Monday, 29 September 2014

Occupying Hong Kong for Another Day

A relaxed atmosphere in Central tonight where tear gas was used last night
This morning I woke up to find that main thoroughfares in Central, Admiralty, Wan Chai, Causeway Bay and Mongkok were still blocked by protesters. I was amazed and proud. They had slept on the asphalt all night! And police were slumped off to one side as well...

My company bus was probably not going to be able to take us to work through the usual route, and buses from Kennedy Town that usually go to Causeway Bay and North Point were only going as far as Sheung Wan.

Tons of people in the Sheung Wan MTR station this morning
I caught a bus and it was soon full of passengers. It seemed like the usual commute for most people except that we all had to get off at Wing On department store. And then entering Sheung Wan MTR station, it was packed with people inching towards the turnstiles.

What was even more amazing was that no one complained, everyone just slowly made their way and after we crossed the turnstiles and walked down the stairs, it was pretty much normal in terms of capacity.

Central was pretty quiet, with less volume for rush hour than usual. I made my way all the way to Taipo with not much difficulty.

But once I got to work -- I and everyone else -- were all glued to Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites to follow what was going on. It was so hard to concentrate on getting work done and at lunchtime, all we talked about were the protesters and how the Hong Kong government and Beijing completely miscalculated the situation.

Television footage showed more people showing up at the main protest areas, particularly Admiralty, Causeway Bay and Mongkok despite the heat. They even erected an awning in Mongkok to create some shade from the sun.

Just before lunchtime the Hong Kong government announced that anti-riot police were withdrawing in the hopes it would encourage protesters to disperse.

They did not.

Assistant Commissioner Cheung Tak-keung
Then the Hong Kong Police held a press conference around 3pm and Assistant Commissioner Cheung Tak-keung stated they had used minimum force on the protesters.

When asked to justify the use of tear gas, Cheung explained there were rules the police followed, and said there were some protesters who were "violent". When a reporter asked to name who gave the order, Cheung didn't answer.

"After repeated warnings, police used the minimum force in order to maintain a distance between the protesters and the police so that the injuries will be prevented," Cheung said. "We used pepper spray, the situation is [was] not improved, so that's why we used the tear gas."

He added, "In fact the tear gas did not cause the injury to people; people might feel irritated, not comfortable, so that they might cease their violent behaviour charging the police cordon."

Another reporter asked that with Mongkok full of protesters, why was there hardly any police presence there... was it because they were short of manpower? Cheung did not answer.

Protesters all over Chater Road in Central and beyond
During the press conference it was stated tear gas was used 87 "times" in nine locations, but there was no word on exactly how many canisters were used.

Then a long list was read out on which roads were affected... this was probably a way to try to make people irritated that they were being inconvenienced. But commuters didn't seem to care -- in fact many during lunch time came by the protest sites and dropped off food, water and supplies to show their support.

Around 5pm it was announced the Hong Kong Government would cancel the National Day fireworks on Wednesday. Another triumph for the Occupy movement.

In view of the latest situation, it is anticipated that main access roads leading to hot spots for viewing the fireworks display may continue to be seriously affected. Having regard to public transport arrangements and public safety considerations, the National Day Fireworks Display originally scheduled at Victoria Harbour on October 1 (Wednesday) at 8pm will be cancelled.

Surely people across the border must be wondering what is going on in Hong Kong since anything about Occupy Central has been blocked or heavily censored.

Tonight I had a quick dinner with friends at the foot of Lan Kwai Fong, where it was pretty quiet and no cars on the roads. Afterwards we walked towards Chater Road which was fully occupied by black-clad protesters. They were just hanging out on the full length of the street and probably beyond into Admiralty. It was quite an impressive sight.

What is going to happen next? That is what is on everyone's minds. Some worry Beijing could take a very hardline and repeat what happened in Tiananmen 25 years ago.

Would they really do that? But some people are also concerned that if someone does die during the protests, then what? Is it worth it?

It is something to worry about, but for the time being, there's a party atmosphere at the protest sites, knowing the police aren't there to do battle with them. We shall see what tomorrow brings.

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