Thursday, December 12, 2019

Looking back but also ahead six months after the police first shocked Hong Kongers with their brutality this year

Democratic Party chairman Wu Chi-wai was among 

A pretty sizeable crowd was also in attendance at the rally
Under the moonlight and other bright lights 
shining on Edinburgh Place this evening
A rally was held this evening in Central to mark the six month anniversary of June 12th: the first day this year that the police gave us a taste of the brutal and excessive ways that have made them so very hated and mistrusted by Hong Kongers.  (Little did we know then that so much worse was to come but even so, we were already appalled and horrified by what we saw that day.)   
A reminder for those with short memories: Until that day, there was but just one major demand on the part of those people who have been protesting for more than six months now.  Put another way: Hong Kong would, in all likelihood, not have been plunged into as much of a crisis as it now has been if Carrie Lam had withdrawn the extradition bill before June 12th -- rather than on October 23rd, as was the case -- or even announced her intention to do so -- like she finally did on September 5th.  And if the Hong Kong police had not so brutally attacked protesters -- the vast majority of them unarmed -- with the now all too familiar tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets, beanbag rounds and batons on June 12th.  
To be sure: in the following days, months and years, there would be defiant announcements of "We will be back".  Even so, many people felt for a time that the Umbrella Movement had died -- or, at the very least, that pro-democracy protesters had been badly defeated after the Occupy Hong Kong phase of the movement came to an end.
In general, there does seem to be quite a bit more analysis and reflection among protesters and their supporters this time around.  A case in point: a good deal of thought is currently being put into why Hong Kong has been relatively quiet in recent weeks; with one line of thinking being that the government had decided to de-escalate the police violence, expecting that the pro-Beijingers would win big at the District Council Elections, and couldn't proceed with a Plan B after that turned out to not be the case -- because, well, they had no Plan B as per usual! 

Returning to the subject of this evening's rally: it was organized by Ventus Lau, who's probably organized more protest events in the past five months (including the very first protest march Kowloon had seen in decades, maybe ever, back on July 7th) than he had the previous five years!  Other speakers at the event, all of whom the protests have turned into household names, included Wu Chi-wai (who demonstrated admirable courage under fire on June 12th), Roy Kwong (aka Kwong God),  and Civil Human Rights Front convenor (and newly elected District Counillor) Jimmy Sham -- whose speech included a "See you on January 1st" line that will have protesters marking that date in their diaries. 
In summary: even as we look back, we also are continuing to look ahead.  For not only is there a sense that the current protest movement still has a lot of life and fight left in it but, also, that Hong Kong's struggle for democracy is going to be one that requires planning and patience. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Reflections on Sunday's largely peaceful, yet not entirely tension- and incident-free, protests

Not against Starbucks per se but its association 

I had lunch today at an eatery favored by Twitter hero Hong Kong Hermit located just a few minutes' walk from where two friends and I had our post-protest march dinner on Sunday.  Unlike two days ago, I didn't have to walk past a gauntlet of riot police on the way to my dining venue.  And my post-meal journey home today also differed from Sunday's in being, again, riot police-free.

Ironically, two out of the four times that I caught sight of a group of riot police on Sunday were away from the march route and after I had finished the pro-democracy/anti-government  protest march.  Actually, as with the peaceful mega marches of June 16th and August 18th, the police presence was far less than at smaller sized protests where violence erupted -- and tear gas buffets were unleashed.  Still, this is not to say that there weren't moments of stress and tension during the march itself.    

Within the first hour or so of what would be a multi-hour march, a friend told me that some people had been pepper sprayed by the police.  I admit it: I pretty much shrugged at the news since I went into Sunday's pro-democracy protest prepared for worse to ensue; this not least since the previous time I had gone and assembled in Victoria Park, lots of bad stuff went on to occur -- so much so that, as a result of my experiences that November day, I now know what tear gas combined with smoke from lit fires smells like.

I did get more concerned though when my section of the march stalled on the section of Causeway Road just to the left of the Central Library; this since reports were coming in that the police had raised the black flag (tear gas warning) on Paterson Street in response to surely reasonable requests by march participants to open up more roads since a whole hell of a lot of people were clearly out on the streets that afternoon.  Rather than stay and fight the police, however, a "Be water" directive issued on Telegram and other channels sent people searching for ways to bypass the section of the march that had come to a stop and rejoining the march at a section further along that was flowing, however slowly.

The first time along the march that I actually caught sight of the police was in Wan Chai.  The first group I saw was standing to one side of the march route, looking fairly chilled even if determined to make sure that all the march participants stayed on Hennessy Road.  Closer to the police headquarters though, the atmosphere was much more fraught with tension as a larger number of riot police stood on the overhead bridges that the marchers had to pass under to get over to Admiralty

Things weren't at all helped by many of the march participants feeling a need to unleash a string of curses and expletives at Hong Kong's most hated.  Don't get me wrong: I understand the anger and disgust that many Hong Kongers feel towards the police.  But I also am fully aware that the local constabulary don't need much provocation to unleash tear gas and other brutal force at unarmed individuals.  So I really would have preferred for people to continue chanting "Five demands, not one less" or "Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong" rather than risk endangering others around them by giving in to their impulses to rain insults at individuals with weapons capable of inflicting a lot more hurt and harm than any string of words.      

The fortunes favored the protesters on Sunday though; with no tear gas having been fired despite tear gas warnings having been issued on more than one occasion that day.  When it's realized that the Hong Kong police have fired 16,000 rounds of tear gas -- along with 10,000 rubber bullets, around 2,000 bean bag rounds and 2,000 rounds of sponge bullets -- in the past six months, it can seem downright miraculous that Sunday's protests were as peaceful as they were.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

A mega protest march on a cool weather day (Photo-essay)

800,000.  That's the number of Hong Kongers that today's pro-democracy march organizers, the Civil Human Rights Front, reckons took to the streets on the last Sunday before this year's Human Rights Day and one day before the six month anniversary of June 9th's 1 million (plus one) person protest march.  

Many of us in today's crowd who are determined to persist until our five demands are met would not argue if the protest march attendance figures were actually closer to 1 million (and it might well be so since the official numbers apparently exclude those who joined the march closer to the heart of Causeway Bay or decided to leave east of Central).  After all, there were lots of people near the march starting point (i.e., Victoria Park) at around 4.30pm, when it was announced that the head of the march had already reached the scheduled end destination (Chater Garden) a number of kilometers away!  And aerial views courtesy of video clips like this and photographs like this and this should only add fuel to that impression. 

For those who welcome getting views from within a massive protest march instead or also, here's sharing a few of the photos I took this afternoon as I walked from Victoria Park (which I entered around 2.55pm) to the area around Chater Garden (which I reached at around 7.20pm -- close to four and half hours later!).  And while I do wish I had encountered Doraemon and a host of other interesting characters at today's march, I still had quite the experience -- not least because it really is quite the thing to behold the resolve and unity of so many seekers of justice and democracy, a good number of whom I have no doubt that I've been marching on the same route multiple times over the past few months...

It took me about 50 minutes to get onto the road from
Victoria Park to properly begin the march this afternoon!

Family groups with young kids is a regular Hong Kong protest 
sight; more unusual is people dressed for cold weather! :D

Checking out a hand-written sign of solidarity with other peoples 
point in the protest where blocked roads ahead caused us
to stand with (the rest of) Hong Kong for up to an hour!

After a short route detour prompted by fears of an impending 
tear gas buffet courtesy of the riot police, I rejoined the march 
further down Hennessy Road as the sun began to set
 Nightfall and we were just really getting going!

Mobile phone light show while marching through Wan Chai

the local constabulary these days cannot be underemphasized...

...and justice against police brutality really is a key demand
of Hong Kong protesters, and has been since June 12th

Thursday, December 5, 2019

My inner Pollyanna takes a beating but still goes on hoping against hope!

"Five demands, not one less" sign held aloft 
by a protester this past Sunday

"Tolerance" section of a banner hanging from an overhead bridge 
termporarily occupied by riot police that same afternoon

For much of this blog's existence, I had hoped that it'd help me to release my inner Pollyanna.  It's not coincidental that my second ever blog post was entitled "Ten Things That Make Me Happy".  These days, however, I often find myself using this blog to emote about that which irks, annoys, frustrates and even downright angers me -- after deciding that it's healthier for me to let off steam by communicating about it rather than letting it just fester inside.

It's in this spirit that I'm going to attempt to draw people's attention to what happened yesterday morning in To Kwa Wan: namely, a bunch of plainclothes police officers going about arresting students -- some of whom were dressed for, and apparently on the way to, school.  And if that's not enough to get one's blood boiling, one of the police officers decided it was entirely appropriate to pin one of the arrestees down by sitting on her head!

Then there's the utter contempt that Carrie Lam and her ilk have for Hong Kongers, which is getting more and more evident by the day -- as is their misjudgement of our intelligence.  It's not just the refusal to actually seriously consider the protesters' demands. (And yes, I know the extradition bill has been withdrawn but only after an unnecessary delay -- during which so much bad stuff occurred -- and oh so reluctantly.)  Rather, it's also the nonsense that these arrogant fools seem to expect us to believe. 

This week alone, the public have been asked to accept the following (I'm quoting actual Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) local news headlines here):-
- "Children, elderly should flee unruly protests: cops"
- "Govt workers, youth need more sense of identity: CE"
- "HK people don't know how to be citizens: Annie Wu"
- "Barbecue smoke worse than tear gas, says govt"
- "Carrie Lam good at crisis management, says Kuk chief"
I know not to take the words of by far the most unpopular Chief Executive in Hong Kong history seriously but I still have not trained myself to stop my eyes rolling, my blood pressure rocketing and my head aching upon reading such announcements. As for her recent assertion that Hong Kong's freedom has not been eroded: words almost fail me but not so Michael Chugani, whose latest opinion piece I'm linking to here and eloquent retort to Carrie Lam's freedom assertions I'm going ahead and quoting below:-
The group that organized mass marches at the start of the protest movement is now regularly denied a police permit for protests. Young people, such as Joshua Wong Chi-fung and Agnes Chow Ting, have lost the freedom to compete in elections. A foreign journalist was expelled for hosting a lunch talk by an independence advocate.
Hongkongers have lost the freedom to wear facemasks. Staff of Cathay Pacific and other big companies have lost the freedom to peacefully express views even when off-duty due to Beijing’s pressure. The education secretary has said even the freedom to enter university campuses should be restricted. Should I go on?
Postscript: against expectations and recent practice, the police issued a Letter of No Objection this afternoon for this Sunday's planned protest march organized by the Civil Human Rights Front.  Perhaps they're hoping that the recent drop in temperature will put off a good amount of people from turning out.  For their part, the more cynical protesters are predicting that the event will be declared illegal and asked to end prematurely -- like has been the case at way too many protest rallies and marches these past few months.  Even while I wouldn't be surprised if this were to happen, my inner Pollyanna still hopes that this will not be so. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

A part of Hong Kong that's seen protest action but also days of peace (Photo-essay)

Last Sunday afternoon, I marched from Tsim Sha Tsui to Hung Hom with hundreds of thousands of other protesters determined to not forget why we started protesting earlier this year and remind people that the five demands have yet to be completely met.  After the police tear gassed and shot pepper spray at people in Tsim Sha Tsui, the protests and general unrest moved onto neighboring Hung Hom, with the section known as Whampoa seeing more tear gas action in the evening.

A video clip showing Whampoa West district councillor, Kwong Po-yin, stopping riot police who had set foot into a private residential space in search of radical protesters to attack and arrest on Sunday evening from venturing further into the area.  "Do not step forward, you are agitating our residents. This is not how you de-escalate. Do you know what is de-escalate?", the pro-democrat politician -- who also happens to be an ER doctor -- demanded of the armed officers.  It is quite the sight and sound to behold.

As it so happens, I was in Hung Hom and Whampoa earlier in the week (and had taken the same cross-harbour ferry between Hung Hom and North Point that I did again on Sunday).  The following is a photo-essay of what this part of Kowloon looks like in calmer times -- though it's worth noting that the friend I was visiting there talked about how she happened to have had her apartment windows open one evening some weeks back when her area was tear gassed, with the result that her abode was filled with tear gas that required quite a bit of effort to wipe clean... 

On the cross-harbour ferry heading to Hung Hom
A uncrowded part of Hong Kong
 The parked tour buses point to the presence of (Mainland Chinese)
tourists but peace nonetheless prevails for the most part
 View from one of the apartments at Whampoa Garden

An apparently landlocked boat is the area's most 
easily recognizable landmark

Believe it or not, The Whampoa is actually a boat-shaped
shopping mall rather than an actual maritime vessel! 
One of my more "artistic" photography attempts in Hung Hom ;b
On a beautiful, sunny day, Hong Kong's troubles 
and woes can seem far away even if they actually aren't

Sunday, December 1, 2019

The uneasy peace is over but not so the protests and resistance

Protest march in front of The Peninsula this afternoon

asking people to "Never forget why you started" today

Protesting loudly despite a strong riot police presence

For some reason or other, the Hong Kong police issued letters of no objection to three different protest marches today -- the first time they had done this for any protest march since September 8th.   There were people who wondered whether this was gesture of goodwill from the local constabulary or if it was all the trap.  But the first, which took place this morning -- and whose aim was to express concern over the impact of police tear gas on children's health --  took place without incident.  And ditto re the second, which was planned as a thank you gesture to the American government for passing the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act earlier this week

Consequently, hopes were high that the third protest march of today, staged to urge the public to remember their fight for their five core demands -- and in doing so, serve as a reminder that Carrie Lam and her Beijing overlords have still not bowed to the will of the (majority of Hong Kong) people -- would be peaceful too.  Indeed, many wo lei fei, believing that this would be the case, turned up to publically protest -- in a number of cases, with young children in tow or senior citizen parents for company -- for the first time in months.

Upon getting to Tsim Sha Tsui at the official start time of this afternoon's protest march, I found a veritable sea of protesters at the official start venue: the area around the Clock Tower.  It was the largest protest crowd I've seen in a while, in fact; and one whose large size I think that both the police along with march organizer had not expected to have to deal with.  Sadly, the police turned once more to their usual, dubious "crowd control" methods involving prematurely revoking their permit for the march and then tear gassing the crowd that I can personally attest to having included children, elderly folks, people in wheelchairs and musicians playing Glory to Hong Kong on such as a saxophone while marching along the route.     

As it so happened, I was far enough away on the occasions that the police employed tear gas and other weapons on protesters today.  At the same time though, I was close enough to the action that I worried -- like was the case the last time I was in Tsim Sha Tsui for a protest -- that police actions would cause a stampede that would end up with me getting hurt along with hundreds, if not thousands, of other people as we frequently found ourselves in super crowded as well as log jammed situations.   

Fortunately, I managed to extricate myself from that scary situation and ended up being among those who managed to get to the official march end over in Hung Hom.  I must admit to thinking a bit before I went ahead and decided to take a ferry over to North Point -- whose reputation for being a pro-Beijing bastion gained added notoriety after thugs sought to attack pro-democracy protesters there back in August.  And despite warnings issued from a fellow passenger for people to be on the lookout for danger, I manage to get home safe and sound from there.         

What with tear gas and pepper balls also having been fired at Prince Edward last night, it is looking like the peaceful window opened by protesters has been shut once more by the police.  To those who go on and on about "violent protesters": please do realize that us protesters really have tried to give peace a chance time and time again.  Also, that the sheer size of many a protest in Hong Kong makes it so that it really is hard, if not downright impossible for the crowd to disperse quickly -- and that it really doesn't help when people trying to move along get tear gassed in the bargain.