On Saturday a few of the Fulbright folks met up for lunch at a historic 茶餐廳 (cha chaan teng) called 美都餐室 (Mido Cafe) near 油麻地 (Yau Ma Tei). This place has been around since 1950. It was definitely a unique location, with wide windows lining the second floor and beautiful tiles inside. Apparently a lot of movies have been filmed here, and it’s known as one of the few places that’s still got an old-school, ’50s Hong Kong vibe. That also means it draws a lot of tourists – in addition to us, there were also a number of other Mandarin and English speakers.
Afterward a few of us walked down to Mong Kok to see how things were. (Check out George’s CNN iReport page here.) I checked Twitter to see if there were any big news to watch out for but didn’t notice anything too bad, but we made sure to stay in a group and to leave quickly. The intersection of Nathan and Argyle was still packed, but instead of being having that peaceful community atmosphere of a few days back, this time it was angry and tense. A handful of police officers were in the middle of the crowd, apparently keeping people separated. A number of people were wearing bike helmets, construction hats, and other protective gear. People packed tightly onto the top of the MTR entrances, the only higher ground that was available.
Some of the tents that had been torn down the day before had been rebuilt overnight. Several people were gathered in heated arguments around the intersection, drawing spectators and photographers.The police presence was visibly heavier, and we spotted one person with rolled-up warning signs in his gear. A number of those arguing were middle-aged or older, both men and women. One of the arguments we watched pitted a group of older, visibly greying or wrinkled men against a young student with his backpack. In one argument where a middle-aged woman was shouting about being unable to get to work, a few younger men came by and shouted at her, If you want to work, then go work! Don’t just stand here and complain. Another person shouted, Go back to the mainland!
There was still some art in the vicinity, though not much. The buses and cars blocking the intersection were all gone. There were two banners hung side by side on a sidewalk divider, one reading, “
中共不代表中國，愛國不代表 愛黨” (“The CCP does not represent China; loving the country does not mean loving the Party”), and the other was an advertisement by 姚思榮 (Yiu Si-wing, a director at China Travel Service and member of Legislative Council of Hong Kong) reading, “佔中損經濟，旅遊業界好開翳。強烈反對佔中” (“Occupy Central will hurt the economy and the tourism industry. Strongly oppose Occupy Central”). I liked the first banner – I think it makes a great point. Too often people associate “CCP” with “China” or with “(Mainland) Chinese,” not just in Hong Kong but all over the world.
Under the tents, the pro-democracy protesters were regrouping and holding their line. They’d laid out several painted umbrellas on the ground and put up a new banner I hadn’t seen before.
I snapped a few photos of new stickers and posters, and then we left by MTR.
Later that night I checked in with the group of ethnic minority Hong Kongers that I’d run into earlier in the week, and made plans to meet them at Admiralty. It was absolutely packed in Admiralty – despite the violence breaking out in Mong Kok, this must have been one of the largest crowds yet. It took me about half an hour to go from one end of the raised walkway leading to Tamar – far worse than any rush hour traffic in L.A. I snapped more photos as I walked around, and also was super excited to see three people signing to one another. I immediately started to Google Cantonese sign language, but unfortunately didn’t find much.
Occupy Central and student leaders were having a press conference at the same time. A number of students speaking had been in Mong Kok the previous day. The first speaker was a young woman who described her sexual assault by one of the anti-Occupy men, saying that she’d never seen anything like that day – she described it as watching a gangster movie, but in real life. The following speaker was a young man who’d been beaten during the attacks. The crowd yelled, “冇恥!” (“Shameless!”) in solidarity. Civic Party lawmaker Dennis Kwok addressed the international media:
What you are seeing in Hong Kong is the purest form of courage that you will ever see on this planet. It is the kind of courage that will change the politics of this country forever. It is the kind of courage that will bend the arc of history forever. I thank you for being here to witness, to see, to experience the depth of courage that Hong Kong has demonstrated to the entire world. Your presence is extremely important because the presence of the international media will keep the dishonest government from harming the students! So I say to you all members of the international media, all foreigners, you’ve traveled a long way. […] Welcome to Hong Kong!
Finally messages came through the network, and I caught up with the KFC friends. (I feel awkward saying “ethnic minority” friends – somehow it feels politically incorrect, like the equivalent of saying “I have a black friend” in the U.S.) They had spread out their signs and banners on the ground.
We Stand together for Democracy for A Better Hong Kong. 我們要真普選. Together we are strong!! We are one Hong Kong!! 香港需要團結，團結[???]”
HK Ethnic Minorities Condemn All Violence! 香港少數民裔譴責暴力. We Are One. Our Voice And Unity Is Our Strength. 同聲和團結就是力量. Stand up! Speak up!
The use of the term 少數民裔 was especially important – it translates as “descendants of ethnic minorities,” thus emphasizing their Hong Kong-ness. A group of Nepali men walked by and enthusiastically joined them for a few photos, laying their banner on the ground alongside the others. Theirs read, “We condemn the violence on Peaceful Protestors – Hong Konger Nepalese”
Passersby occasionally broke into applause, took photos, shook their hands. Often people said, “Thank you!” in English, to which they replied, “唔使多謝，我地都係香港人!” (“No need to thank, we are also Hong Kong people!”) One of them was away for a bit to be interviewed by the BBC – they’ve also been photographed by TimeOut Hong Kong and featured on numerous viral photos and news bites. They’d been marching every day in the same area, and the response, they said, was absolutely amazing. One told me that they were like second-class citizens in Hong Kong, but for the first time, he felt like he was equal – another Hong Kong person. I joined them for their march from Admiralty to Central – here’s the video: [link]
I couldn’t find a link to the BBC segment outside of Facebook, so I’m writing the transcript here:
Reporter: Thank you for joining us. Ivy, you were really concerned about what happened overnight. It changed things for you. Why?
Ivy: What the police have doneis not protecting the citizens any more. They are just doing nothing. Because I was here, at Admiralty, on the 28th, and they use tear gas to fight the peaceful protestors, but last night it was totally different, totally different standards.
Reporter: But then here, tonight, it’s very peaceful, lots of people out in big numbers compared to how they’ve been the last couple of days. We’ve heard that the government has issued a statement telling everyone to leave government buildings by Monday. Are you gonna leave?
Ivy: I don’t think me, I will not. I don’t think the people will do the same. They will stay here, they will not give up.
Reporter: Jeffrey, you’re been here for the last couple of days, but you’ve been carrying out a different kind of demonstration – just talk to us about that, cause [–buffers–]
Jeffrey: We’re born and raised here, we speak the language, we feel it’s very important for us to be part of this because the students are out there fighting for our rights, which will affect our future in the long run. So what we’re doing is, instead of sitting in, we are carrying banners and marching all the way from Central to Wanchai and just cheering and just energizing the guys, just giving them a boost, and it’s working wonders.
Reporter: You said it’s working wonders, but there have been no any concessions made by the government regarding the Chief Executive to step down, which you guys have been calling for. They’re also been no movements on the course of democracy regarding China choosing candidates for the 2017 post for the top leader. No concessions, so what’s gonna happen next, Ivy?
Ivy: For me, I’m just scared that what happened last night will happen again. As we thought, they hired some gangsters to fight us and that’s what I’m worried about, they’ll do it again.
Reporter: But nothing has changed in what you’re calling for. So yes, you’re worried, and yes, you’re scared – is it time to give up?
Ivy: No. No. Never give up.
Jeffrey: Right until yesterday, they were supposed to have negotiations with the government, but of course, because we’ve obviously seen so [unintelligible] we’re with the students, but I still hope we can engage in dialogue with the government, and –
Reporter: – We have to leave it there […]
On Sunday I went to a birthday dinner for 婆婆’s 91st birthday in Mong Kok, and enjoyed feasting on all sorts of meats – chicken, scallops, pork, fish. I also had real shark fin soup – something I can’t recall having had before – which was delicious, but I also felt very guilty as I ate.
I walked back to the MTR and passed through the crowd, which still felt very tense, though there were no arguments as I walked through. A band was hanging around to encourage people to help them write new songs – you can see some of their updates on Facebook at 革命中的廿四小時 (24 Hours in the Revolution).
Some other things I found on the Internet:
Here’s testimony from a woman who was sexually assaulted, and reports from a man who was offered money by Whatsapp to provoke violence [link]. I also heard from one of the ethnic minority friends that one of the instigators of violence dropped three checks in the thousands of dollars; another said that instigators were overheard double-checking by phone that they would be paid a certain amount for starting fights.
This is the transcript of CY Leung’s video message on October 4. A lot of people have been worried that his words are predicting future violence to clear out the protests by Monday.
The Government and the Police have the duty and determination to take all necessary actions to restore social order, so that the Government and some seven million people of Hong Kong can return to their normal work and life.
Translated Evidence of HK Police Facilitated Triad Violence on Peaceful Protesters [link]
- Notes from anthropology professor Gordon Mathews [link]
- Interviews of anti-Occupy protesters [link]
- What do Hongkongers think about Occupy Central amidst warnings of a “tragedy”? [link]
Lastly, an article by a 1989 demonstrator who now teaches at UC Irvine, urging protesters to remember their fight is a long-term struggle.