I’ve been wanting to go down and support the protesters fighting for a reasonable democratic framework for Hong Kong all of this week. However, life was too crazy, and I just couldn’t. I also was hesitant to go alone and didn’t know who to go with. Though some of my fellow PhD students were apparently involved, I felt too shy to ask to join them.
Yesterday, V agreed to go with me to Causeway Bay, where traffic has been blocked outside the popular mall Sogo. We walked down the street lined with little posters with slogans and messages stuck on the road dividers and groups of students camped out on the road. Right outside the mall, a makeshift Democracy Classroom had been set up and an old man was speaking on a microphone while a crowd listened and occasionally applauded. On the bus-stop behind him, the Ikea toy Lufsig that has come to represent the current Chief Executive of Hong Kong CY Leung had been strung up. A TV reporter and her cameraman paced the street looking for people to interview. As they interviewed one young man, V and I got into an argument about whether Obama had been in charge when Occupy Wall Street protesters were violently evicted.
We didn’t stay long, tiring out quickly, and marveling at the young people and their staying power. On surrounding streets, shoppers continued to go their way, though the streets were not as crowded as before. The absence of traffic had made a difference to the air quality and it was cooler than normal. It felt nice to just walk the streets, the streets felt more our own.
The next morning, I headed down to Admiralty where the main protest is on in front of the Government headquarters. I tried to contact a fellow student who seems to be there every day if her FB feed is to be believed, but I didn’t hear from her so I went myself. I nervously exited at Admiralty MTR watched by MTR staff and walked down deserted streets following random people until I came ot barricades. I wasn’t sure which way to go to reach the protest site. In fact, I reached Central and turned back, all in the course of 10 minutes. Then, I found myself on Connaught Raod which had been blocked off. I ducked into the protest area and walked the stretch of a highway. It was weird just hiking up the highway to where a cluster of people were leaning over.
At the bottom, protesters were in a stand-off with police. Some semi-heated negotiations were going on. I spotted a guy who looked like a friend and headed down there. Turned out there are at least two other people who have the same bizarre hairstyle he does. I was literally a two meters away from the police line, staring the cops in the face through the gaps of the boys on the front line. A British policeman started talking to the crowd in Cantonese. A few boys in the crowd jeered. He went off. The barricades stayed in place. The police had seemingly agreed not to remove them or the protesters had agreed not to push them away and the line of protesters with arms linked dispersed to applause.
Little conversations among people broke out in Cantonese. I sat on the wall and watched. There was a little breeze and it was very peaceful. I was struck by how quiet it was. People were just sitting and observing or having quiet conversations. Noone was shouting or arguing loudly. At one point, a TV crew started interviewing someone and a guy went around hushing those talking loudly and they listened. The boys who had spoken to the TV crew appeared to be crying. A girl walked by crying and a boy broke away from his gang and gave her tissue. When he walked back to his friends, they were smirking. Young people will be young people even in the midst of making history.
It started raining and I shared my umbrella with the shy young guy next to me. I stayed about an hour and then I left. My friend later messaged and said she’ll be going this evening. I may or may not join her.