Many of you have heard stories and news about the #OccupyCentral movement in Hong Kong. This amorphous, leaderless and grassroot protest is sweeping major business and commercial districts as I type this, and I am proud and honoured to share that I was on the ground with the people last night.
The decision to take part was not a complicated one. For the record, I do not agree with the #OccupyCentral’s objectives and philosophies. What turned on my dismay and anger was the unnecessary and over-the-top violent stance taken by the authority when they clashed with the largely peaceful protesters on the street last Sunday.
So I joined the throngs of ordinary citizens and residents on the street at the first chance I got. I started at Causeway Bay, where a large crowd was growing, with people seated on both sides of the street. There were people pushing trolleys with food and supplies (which reminded me of inflight service!), people offering me plastic bag (for sitting on the wet pavement) and wet towel, and people holding up placards in multiple languages reminding protesters to keep calm, be alert, stay peaceful, fight for democracy etc etc.
I slowly made my way out of Causeway Bay, into Wan Chai MTR station and headed to Central, where an even larger crowd was gathered on the expressway. As clueless and directionless as I was, I found myself within sight of Tamar, the government headquarter which was the scene of clash on Sunday. Self-appointed leaders with loudhailers advised the crowd on what to do in case of a police crackdown, weather warnings, and development from other spots of the protests. That night, Hong Kong-ers in their tens of thousands occupied Central, Admiralty, Wan Chai, Causeway Bay, Tsim Sha Tsui and Mongkok.
I sat on the ground and watched as the people came and went around me but never leaving the street empty. At where I was there wasn’t any spontaneous singing or cheering; a calm and orderly atmosphere prevailed, with applause breaking out every now and then as motorcycles brought supplies to resource stations and foreigner kids shouted their support for Hong Kong.
There was a moment when a sea of lights lighted up from one end of the protest to the other. There wasn’t any loud cheering or singing – just a show of hands of people seeking for democracy. And they numbered in their thousands.
After spending five hours on the street, we decided to call it a night. I walked from Central all the way to Causeway Bay (for a much needed Ichiran break) and then Happy Valley. Along the way I see my fellow “comrades” – people dressed in black with a yellow ribbon, moving along the empty streets of Hong Kong. At one point heaven opened and it poured, and it was then a sea of umbrellas and I was reminded how the humble brollie has become the icon for the movement, when it was used as protection against pepper spray and tear gas last Sunday.
It was a surreal experience. Throughout the night and the few days leading up to it, I have learned a lot about my home city and its people. What I saw – see – is a land of hope and determination, of resilience and perseverance, and of dignity and faith. Though I do not think the movement will achieve the result it wants, it has already done one thing well – that is to remind, rebuild and reinforce the love Hong Kong citizens and residents (like yours truly) have for their home city.
And that is a major victory.