Proud to be a Hongkonger (Oct. 2014)


For the last week, the Occupy Central movement and the Federation of University Students have blocked off the main roads through the central business district of Hong Kong. They are protesting against the lack of promised reform of the electorial system concerning the election of the next Chief Executive in 2017. But it’s more than just this, it is a demonstration to highlight how our Government supports the will of the Chinese Central Government over that of the Hong Kong people. Having been out of Hong Kong this past week, I have only experienced the protests and Government’s mishandling of events from a distance, but yesterday I was back home and wanted to see things for myself.

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Walking from Wan Chai into Admiralty was quite surreal as we walked safely down the main highway. The barricades blocking off traffic were manned by very few individuals but foot passengers had no access problems. Prostestor numbers tend to be relatively low in the mornings and mid-afternoon, then dramatically increase as people leave work and spend the night on the streets. On the previous day (3rd Oct. 2104), scuffles had broken out in Mong Kok between peaceful demonstrators and hired thugs masquerading as anti-Occupy Central protestors, so we were warned off going there. Hired by whom you may ask? I will leave you to speculate on this important point.

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Along Harcourt Road, people of all ages were milling around, seeing what was going on and picking a space to sit down in peaceful protest (civil disobedience). The news reports of the last week had stressed that this was a student demonstration but it was clear that while young persons dominated the scene, in fact there were people of all ages here on the streets.

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As we walked around the street, we found many people wanted to talk to us and explain what was going on. Despite having lived here for over 20 years, Chinese Hongkongers always assume we are foreign visitors rather than locals. Still, I was happy that they wanted to share their thoughts with us. Despite the Government’s assertion that these were a disparate group of protestors, we found the same concerns being expressed by everyone we spoke to. Despite an overwhelming anxiety about what was going to happen next, they all felt they had to stand up for the Hong Kong people. 

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This Hong Kong Chinese guy in the righthand photo had flown back from his home in the UK to support the protestors. His elderly mother had told him she had been on the streets helping those students who needed to go home for a while; she looked after their stuff and saved their space for them. He was so moved by this that he took a week off work and came to Hong Kong.

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Hong Kong has had demonstrations before and ‘no-violent protests’ are the norm here. Indeed, you will see whole family groups on the now annual 1st July marches. The current protests have taken a different feeling following the use of teargas by the police earlier in the week and the unpredictabality of events. Even so, you cannot help but be overwhelmed by the peaceful, helpful and generous spirit of the prostestors.

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Getting from one side of the road to another involved climbing over obstacles, but these were ‘manned’ by people controlling the flow of people and offering a helping hand to get over the concrete slabs.

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Protestors had organised supplies of water, the collection of rubbish, ‘homework-help sites’ for students doing their school work, and first-aid tents manned by our medical students. The local catering businesses were doing a roaring trade, but for those unwilling to move from their spots, people were walking around distributing bread, biscuits and drinks.

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I don’t know what was in this dark brown brew, but it was free ………………….

As were the yellow ribbons; yellow being the symbolic colour of this event.

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At one end of Harcourt Road was The Lennon Wall; here you could get a post-it note and write down your thoughts to add to those of others. This was a popular area for those who could not read the Chinese banners as there were plenty of comments written in English with some texted in from abroad.

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Here are images of other signs/banners along Harcourt Road:

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Finally, as the sun set, the streets became clogged with protestors and herds of policemen were seen moving from the police headquarters to Government House at Tamar.

Later, I became separated from Lawrence (my husband) for a while as he went off to interview some people and I sat down to listen to a variety of speeches. One was delivered in English to thank the foreign media for attending this event and spreading the news around the world. The rest were personal reports from those who had been attacked in Mong Kok and Causeway Bay earlier that day. One such person got a huge round of applause when he introduced himself as a street sweeper (let’s hope my Cantonese translation was correct here). I was sat near a group of deaf people who were signed too by colleagues in an extremely animated fashion. Clearly no-one is being left out.

Eventually I received a text from Lawrence to come to where he was. Such was the density of people that although I was only a few feet away from him, it took quite some time (and help from I-am-here-photos) to find him in the crowds. For us that meant it was time to leave. Announcements were being made that CY Leung wanted the streets cleared by Monday so tomorrow (Sunday) might be a day of turmoil. At the time of writing this (5 pm Sunday 5th Oct) all still seems quiet in Admiralty, and I sincerely hope that these peaceful protesters can bring these events to a safe and happy conclusion.

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© Helen Gray 2021