Monday, September 29, 2014

Pro Democracy Protests Continue

Following up on my post earlier today, these are the pictures during the day today when Michael and I went after lunch to take a look at the protests.

At first as Michael and I were walking through Central, including the HSBC building, we kept remarking on how ordinary the streets looked.  Except for a slightly more noticeable security presence in the atrium of HSBC, streets looked pretty normal.  It was only when we reached Chater Road, which was blocked off, that there was a hint that something might be going on.
Strangely deserted
Felt a little weird
This was right outside the intersection where I work.  Very incongruous.
The alleyway next to my office building had been turned into an impromptu food and drink station.  I wondered aloud where people were going to the bathroom, then decided I probably didn't want to know.

As we progressed down Connaught Road, it was still a very peaceful and organized group, with not very many people in sight.  I kept wondering if the crowds from the night before had dissipated as a result of the tear gas and riot police.
At this point Michael and I were steadily walking up a part of Connaught Road that is a hill (see picture above).  It was really surreal to be walking on one of the busiest thoroughfares of Hong Kong.  Usually these roads seem so small because they are viewed from the backseat of a speeding taxi or from the top of an impossibly tall double decker bus.  On foot, suddenly these roads in Hong Kong seemed incredibly broad, wide and expansive.

As soon as we crested the peak, we gasped collectively and understood why there was no talk of re-opening the roads.

Turns out the protest was not really in Central, but rather centered in the heart of Admiralty.  The key draw is the main Hong Kong government building.

That is a mass of people that is hard to disperse safely!
It was interesting to see how public buses and police cars were stranded.  They had been parked on the side of the road before someone had the time or foresight to move them.  In the sea of people, it also provided a sense of scale.

This banner says "Protect Hong Kong Reject Degradation":
I've mentioned before that the protestors are frustrated and feel threatened by the bullying tactics of the Communist Party (and rightly so - the Communist Party stubbornly refuses to give up sovereignty and independence - look at Tibet, Xinjiang, Taiwan, Inner Mongolia...) These protests are clearly directed at Beijing and the Communist Party, but they are in no small part also a message to the local administration of Hong Kong (such administrators are widely acknowledged and understood to be eligible for office only if they are backed by the Communist Party).
What struck me as incongruous about the current situation, however, is how the protestors at today's rally who were stationed outside the Hong Kong police headquarters were approaching the police and taking turns shouting at them.  The Hong Kong police are made up of local people, who in large part likely want universal suffrage, independence and sovereignty from the Chinese mainland as well.  

Here the police are uneasily manning the barricades outside the People's Liberation Army headquarters:
I suspect the police who had to don riot gear and spray tear gas and pepper spray last night were in no small measure conflicted by what they had to do.  But this probably explains the heavy sense of betrayal in the city today.  The locals consider the police and their government to be part of them, to stand with them.   Many of those interviewed expressed sentiments of disbelief, unable to believe that "our government would do this to us".  I thought this sign portrayed the sentiment very well: "We (the people) are your masters do not use violent force again".
I don't know about these guys in green though.  They may be part of some mainland forces, or maybe part of some militia.  They look so serious.  The guy in front did not move a muscle the entire time.  He must have really strong facial and jaw muscles to maintain such a permanent scowl!
A pile of just some of the many umbrellas that were used to stave off the pepper spray.  Umbrellas have become a powerful symbol of this protest.
The group of protestors were predominantly students and looked unbearably young.  The protest was very well organized.  There was no shouting, fighting or any appearance of conflict.  There were large groups and small groups, standing and (mostly) sitting.  While the students were mainly preoccupied with talking amongst themselves, looking at their phones, reading, and eating, it was still a very powerful scene nonetheless.  

We saw this large group of students sitting peacefully and quietly at a sit in.  I wish I understood what the student with the microphone was saying.
If I had to play political pundit, I would say that the Communist Party will stay far, far away from this pesky flare up.  I would not expect President Xi Jinping to give even a minor or token concession, much less acknowledge or accept the Hong Kong people's right to universal suffrage.
The official line from the Communist Party as of today is that the Hong Kong people are confused about the "One Country Two Systems" construct.  It will be very interesting to see how this all plays out.

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