I slept all through the night and woke up around nine in the morning. Henry walked to the tent just as I was getting up. He’d been talking to his friend as she packed up and left with her students. We went to get breakfast at the nearby Fairwood and then I left to go shower at home. I had to attend a Discover USC event in Central, and I figured I ought to look nice to meet future Trojans.
As soon as the event was over, I went out to Admiralty to meet with a volunteer with the Hong Kong Helpers Campaign, which is a website founded by English-language journalists who want to use it as a platform to bring together media, information, and resources. About a month ago I’d met up with two of the founders, including Tom Grundy, who’s a very prolific Tweeter and a great, well-known resource throughout the Umbrella Movement. The campaign is linked with a lot of great NGOs and individuals involved in fighting for the rights and protections of domestic workers in Hong Kong and around the world, so I wanted to volunteer with them where I could. One of the other volunteers had suggested going out on Sunday to interview domestic workers about their opinions toward the protests, and of course I jumped on this, especially since I’ve been doing a bit of that on the side.
However, I felt a little uncertain about how to go about this. It’s one thing to chat with people just casually and take notes for myself (to be kept in my notebook or mentioned on this blog, I suppose), and another thing to talk with them, ask for their photos and names, in order to put them on a wider online platform. I wasn’t sure how to approach people about this, either – a lot of studies I’ve read note how the women are proud to be able to engage in arts, education, and other things besides work, because that offers them another precious identity in Hong Kong other than “domestic helper.” So I didn’t want to go up to people who “looked” ethnically different (Indonesian or Filipina) and ask if they were domestic workers and if they wanted to be published with their names and faces on a website. It feels like profiling. (Actually, the whole concept of finding EMs and domestic workers to talk with feels like racial profiling, because it kind of is. But without the desire to police, at least.) On top of this discomfort, I also didn’t want to demand that people say, “Yes, I am a domestic worker” if, on their day off, they just wanted to be with friends.
Still, I figured it was something important to do. I thought going to Admiralty to interview people would be best, since most people that I’ve talked to have said they know little about the protests, or have little interest. If you were walking through the protests and taking photos, I would assume you’d have at least a little interest, some knowledge, and an opinion. After going to Tamar Park, where there were a lot of Filipina women and their friends, we went to Victoria Park, which is usually a more Indonesian space. There we ran into a group of Indonesian women who said they were part of a group called BTR (associated with PILAR, one of the larger Indonesian orgs) that met every week to fight for democracy in their home country. I found this super interesting, but from what we could understand, there was little overlap between their fight for democracy and Hong Kong’s. You can see the finished article here.
I wandered down to the occupation area in Causeway Bay just a few blocks away afterwards. This is now the smallest occupation area out of the three. It’s about one or two blocks just a few minutes away from the tourist landmark Time Square. The area covered one half of the street, allowing traffic to pass on the other side, and formed a semi-rectangular shape that was cordoned off by barricades and by the sidewalk’s original barriers. This made it feel rather enclosed, and people could walk by and take photos of the people within the demarcated area without being inside and part of the occupation. In contrast, though Mong Kok is also very much street-based and in a smaller area like CWB, Mong Kok is more expansive and it feels like the street and sidewalk are both occupied.
There were two public lectures happening at the same time. One seemed to be giving a historically-based lecture on democracy, because the Chinese word for “Sparta” was written on a whiteboard. On the other side, another person on a microphone was talking about global movements or something, mentioning Africa and India and some other places. I think there was another map of local supporting businesses at Causeway Bay, though I wasn’t too sure (and I’m a little too lazy to translate all the Chinese right now…).
There was also a kind of shrine to Mao’s portrait, though this image has been blended with CY Leung’s (you can tell by the shape of the eyebrows). I have no idea why I didn’t get any better photographs – it was probably too crowded right there with others taking photos – but I don’t really know what is at the altar other than the photo, the plant, a few oranges, and what I think is incense.
There’s also been a lot of accusations by the Hong Kong and Beijing governments about foreign interference in the demonstrations. This Tweet from Joshua Wong has been the absolute best response:
More on this Tweet at Coconuts Hong Kong, and their translation as well:
CY Leung believes that the Occupy movement has been subject to foreign intervention. I don’t know if he thinks I personally have been subject to foreign intervention but, in brief, here’s how I’ve been influenced by foreign forces:
- Korean cell phone
- American computer
- Japanese [anime series] Gundam
Of course, they’re all Made In China 🙂
The next day, October 20, I went down to Admiralty, where we were meeting before going over to Mong Kok to see the new Guan Yu shrine. It’s become a habit of mine now to make a round through the Umbrella Square every time I come by, taking photos of all the new posters and artworks that I see.
We saw a pair of people putting up the first few sets of “Little Miss and Mr” posters that would be all over social media the next few days. Check out this handy Coconuts Hong Kong article explaining them.
The posts I’d been seeing most on Twitter were of a mock-HSBC advert, showing the image of the woman holding an umbrella that was strung opposite the umbrella canopy. This one has been really demonstrative of how dynamic the movement is, and how participatory it is in all aspects, including the art. You can see at first the HSBC symbol, with the words, “愛國 patriot” and “賣國 traitor.” By the second day, the HSBC logo was covered up, and the word 國 (country) was replaced with 港 (Hong Kong). Two days later, the entire section reading “賣國 traitor” had been ripped off.
In Mong Kok, the police still held the central intersection, so that the demonstration stretched only in one direction from it. I saw that the Guan Yu shrine was back up, along with a small cross for the St. Francis Chapel on the Street. I also noticed a lot of posters revealing the sexist language that’s been a feature (but which hasn’t really been commented on) in the demonstrations, calling CY Leung “cunt of the year.” (Just yesterday, while at Admiralty, a friend pointed out that someone had written “gay” (in Chinese) on a printed image of someone I didn’t recognize.
As we walked back toward the MTR, we saw sheets of paper fluttering down from a building above. They turned out to be warnings that unless the protesters dispersed by a certain time that night, bombs filled with excrement would be dropped on their heads. Nothing came of it that night, though one or two nights later, their threat would be carried out and a small boy walking through was hit.
It was the night before the student-government talks. That same night the news of the High Court’s injunction against the protests became public, and posters were put up in Mong Kok in Chinese to explain them. I’m not 100% clear on how they work, but they were filed by taxi and bus drivers against the protests, demanding that they clear out within a certain amount of time. Regardless, they’ve been completely ignored.
After being in Mong Kok, I went to meet up with the EMs to help them pass out dinner to protesters in Admiralty. Their friends had donated two massive bags full of sandwiches, cup noodles, Vitasoy, and cookies. Unfortunately they weren’t sure if the sandwiches would still be edible, having been out of the refrigerator all day, and the cup noodles couldn’t be eaten without hot water, which most people didn’t have (which surprised me, since so many other things have been accounted for at the protests!). As we walked around, asking people if they’d had dinner yet, so many people declined and told us to give the food to someone else who hadn’t eat yet. It was a bit frustrating, actually, trying to be nice when everyone denied you the chance!
I was a bit interested to see a stand set up for a Socialist Action group. I hadn’t expected there to be such open welcome of socialist discussion, but people were very friendly and interested as they passed by.
After all the food had been passed out, we were met by one of the EMs’ Chinese friends, who is a volunteer for both Occupy Central with Love and Peace and for Scholarism. A number of volunteers for OCLP were going around speaking with different groups to get their opinions and criticisms on the movement and ideas for its next steps, especially as the student-government talks were happening the next evening. The EMs expressed thoughts that most people have been having. The talks would be useless politically, they said, but at least there would be a chance to either make the government answer certain questions or otherwise show all of Hong Kong that they were unresponsive. They had few expectations for any real results, but were just glad to have a sign of the government’s willingness to speak – especially considering how many times the students have demanded to speak with CY Leung, and how many times he has refused.
After the meeting, they talked about plans to meet with a larger group including not just EMs but other Chinese demonstrators as well. As I left, I saw that the five student delegates who would be speaking with five government representatives were speaking to a loving crowd at the center of Umbrella Square. They were all university students: Alex Chow, Lester Shum, Yvonne Leung, Nathan Law and Eason Chung. Yvonne is the only woman in the group – the only visible woman leader in the entire movement – and the president of the HKU student union. It was absolutely incredible to see the amount of support that they had.
- Quartz story responding to accusations of foreign interference, “The US is no role model in Hong Kong’s democracy fight” [link]
- Time article, “The Main Hong Kong Protest Site Is a Perfect Anarchist Collective” [link]