Saturday, June 29, 2019

Don't give up, Hong Kong -- and those fighting for Hong Kong to stay Hong Kong!

 Hold on to that Lion Rock spirit, Hong Kongers!

Don't let the sun set prematurely on your life :(

A 21-year-old woman fell to her death today.  Before doing so, she wrote a message, written in red, on the walls of the 24th floor of the building from which she is presumed to have jumped off, indicating that her death was a protest against the proposed extradition bill that still has not been withdrawn by Carrie Lam's administration despite the clear and strong indications of it being opposed by many people living in Hong Kong (and also abroad).

I spent a good part of June 12th worried that some protesters would be killed by the violence inflicted on them by the Hong Kong police after officers wielding batons and firing not only rounds of pepper spray and tear gas but also rubber bullets and bean bag rounds unleashed a truly excessive amount of force on unarmed people.  As a consequence of the police brutality who many of us got to know about and see in close to "real time" (via some pretty heroic and incredible reportage by local and international journalists and others on the scene), I found myself worrying that something akin to the June 4th Massacre will occur on the streets of Hong Kong in the near future.

This horrifying thought -- coupled with those concerning the death of Hong Kong as we know (and love) it should the extradition bill be passed -- has made me far more moody than usual as well as downright depressed on a number of days and nights this June.  Early on, my inclination was to stay at home (and away from other people) and addictively check the news to assuage my fears of any deaths occuring and violence erupting in this amazing city which I've long considered to have an incredibly high level of personal safety, for women and children as well as men.  However, I've since realized that's not a healthy coping strategy -- and have gone back to going out and spending time with people whose company I enjoy, visiting places in Hong Kong that I like and love, and generally reminding myself why I love living in this part of the world. 

This was thanks in part to seeing Facebook posts by protest organizers and such about how to better deal with the stress and depression that many Hong Kongers have been experiencing in recent weeks.  In addition, I thought it good timing indeed that the Guardian put up a piece entitled "Don't give up!  How to stay healthy, happy and combative in impossible political times" just a little more than a week after reporting on the police violence that broke out in Hong Kong!  

Sadly, in between the two Guardian pieces I mentioned in the previous paragraph, a 35-year-old man plunged to his death after unfurling a banner on the front of a prestigious mall at Admiralty with the following words: "No extradition to China, total withdrawal of the extradition bill, we are not rioters, release the students and injured, Carrie Lam step down, help Hong Kong, make love, no shoot!"  His case is being treated by the police as a suicide but there also is the possibility that he accidentally fell from the construction scaffolding he had been on.

In the thought-provoking Ten Years, a Hong Kong short-film omnibus released in 2016 which imagined what Hong Kong would be like in 2025, there is a section which features two protester deaths.  We've now seen two actual protester deaths this eventful month.  Here's hoping they will be the last arising from the protests against the proposed extradition bill that has made some people so desperate and upset -- in addition to these protests bearing fruit in terms of such as the bill's complete withdrawal, and sooner rather than later; this not least because death is not the answer, and there's much still in Hong Kong that should get people feeling that life is very much worth living.   

Thursday, June 27, 2019

At the anti-extradition bill rally in Central last night

All lit up last night at Edinburgh Place!
What thousands of people were there to tell the world they want

A number of anti-extradition bill protests took place in Hong Kong yesterday  Along with what turned out to be a whole lot of other people, I went to the one scheduled to take place at Edinburgh Place but which turned out to be so large that it overflowed into nearby areas.  Arriving 15 minutes or so before the official start time of the protest rally, my friends and I found the area in front of the stage already packed to the brim; so we ended up sitting behind the stage along with thousands of others!   

In keeping with its aim of seeking the support and attention of the world (notably members of the G20 international forum, whose government leaders and central bank governors will be meeting in Osaka tomorrow and Saturday), this particular protest event was the most multi-lingual I've ever attended anywhere in the world.  Featuring speeches in Japanese (the language of the hosts of this week's G20 Summit), French (by Cantopop singer-actress-activist Denise Ho), Bahasa Indonesia, Mandarin (which, with some Taiwanese words thrown in, indicated that it was targeted more for a Taiwanese than Mainland Chinese audience), Spanish, German, Korean and Italian as well as Cantonese (Hong Kong's most widely spoken language) and English (which still is one of Hong Kong's official languages)!

Surrounded by thousands of others seeking the same outcome(s), it really did feel like a case of Together We Thrive -- the slogan emblazoned several times during the night on the front of the HSBC headquarters nearby!  The sense that the evening's unexpectedly large crowd were unified in purpose and one in spirit could be particularly felt towards the end of the two hour long event, when enthusiastic renditions of Les Miserables' "Do You Hear the People Sing?" -- first in Cantonese, then in English reverberated around the area. 

A good sign that there really were a lot of people at the rally came from the sight of the sea of lights that were created after a number of participants decided to switch on their mobile phone lights and then wave the phones up in the air.  Even more so was the fact that the singing and chanting echoed around through to, and out of, parts of the crowd that the tall buildings and such in the area made it so that those of us actually at the event could only ever see a very small section of it.

After the rally ended, a friend and I elected to walk over to Wan Chai rather than brave the crowds we knew would clog up the Central and Admiralty MTR stations.  It was only after we got to the other side of the stage that we saw that our section of the crowd, which had stretched as far as to the Two IFC (International Finance Centre) Building a few hundred meters away that we realized how section of the crowd where we had been actually was far smaller than that in front of the stage -- and were filled with awe once again at the willingness of Hong Kongers to turn up en masse for a cause they care for and obviously consider very important indeed.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Political musings ahead of the G20 Summit and this year's July 1st protest march

I wonder if Hong Kong's marine police are better 
behaved/looked upon than its land force?

 An impending storm(?)

I took a couple of visitors from the USA to Cheung Chau yesterday afternoon.  Like pretty much everyone I've introduced to this Hong Kong Outlying Island, they were charmed by its laidback vibe and photogenic scenery.  As we strolled about the place, stopping from time to time to take in the sights and do such as eat a stick-worth each of Cheung Chau fish balls, the island worked its magic on me too and I found myself feeling better and more relaxed than I generally have for much of the past couple of weeks.

Sadly, my mood darkened somewhat again on the ferry ride back from the island after I caught sight of a police boat early on in the journey and then again when I saw threatening-looking storm clouds approaching when our ferry approached Central.  On both occasions, those sights got my thoughts turning once more to the political unrest that Hong Kong is currently experiencing.  And while the past few days have seen far less action on the streets than not so long ago, I know that wheels continue to churn behind closed doors and battles continue to be waged in cyberspace and elsewhere.

There are those who can be amazingly blithe about this whole situation (such as the person who actually felt it was perfectly acceptable to email me about cocktails on the night of June 12th). I, on the other hand, find myself unable to not worry quite a bit -- and probably more often than may be psychologically healthy -- about the future of Hong Kong, and my future in this part of the world which I have come to love dearly.

I try to take each day as it comes and am grateful for every day that passes without any more police violence and crackdowns against protesters of the extradition bill (that sought to amend Hong Kong's current Fugitive Ordinance).  But the very fact of that bill having been suspended rather than outright withdrawn makes me feel that a veritable Sword of Damocles continues to hang over Hong Kong, and gets me looking ahead and trying to ascertain when the authorities will abandon their current, uncharacteristic "softly, softly", "don't rock the boat" approach in favor of a more Draconian one.

China has said that it doesn't want Hong Kong to be on the agenda at the G20 summit in Osaka later this week.  I'm sure it also would love for nothing considered globally newsworthy to occur in and/or come out of Hong Kong from now through the end of Xi Jinping's visit to Japan to meet with other G20 leaders -- even while opponents of the proposed extradition bill, the most unpopular Chief Executive in Hong Kong history and her Beijing overlords would like Hong Kong -- specifically, the battle of the wills between its people and the Chief Executive few whose selection few of us had any say about -- to continue to attract the attention of the world.

Viewing this in terms of the likelihood of violent suppression of protesters here in Hong Kong, my sense is that great efforts are currently being made to rein back whatever inclination there is on the part of the local constabulary to strike hard against those they view as disrespectful troublemakers until at least the conclusion of the latest G20 Summit.  On the other hand, I must admit to feeling some doubts and worries about how peaceful this year's July 1st protest march will be.  

There are people whose biggest reason for not taking part in political protests is that they fear for their physical safety and well-being.  Frankly, I "get" them more than than those who simply don't care enough to do so as well as the minority who actually still think that Hong Kong is best served by doing what Beijing wants.  For my part though, I do intend to be among the participants of the third of these annual pro-democracy rallies that will take place since Carrie Lam's installation as Chief Executive of Hong Kong -- and whose attendance figures I am expecting to be considerably higher than the previous two combined!     

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Weekend political developments

Among the people marching in protest against the extradition bill 

Anti-China extradition sticker spotted on a shirt sleeve at the same 
protest march where I caught sight of Anson Chan in the crowd
The streets of Hong Kong have been peaceful this weekend -- the first in three weeks without an extradition bill protest march taking place -- and my life has felt fairly normal; with my having spent time hanging out with friends in quiet cafés rather than marching on crowded streets in their company.  But a number of former government officials and current politicians have been causing a stir with their utterances in recent days; this not least since they look to point to a time in the not so distant future where things will feel settled, and in the direction favored by those of us who really care far more for Hong Kong than China. 
Then there's the open letter than Anson Chan has penned to Carrie Lam and has been published in full on the Hong Kong Free Press website.  In addition to emphasizing that Lam needs to "fully acknowledge the gravity of the current situation", Chan goes on to suggest in detail -- complete with the reasoning behind them -- what needs to be done "to defuse tension and restore lasting calm to our streets".  Since they make a lot of sense to me, I am hereby going to quote the steps that Chan has recommended needs to be taken:-

[S]top juggling with semantics and state, categorically, that you are withdrawing the Fugitive Offenders and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation (Amendment) Bill 2019; your refusal to do so only invites suspicion and fuels anger;

[E]stablish a completely impartial Commission of Inquiry, chaired by a senior member of the Judiciary, into the circumstances of the disturbances on 12 June and the response of our police force. I believe this is vital, not just to acknowledge the deep concerns of the protesters and their families, but to restore the trust and respect of our community for a force that has maintained our safety and served us with courage and integrity for so many years. The officers in the front line should not be pilloried simply for following orders and doing what they believed was their duty to maintain law and order;

[C]onsider offering a one-off amnesty to all involved in potentially criminal acts on 12 June: namely those who have been arrested and may be charged with riotous behaviour, those who may be charged at a later date and members of the police force who, while acting under orders, may be found to have used excessive force.

And I trust that pretty much everyone who reads them will agree that these are eminently sensible and reasonable steps that ought to be taken by a Chief Executive who's lost so much credibility through her recent stubborn, arrogant actions that it will be impossible for her government to function without acceding to at least some of the core demands openly and loudly made by a whole lot of angry, determined Hong Kong people in recent weeks.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

A Lantau Island hike through the kind of scenery not usually associated with Hong Kong (Photo-essay)

One of the things I do to de-stress is to go out into the countryside for a hike.  But despite my feeling psychological urges to do so (as a result of recent events in Hong Kong causing me to worry so much about the future), I've not gone hiking in recent weeks for a number of reasons, including: the weather having turned super hot; my having spent quite a bit of time and energy doing other stuff; and my havin come down with prickly heat as a result of having been out in the sun doing that other stuff.

On the evening of a day of calm (especially compared to what's happened this past month, including much of yesterday), here's trying to relax by looking back and sharing images and recollections from a Lantau Island hike with a friend some time back, during which my biggest worries involved potentially running smack into giant spiders and being run over by mountain bikers illicitly going along a trail designated for hikers...

Yes, there still are parts of Hong Kong which is not only 
countryside but where farming takes place :b

No, I was not kidding about the giant spider encounters... ;(
Even on a day without super high visibility, the view from 
the hills down to Mui Wo is worth pausing to drink in :)
Spotted along the way -- yes, really!
 And here's that other menace: one of those mountain bikers 
who couldn't resist going along this hilly hiking trail :S 
If truth be told, I can't blame them for also wanting to 
spend time in, and check out, scenic areas like this
Yes, this really is in Hong Kong! :b
More specifically, this is the Lo Fu Tau Country Trail :)

Friday, June 21, 2019

With demands unmet, Hong Kong people continue to protest

The poster I carried at last Sunday's protest march
The reputation of the Hong Kong police is currently in 
a similar state to the police barricade tape in the above photo
Harcourt Road, the major highway located near the government headquarters that many protest march participants were denied access to two Sundays ago, was occupied for periods of time and barricades erected on Gloucester Road.  Protesters also surrounded and shut down a number of government offices, including those at Revenue Tower and Immigration Tower in Wan Chai, and the Queensway Government Offices and High Court in Admiralty.
And on the day that Amnesty International released a report verifying that police violence had taken place against protesters in Hong Kong, protesters made their ire against, and disrespect of, the force that used to pride itself on being Asia's Finest -- but whose brutal behavior on June 12th shocked the world -- very clear when they converged on the Hong Kong police headquarters and laid siege to it.  With their demands for police chief Stephen Lo to come out and account for himself and the force he commands unmet, the crowd got bigger and bigger, and angrier and angrier.  
In all honesty, I would not have been surprised if violence had erupted -- and am hoping and praying that there continues to be no violence in the nights and days of continued protest that lie ahead.  At the same time, I can't help but feel that Hong Kong is currently like a powder keg, and will remain so until the extradition bill is killed once and for all, and Carrie Lam steps down -- at the very least.  
For it should not be forgotten, amidst all the bad feelings that people have for the police, that the events of June 12th that have made the cops such a enemy of the people would in all likelihood not have happened if not for that arrogant woman publicly announcing her decision to ignore the message, and defy the will, of the one million Hong Kongers who marched in protest against the extradition bill she sought to ram through into law.      

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. :(