Sunday, 1 July 2012

Red is for Happiness and Anger

Hundreds of thousands walking out of Victoria Park
Hong Kong is a city of contrasts.

There are those who are extremely wealthy living in luxurious environments and then others who are barely scraping by and inhabiting the most deplorable living conditions.

Some even waved the colonial Hong Kong flags

And today marked even more of a contrast with Hong Kong marking the milestone of 15 years after its return to China.

The elites celebrated the moment with the swearing in of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, where he shockingly gave a speech in Putonghua rather than Cantonese.
Was he just trying to be considerate to his boss Chinese President Hu Jintao who can't understand this southern Chinese dialect or is it a sign of things to come?

Then the 99 percent, a large number of Hong Kong people that was definitely in the hundreds of thousands, voiced their frustration, anger, disappointment and unhappiness in what has become an annual protest march since 2003.

This year there is a laundry list of grievances -- the mistrust of the mainland government is at an all time high, the frustrations of not yet having universal suffrage, questions around the credibility of Leung, the mysterious death of Tiananmen activist Li Wangyang, the widening income gap, and the flood of mainlanders to Hong Kong.

A disgruntled-looking Hello Kitty

Luckily the weather held up and thousands braved the 34-degree weather to gather at Victoria Park before marching to the government offices in Tamar.

We got there around 3pm and already the fields were filling up quickly. Some political faces whipped up the crowd with "F*** you Leung Chun-ying" or "Leung Chun-ying step down!" and selling T-shirts with a wolf face on it, as Leung was branded as the predator during the chief executive election. Another had an arrow turning left with a red line through it, alluding to his alleged Communist background.
There were also lots of Hello Kittys around.

That's because when Leung was recently questioned about the illegal structures in his home on the Peak, he claimed they were there earlier including some Hello Kitty wallpaper.
And so in the last few days there have been lots of Photoshopped pictures of Leung with an angry-looking Hello Kitty.

He has inadvertently made the cute feline character even more popular, with many protestors carrying Hello Kitty fans, umbrellas and stuffed toys.
The march started sometime after 3pm, but it took almost another hour before we started moving out of the park.

Some invoking Dr Sun Yat-sen as the father of democracy

The vast majority were young people in their 20s and 30s, families with young children and some seniors braved the heat. Each person had his or her own reason for coming, but we all marched together in solidarity. There was no pushing or shoving, everyone patiently waiting for those in front to move.

At first we crossed over King's Road and walked towards Causeway Bay; along the way there were many standing on overpasses watching us march. Perhaps some were related to the Chinese government taking pictures?

And then we got to a fork in the road and we took the Jardine's Bazaar path that organizers said would eventually meet up at Sogo department store.
However along this street we literally inched along which was very frustrating with the heat.

"Open the door! Open the road!" We shouted periodically. It seemd the police were trying to make it as difficult as they could for protestors to keep marching. Perhaps they hoped the longer protestors had to wait, they would give up.
I stayed with the procession until about 5:30pm and we had just arrived at Sogo. It took us an hour and a half to walk only part of Causeway Bay.
My friend YTSL later reported they had finished the march at 7pm! And that there were still many others who had only marched up to Sogo and it was already sun down.
Then in another contrast at 8pm there were the annual July 1 fireworks.

Inching along Jardine's Bazaar in Causeway Bay

From my flat I could see one small sliver between the tall buildings, the explosions looking like bits of lava spewing into the sky.

Needless to say there were lots of red fireworks, literally burning lots of money for 20 minutes.
Perhaps it was the Hong Kong and Chinese governments trying to scare away the evil spirits -- the protestors -- from spoiling the otherwise happy celebrations?

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