purpose this rainy afternoon

than many probably expected would be the case

One big reason for doing so: wanting to assure a future
for oneself, one's descendants, and Hong Kong

Since Carrie Lam's announcement that she would introduce a Face Covering Regulation on Friday afternoon, protesters have been out in droves in various parts of Hong Kong for three consecutive days in the row.  Amidst the violence that has been wrought over the past three days of unrest (including the shooting of a 14-year-old boy by a cop on Friday night and some stores and banks with pro-Beijing associations trashed), it can be lost on many people -- especially if they are reliant on media outlets that emphasize dramatic, exceptional happenings over quiet, "normal" actions -- that the majority of these protests and protesters have been non-violent.

In the interest of balancing out the picture, here's drawing attention to the fact that tens (possibly even hundreds) of thousands of people -- young, old, couples, families, groups of friends -- took part in protest marches on either side of Victoria Harbour today.  Despite stormy weather and the knowledge that the events would be ruled as "illegal assemblies" by the police, they came out to peacefully -- even if also vocally -- exercise their rights to freedom of movement, assembly, demonstration and speech which supposedly is guaranteed in the Basic Law (see Article 27), and fight -- though not literally -- for their future, future generations, and that of Hong Kong itself.  

While they may indeed have been some people out there "for kicks" (as some folks have alleged), let me assure you that the physical conditions today made it so that being outdoors was most emphatically not most people's idea of fun.  Then there was the risk of getting maltreated by the police who, among other things, are not above arresting children, unleashing still more tear gas buffets and seemingly randomly turning on innocents, including journalists.

So how come so many people were out there today?  I'd partly chalk it down to their absolute fury and strong sense of indignation at how the authorities have so badly misjudged the situation, and also the spirit of Hong Kong -- one which is far stronger and stubborn than Beijing and its lackeys in Hong Kong seem to realize. 

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Hong Kong on the first day of the Face Covering Regulation coming into effect

People were encouraged to not venture out 
today, a Saturday, in Hong Kong

The march was blessedly peaceful -- thanks in large part to 
the police making themselves scarce for the most part

After making my way to the restaurant in Causeway Bay that a friend had booked a table for lunch today, we found the entire building -- not just the dining establishment in question -- closed for the day.  But even while the area was unquestionably quieter and more deserted than usual, there still were a number of commercial establishments -- including opticians, jewellery shops and such along with eateries and bubble tea stalls -- that had decided to open for business and we easily found another place to have our dim sum lunch!  

Although I did receive the distinct impression that the government wanted people to stay home all day today, many people decided against doing so: some through sheer force of habit; others as a form of protest against Hong Kong turning into a de facto police state.  Other anti-government resistance came by way of a legal fight continuing to be waged against the Face Covering Regulation that Chief Executive (in name only) Carrie Lam introduced using emergency powers.  In addition, a large group of protesters -- many with some kind of face covering -- took to the streets this afternoon and marched from Causeway Bay to Central to show that they will not be cowed by one additional reason that the police would use to arrest them.

When this group first set off on their march, my initial impression was that the protesters -- for whom the enactment of the Face Covering Regulation is just one more complaint they have against the Hong Kong government -- were in danger of being outnumbered by the journalists milling about and covering their protest.  But as it moved westwards, the procession swelled as it picked up participants along the way -- so much so that what had seemed like just a group of few hundred looked much more like one which numbered in the thousands after a while.      

And while today's Hong Kong Island march initially looked to be the only public protest "game" in town, developments later in the day showed that -- rather than the MTR shut down having gotten protesters to stay at home, it actually got them to protest closer to where they lived and in more areas than otherwise would have been the case.  Thus it was that, on the other side of Victoria Harbour, protesters assembled to form a human chain and march from Tsim Sha Tsui to Sham Shui Po, and still more protesters took to the streets in Yuen Long and Wong Tai Sin.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Another disastrous proposed piece of legislation for Hong Kong :(

Spotted on a Hong Kong road (and lest it not be clear, 
Pepe the frog isn't seen the same way here as in the USA)

Umbrellas, face masks and black attire are 
regular parts of the Hong Kong scene, protest or not!

Things were not helped by news having spread like wildfire yesterday of the Hong Kong government planning to invoke emergency laws to introduce a ban on the wearing of face masks at protests.  Among the reactions was this tweet from South China Morning Post reporter Chris Lau: "Just some thoughts and facts in perspective: If the anti-mask law goes through, it means the government thinks it's actually easier to evoke an emergency law than simply answer to the protesters' demand to have an independent commission of inquiry to get it over and done with".

And a Citizens' Press Conference organized by anti-extradition bill/pro-democracy protesters, a group spokesperson said: “We are not afraid. The Carrie Lam regime can’t frighten us off. The pro-government people like to boast that there are also anti-mask laws in overseas countries. It is laughable. Those are democratic countries. How can Hong Kong, a place where there is no democracy, compare with those countries?”

Despite rational-thinking people looking upon the proposed move by the government as  downright farcical -- to the point that some of us couldn't believe it would happen -- and inevitably going to add more oil to the fire already burning in Hong Kong, Hong Kong's most unpopular Chief Executive ever went ahead and announced this afternoon that a Face Covering Regulation would come into effect at midnight tonightBecause of the way she's gone about doing things, legal challenges are inevitable -- and at least one person has announced the mounting of a legal objection to this regulation

In the meantime, more protests and unrest have erupted across Hong Kong today.  (A good sense of how widespread the disruptions are can be seen by way of the entire MTR system being down tonight.)  And you know that the shooting of a live round into yet another schoolboy by a policeman tonight definitely is going to cause more blood to boil and flow beyond midnight and probably also well past the weekend. :(  

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Mourning, not celebrating, on the 70th anniversary of Communist China's coming into being

Riot police literally looking down -- and, I'm sure, figuratively 
too -- at protesters marching below past their perch

 What a whole lot of Hong Kongers believe

Celebrate China's National Day?  The mood's more along
the lines of Celebrate your mother in Hong Kong!

For a number of years now, the Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF) has been organizing protest marches on July 1st and October 1st.  Known for its ability to attract a large number of participants for its protest events, it also has a deserved reputation for organizing events favored by non-violent protesters.  Despite all this, the Hong Kong police refused to grant the CHRF a Letter of No Objection for the protest march it had planned for the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the People's Republic of China.  

But if the local constabulary thought that this meant that no major protests would be taking place on what's looked upon as a day of mourning -- not celebration -- for many Hong Kongers, they were proved wrong many times over once again.  For one thing, a quartet of pro-democracy activists stepped forward to organize an October 1st march whose route closely followed that proposed by the CHRF -- and decided that they would not bother to apply for a Letter of No Objection from the police for it.  In addition, in anticipation of the police rejecting the CHRF's proposal for October 1st, "National Calamity Day" protests were scheduled to take place in six other locales in Hong Kong.    

Although the authorities did their best to scare people into not turning out and making it difficult for them to get to protest locations, tens -- if not hundreds -- of thousands of people showed up at the appointed times and places this afternoon to show that they were not in a celebratory mood this October 1st.  The march from Causeway Bay to Central along the route traditionally opted for by the CHRF attracted the largest number of participants.  It also appeared to be the most peaceful of today's protests, with its offical conclusion having been announced by the organizers before things took a violent turn on Hong Kong Island in the manner of earlier developments elsewhere, including Wong Tai Sin, Tuen Mun, Tsuen Wan and Sha Tin.      

Lest it not be apparent that a large part of the violence emanates from the police rather than protesters: the headline news out of Hong Kong today is that a schoolboy protester had live rounds shot into his chest by a cop in Tsuen Wan this afternoon.  Ironically, just last week, Chief Executive In Name Only -- who wasn't even in Hong Kong today -- Carrie Lam took it upon herself to declare that it's remarkable that no one had died yet in this summer's protests (though, of course, she was not taking into account the protester suicides that have taken place).  But the way the police are carrying on, it really is seeming more inevitable by the day and week that there will be protester deaths on their hands (soon), if there hasn't been already.

Actually, considering that the live rounds that lodged themselves into the Tsuen Wan schoolboy were not the only ones fired this afternoon, it truly is a miracle that no one was killed by the police today.  Just a few days ago, I was lamenting to a friend that, whereas prior to this summer, my main worry when protesting was that I'd be pepper sprayed and beaten with batons by the police, now I worried that I'd get tear gassed when walking about in Hong Kong as well as during an actual protest.  After today though, the potential for greater harm wreaked by the Hong Kong police has come about as a result the shooting of actual live rounds threatening to be the norm -- like the firing of cannisters of tear gas, rubber bullets and sponge grenades more or lessWhich gives Hong Kongers one more reason to mourn on this anniversary given such great import -- and celebrated -- by Beijing.