Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Marching with Hong Kong in 2019 and beyond

Five demands still being made on December 8th
March on, Hong Kongers!  Keep it up in 2020, starting with yet another mass protest on January 1st!  And to all the haters and doubters: remember, we are the majority -- and we are protesting because we really love and care for this beautiful place we call home!  

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Still protesting for the Hong Kong we love and want at the tail end of 2019

At Edinburgh Place this afternoon, rain be damned!

A long banner temporarily installed at Edinburgh Place 
with key protest dates and messages from protestors on it

A sample selection of protest messages and art

Edinburgh Place has been a favorite place for protest rallies in recent months.  Adjacent to Victoria Harbour and easy to get to via various forms of public transportation, it also can accomodate more people than nearby Chater Garden, which also has seen its share of protest rallies taking place there.  

Last Sunday saw me at that open space for the Solidarity with the Uyghurs rally and, despite the trouble that broke out there that caused the rally to be prematurely halted, I was back there the next day for a rally in support of the Spark Alliance.  And I was back at Edinburgh Place once more this afternoon for a rally to encourage pro-democracy protestors to keep on going into and in 2020 which, despite taking place in rainy weather and during the holiday season, attracted a respectable crowd.

I know there are people who want the protests -- or, at least, the unrest -- in Hong Kong to end sooner rather than later.  I too would like to see genuine peace return to the territory along with no more protestor arrests (which already number around the 6,500 mark) being made and the chances of encountering tear gas when doing such as walking towards the Star Ferry after dinner with a friend return to zero.  

Come to think of it, I also wish I didn't feel obliged to minimize my usage of the MTR and boycott "blue" establishments like Senryo (once my favorite sushi chain), Shake Shack and Yoshinoya.  In addition, it'd be nice to be able to have full confidence again that performing arts events that I want to go to will not get cancelled due to such as their featured performers deciding against visiting Hong Kong or that I could go to a favorite bar in an area like Lan Kwai Fong on Halloween.  Heck, I really do wish that I could feel okay when catching sight of the police in Hong Kong, safe in the knowledge that they are there to protect people than me rather than than threaten my safety.

The thing though is that Hong Kong can't return to what it was -- and that might not be a completely bad thing since, as one message on a wall had it, "normality was the problem".  Put another way: all kinds of things were being effected to try the tolerance of Hong Kongers and get the majority of Hong Kongers to hit a point where it was collectively decided that resistance was necessary, otherwise we would go on the path of no return as far as China-ification was concerned -- or, worse, have Hong Kong be turned into another Xinjiang.   

All in all, there are times when I'm amazed it took so many people in Hong Kong so long to get fired up -- about the proposed extradition bill but also genuine universal suffrage for Hong Kong.  But now that people are, it's going to take a hell of a lot to stop people fighting to see that all five protestor demands are met rather than just the one.   

Thursday, December 26, 2019

A Christmas Day hike away from the madding crowd and troubles (Photo-essay)

Perhaps it was psychomatic, but after getting tear gassed on Christmas Eve, I coughed up flam later that night and still felt like there was gunk in my respiratory system after I woke up the next morning.  A part of me wondered if I should abandon the Christmas Day hiking plans I had made with a couple of friends but there was another part that figured that a good hike would be a good way to get the remaining tear gas residue inside me out.  After listening to the latter, I'm glad I went ahead and had a day out in Lantau yesterday. 

As it so happened, there was more tear gas, pepper spraying (in ways which obviously violate their own internal police manual and international police codes of conduct) and general trouble from the Hong Kong police on Christmas Day.  All those goings-on over in Kowloon felt like it was happening hundreds, if not thousands, of miles away from where I was though for much of the day as the hike I went on took me far away from most other people to a marvelously scenic part of Hong Kong that not many people have been in.

On reason why the crowds are kept at bay is that 465-meter-high Lo Fu Tau (trans. Tiger Head mountain) is only accessible on foot and via pretty rugged trails to boot.  Thus it was that yesterday broke my three day streak of encountering riot police, seeing as I had been to protest rallies on Sunday and Monday that had attracted the local constabulary's attention and teams of them were in the vicinity of their venue: one more reason why yesterday's hike proved to be really enjoyable!

It was so unseasonably warm yesterday that some butterflies
looked to have mistakenly thought that spring had arrived!
See Mui Wo in the distance?  That's where we started  the hike from!
 It really is possible (still) to go away from 
the madding crowd in Hong Kong 
 It really was one of the hikes where the scenery seemed
to get more and more beautiful the further up one climbed :)
 Not far to go to the top from here... :)
Atop Lo Fu Tau, looking downwards to Discovery Bay
and past Peng Chau and Hong Kong Disneyland!
And yes, we had to hike all the way down afterwards 
but I was not complaining, with views like this along the way :)

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

A more eventful Christmas Eve in Hong Kong than I'd like

A very Hong Kong protestor Christmas tree
at Edinburgh Place last night
A significantly less festive scene 
at Tsim Sha Tsui this Christmas Eve
Happily, unlike with the previous day's event, last night's rally was not prematurely brought to a close by police actions.  And my sense was that yesterday's crowd was in an even more festive mood than that of the day before; helped in part by some of the protest displays temporarily erected in the area -- such as a rectangular blocks featuring Hong Kong protest imagery being erected in the shape of a Christmas tree -- marrying Christmas and protest themes.  
As a matter of fact, I'd go so far as to suggest that the crowd at yesterday's protest rally was in a far more festive mood than the crowd that I happened onto when I turned onto Nathan Road while making my way to take a ride on the Star Ferry after having drinks and dinner with a friend in Tsim Sha Tsui earlier this evening.  And this even more so after riot police decided to fire tear gas in the area despite there being lots of tourists, other shoppers and festive revellers there!        
Despite the organizers of a Christmas Eve protest march having cancelled the event (after the police had insisted that the event use an alternative route and take place at a different time to what had been planned), several hundred protestors showed up in Tsim Sha Tsui anyway.  I could be wrong but the fact that a good number of them were carrying Pepe the Frog and other plushies or dressed in a variety of interesting costumes gave me the sense that they weren't exactly planning to cause major havoc tonight.
But a few seconds after I had made my across Nathan Road and was standing in front of the venerable Peninsula hotel, a riot police officer made an arrest that involved his forcing his arrestee into a prone position right on Kowloon's main thoroughfare and then sitting on the arrestee.  Rather than cowing the crowd, it got a good part of it so incensed that they were howling at the police and demanding that the arrestee be let go.  After the riot police got the arrestee on his (or was it her?  I was too far away to tell) feet and was leading that person away, a good part of the crowd decided to follow -- at which point, I heard a loud bang and, shortly after, got confirmation that tear gas had been fired by way of my getting the noxious substance up my nose and in my eyes.
As I made my way to an area away from the tear gas, my prevailing emotions were that of anger and exasperation more than anything: as in, "how dare the police fire tear gas at us on Christmas Eve?!" Looking back, I think this is a sure sign of how tear gas encounters are no longer a surprise or shock -- because the Hong Kong police have become well known for their tear gas buffets and, also, since this was the sixth time that I had inhaled tear gas this year (with my first time having been back on August 5th).  And yes, it was in contrast to the obvious tourists who happened to be in the area; many of whom were looking about wildly or just plain uncomprehendingly and prone to stand stock-still in shock rather than scatter or walk purposefully away from the scene like the locals.

In my few hundred meters of walking to the Star Ferry pier, I came across four more teams of riot police.  Fortunately, I was out of Tsim Sha Tsui when the police decided to also unleash rubber bullets and pepper spray on people plus also brought in the water cannon truck.  But on my journey home, I could see that other parts of Hong Kong also were attracting the attention of the police.
Back on October 31st, the Hong Kong police sought to cancel HalloweenTonight, they are threatening to do the same to Christmas too. 'Tis the season to be jolly?  Not in Hong Kong this year, it seems -- though, thanks to the tear gas unleashed, it seems like Hong Kong may be getting a white Christmas of sorts in 2019!       

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Solidarity with Uyghurs by Hong Kongers faced with oppression

At a protest rally that was peaceful when I was there 
"Stand with Ugyhurs" was the main theme of this afternoon's rally
But as more than one sign noted, what's sought is for various peoples 
to stand together and act now against the Communist Chinese regime
Some two and half years ago, Xi Jinping came to Hong Kong for Carrie Lam's installation as Chief Executive and the massive security lockdown that was effected ahead of his visit got me having dark portends that Hong Kong could become another Xinjiang (i.e., police state within China).  While I may have been in the minority in harboring such thoughts and worries then, that's far from the case now.  
Indeed, I'd go so far as to suggest that one big impetus behind many Hong Kong protestors' stubborn resistance against what are overwhelmingly stronger and more powerful forces -- in the form of not only the Hong Kong government but also the Beijing regime behind it -- does appear to be the fear that if we give up the fight, Hong Kong people will suffer the fate of the Ughyurs of Xinjiang
In trying to explain to the world why Hong Kong matters, Hong Kong protestors have been attempting to send out the message that what Communist China already has done to Tibet and in Xinjiang, it is in the process of attempting to do in Hong Kong -- after which, the Communist Chinese regime will attempt to do to the rest of the world.  And it was just a matter of time before many people in Hong Kong got to realizing that we really should stand with the Uyghurs -- and, for that matter, Tibetans too -- since we have a common oppressor in the Communist Chinese regime.
For the record, the first mention I saw of Uighurs (aka Uighurs) by anti-extradition bill protestors was by way of graffiti on a wall of the Legislative Council Complex after it was broken into on July 1st (Specifically, "China will pay for its crimes against Uighur Muslims").  Since then, I've seen references to Uyghurs and Xinjiang on Lennon Walls and also signs carried by protestors at pro-democracy rallies and marches.  But it was only today that there finally was a protest event with solidarity with the Uyghurs as its main theme.
Held this afternoon at Edinburgh Place, the Human Rights Rally of Solidarity with Uyghur attracted a sizeable crowd despite the day's air pollution index being on the high side.  For what may well be the first time ever, the flag of East Turkestan could be seen at a Hong Kong protest rally -- along with the more familiar likes of Taiwan's, Tibet's, British colonial Hong Kong's, the United States of America's, Germany's and those calling for Hong Kong independence along with ones bearing the slogans "Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times".     

The enthusiastic flag waving not withstanding, my impression was that this afternoon's rally was actually not particularly impassioned.  All in all, I think the protest mood was peaceful, and even tempered somewhat by it happening to take place in an area that was fringed by Filipina domestic workers in a festive mood on their day off.  And the presence of protestors carrying Pepe the Frog plushies and drawings of cat memes, and eating ice cream from a Mobile Softee ice cream van parked nearby only made the protest rally seem less intense to me than a number of others I've attended at the same Central venue.    

After being there for 80 minutes or so, I decided to take my leave despite the rally still going on.  While I did spot some riot police in the vicinity while I waited for the bus that would transport me out of the area, little did I think that they would end up descending upon Edinburgh Place and prematurely ending the legal rally just minutes later!
Despite a black flag warning having been given, no tear gas had been fired though -- thank goodness for small mercies?  Actually, no, since the way things stand, it really does seem that the Hong Kong police care more about objects than for the physical safety of their fellow human beings.  Just like Hong Kong's supposed leader, Carrie Lam

Friday, December 20, 2019

Surely no protest de-escalation amidst further government persecution, prosecution and provocation?

How can there genuinely be peace in Hong Kong
when this continues to go on? :(

Earlier this month, the analyst known as comparativist (aka dr. trey) wrote about Hong Kong having been "quiet" lately. And if I'm not mistaken, there's "only" been two days of tear gas this December  (specifically the 1st and, two Sundays later, the 15th) compared to what seem more like daily tear gas buffets not so long ago. 

Still, it's not like the Hong Kong government has stopped persecuting and prosecuting people, including six people who gathered in a public park to practice parkour and nine teachers whose alleged wrongdoings involve social media posts. And while they are not (yet) among the eighty educators arrested since June, yesterday came the news that the police had arrested four members of Spark Alliance, a crowdfunding platform in support of pro-democracy protestors in need, for money laundering.  As Apple Daily reporter Alex Lam noted at the beginning of his series of Tweets on this matter: "This government has no intention to de-escalate[, does] it?" 

Another prominent political analyst/commentator in Hong Kong's Twitterverse, Kong Tsung-gan, has pointed out that: "The fundamental question is: is there any real crime here or are the police cracking down on the movement & on our ability to aid the thousands of arrested protesters? Of course, the police don't have a reputation as a neutral player where the protests are concerned."

The following comment also is a part of that Spark Alliance arrests comments thread: "Perhaps unsurprisingly, the scuttlebutt among protesters is the police are engaged in a frame job, probably don't have the expertise or evidence to press the case & are mainly doing this to smear, intimidate & make people worried about donating to orgs that help protesters."  Put another way: Talk about being Asia's finest no more -- people are no longer putting it past the Hong Kong police to deceive as well as be able to uphold the law. 

Even while there is great dislike and distrust of the Hong Kong police though, it's worth bearing that the rest of the government isn't held in high esteem either; with Carrie Lam's popularity ratings keeping on hitting historic lows and more than half of the respondents to a recent survey saying they were dissatisfied with how the rule of law is being implemented in Hong Kong in recent months.  So I think it's both deluded and provocative of Executive Councillor Bernard Chan to publically suggest, as he did today, that the worst of Hong Kong's protests is probably over.   

As it stands, the Spark Alliance arrests -- and the seizure of up to HK$70 million (~US$9 million) of donations intended to help protestors-- may, spark, more intense protests once more.  Already, the Spark Alliance arrests were a focus of today's lunch protests in Central and Taikoo, and evening protests in the likes of Kowloon Bay.  Also this evening, thousands of people gathered outside Lai Chi Kok detention centre to show solidarity with the 80 or so pro-democracy protestors currently remanded there, demand their release and denounce the crackdown on Spark Alliance.

In addition, something's been going on up in Tai Po tonight.  There's talk of an attempted armed robbery turning into a confrontation between residents and police and a live round appearing to have been fired -- though it's not clear by whom.  What's not in dispute though is that, at some point, the riot police showed up and the inevitable tear gassing took place -- making it so that there now have been three days of tear gas this month, with eleven more to go before 2020 comes along (and minus the usual New Year's Eve fireworks this time around).      

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Keeping the spirits up by venturing outside in Hong Kong

On a peaceful afternoon in Hong Kong

A beautiful blue sky winter's day in the Big Lychee

Yes, I do wish there were more days in Hong Kong like this...
Hong Kong is beautiful.  It's something many people who don't live her don't realize and many people who live here sometimes are apt to forget amidst the hustle and bustle of their daily lives -- or, lately, while major socio-political discord -- which threatens to destroy the Hong Kong we know and love -- is taking place

I admit though that thoughts of the Big Lychee's beauty weren't exactly at the top of my mind when I checked the news this morning and learnt that the traditional New Year's Eve fireworks has been cancelled -- following the cancellation of the October 1st fireworks (though some pyrotechnics did ensue that day).  And I was more inclined to see storm clouds over the horizon in my mind's eye when reading yesterday that two pan-democrats had lost their Legislative Council seats; this particularly since it was the consequence of the tangled mess in the electoral system caused by the Hong Kong government disqualifying candidates on political grounds beginning in 2017

I'm sure people who have been following what's been happening in this part of the world will know what I mean when I disclose that there have indeed been days over the past six months or so where I sometimes am disinclined to leave my apartment after reading lots of bad news online.  But when I do venture outside though, more often than not, I actually encounter sights that actually brighten up my mood.   

For example, while out searching for a lunch spot in North Point (an increasingly rare part of Hong Kong that's infamously pro-Beijing) yesterday , I was surprised and heartened to come across a number of "yellow" eateries.  This included one located just a few feet away from where pro-Beijing thugs had attacked extradition bill protesters in September and another which not only had lots of designs and other signs on its front that clearly trumpeted its pro-protestor credentials but a big stack of big Pepe the Frog plushies at an outdoor table too!

More than incidentally, the super obvious "yellow" restaurants in the neighborhood were the ones that appeared to be the most popular in the area; with quite the queue having formed at the eatery with the big stack of Pepes (which it reportedly is having a lucky draw for) way before popular lunch places usually get crowded!  So I'm inclined to think that Commerce and Economic Development Secretary, Edward Yau, is -- like much of the Hong Kong government much of the time -- wrong in his analyses of what's going on in Hong Kong and that the "yellow economy" is, in fact, working better than he thinks and would like.

Then today, I ventured out to an Outlying Island to hang out with a friend who lives there -- and not only had a good time there but also had the bonus of taking in some really lovely views from the ferry as well as enjoy a winter's day where it was so warm that I was in shirt sleeves for most of it but still cool enough that I wasn't sweating buckets (like I often do during Hong Kong's super hot summers).  The kicker was glancing around midway through the ferry ride out and seeing everyone else on the sparsely populated non-air-conditioned section of the upper deck had nodded off because it all was so peaceful around us.  And while I know Hong Kong's struggles are far from over, it was indeed nice to relax and enjoy the peace for even just a few precious moments there.        

Monday, December 16, 2019

The firing of tear gas and more troubling actions this past Sunday

Another sign on display at the rally for Yuli

Before yesterday, the Hong Kong police had not fired any cannisters of tear gas at people since the first of the month (i.e., two weekends ago).  Amazingly, no tear gas was fired on December 8th, the day of the first mega protest march that took place after the historic November 24th District Council Election triumph for the pro-democracy camp.  

The fear is that now they've resorted to creating tear gas buffets once more, the police will once again find it hard to resist using this weapon once again despite the concerns, for good reason, of a good chunk of the populace with regards to its use.  And, as it so happened, the police did go ahead and fire more tear gas before yesterday came to an end -- notably in Mongkok, where one tear gas cannister caused further injury upon reportedly hitting a student reporter near his right eye.  

More than incidentally, in the past six months, I've gone protesting with friends who are ethnic Cantonese and Hong Kong-born, ethnic Cantonese but not Hong Kong-born, Mainland Chinese (both ethnic Cantonese and not), and Caucasians from the U.S.A. and Britain (one of whom has lived in Hong Kong for some 15 years now, another of whom has lived here for over two decades).  And for the record: our presence at the protests have not been objected to by any other protestor -- even when we've taken photos (while in the thick of crowds, etc.).  

Ending this post on a less kumbaya note: Another police misdeed that reared its head again yesterday involved the framing of protestors by doing such as planting "evidence" on or by them.  The most visible example yesterday involved a man who's presumably a pro-police/Beijing sympathizer, at the very least, pushing a hammer-type tool towards an arrested protester -- and a police officer using his foot to get the object closer to the arrested individual.  

Hopefully, the man who they tried to frame will have charges dropped against him; especially since there is pretty clear video evidence showing the police officer and his friend's sneaky attempt to unjustly get the protestor into major trouble.  (And thank goodness for so many people in Hong Kong being willing to record and bring to light police misdeeds!)  

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Hopefully uplifting memories of de-stressing December hikes in Hong Kong (Photo-essay)

It used to be that when I was feeling stressed, I would go for a hike up one of Hong Kong's many hills, peaks and mountains.  But while I've felt plenty stressed during the past six months, it was only one day last week that I finally ventured into Hong Kong's great outdoors for the first time since before June 9th due to such as my having spent many hours marching through sections of urban Hong Kong on more than one occasion in recent months.  And this week, the hiking bug bit once more -- so I ended up going hiking on consecutive weeks: the first time on Lantau; the second time around on Hong Kong Island

It also used to be that it would help lift up my spirits for me to look at my hiking photos and assemble them into photo-essays.  And I hope that doing again this evening will help to put me in a better mood tonight after I came across a Tweet with a link to a short but still horrible video clip showing the kind of disgusting behavior that seems to be par for the course in Xinjiang (the Communist Chinese-controlled region that Hong Kongers look at and don't ever want Hong Kong to become like)... :S 

Last week saw me on the South Lantau Country Trail once more
The views from this hiking trail are positively dreamy on a 

It should be easy to see why I have returned to this trail
quite a few times now in the past 12 years or so
 Lantau's famous feral cows spotted near hike's end
Critter spottings (specifically, a wild boar and four of its offspring)
from the bus I took to the trail head of this week's hike!
On Victoria Peak on another beautiful blue sky
December day

The biggest view bonanzas actually are from 
atop neighboring High West though!
Believe it or not, I could actually see further than what 
was depicted in the photo posted atop it 
on the afternoon of my High West excursion :)

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.