Sunday, 14 December 2014

Umbrella Movement's Last Stand

The numerous rows of paper umbrellas strung together at Causeway Bay
Some friends from Beijing arrived in Hong Kong the day Admiralty was cleared, so I made sure they had a chance to see the small occupation of Yee Wo Street in Causeway Bay before it is cleared out tomorrow morning.

A tent filled with hopeful messages
It is definitely a shadow of its former self in the beginning of the movement, but many of the elements are still there -- tents, paper umbrellas, slogans, people silk screening T-shirts, political discussions, handing out leaflets and the odd shouts of "We want true universal suffrage!" that got a smattering of applause.

My friends were thrilled to be able to have just a sample of what it was like because from their eyes as visitors, it seemed the polar opposite of the Hong Kong they are familiar with -- capitalist, corporate, shopping, shopping, shopping and more shopping.

It seems strange that Causeway Bay would be the last to go, but perhaps it was causing the least nuisance of the three sites. Nevertheless, the tram company will be relieved to finally be able to use the tracks, parts of which may have rusted, and people can get their lives back to some kind of normality.

I'm still processing the fact that Admiralty is now given way to traffic; yesterday we passed by the area in a taxi and saw workers scrubbing what used to be the Lennon Wall clean... the only traces of the movement left are some of the chalk drawings on the dividers, but rain will wash those out eventually.

A doll with a threatening message?
At dinner my friends and I discussed the impact of the movement... we agreed that it had set the foundation for more pro-democracy activities, but to what end? We couldn't figure that out. But one gave examples that people thought apartheid would continue in our lifetime, but in the end there was peaceful reconciliation, and people thought the Berlin wall would stand forever, but that was knocked down 25 years ago.

He was basically saying these things happen when we least expect it. The Umbrella Movement certainly exploded for us and we ran with it the best we could -- for 75 days.

And with the demise of Causeway Bay tomorrow, the movement will be snuffed out for now. But all is not lost. There is talk now of continuing protests through paying taxes and rents for public housing in amounts of HK$689 or $6.89...

How many people will actually do this will be interesting as it's not illegal according to Franklen Choi Kin-shing, a community college lecturer in social science.

These balloons say it all...
"The unrepresentative government has no right to collect taxes from the people," Choi said, but people should pay using tricks rather than default on the bill altogether.

"This would bring pressure on civil servants, but all sorts of non-cooperation movements inevitably do that," he said, adding the idea had been circulating among Occupy protesters in the past month.

So good bye for now, and see how the Umbrella Movement takes on another form.

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