Friday, 31 October 2014

Trying to Force the Issue

Federation of Students' Alex Chow says they are mulling their next steps
The student leaders are trying very hard to resolve the impasse between them and the government, but no one seems to be listening/seems to want to work at it/seems to care.

Earlier the students talked to the pan-Democrats about resigning en masse to trigger a re-election as a kind of referendum, but it seems like that proposal went no where.

And there doesn't seem to be much appetite on either side for another round of talks.

There was also a letter sent to Premier Li Keqiang to meet with the students. Probably not something he would probably entertain...

Now the students are mulling going to Beijing next week and creating attention to their cause during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation.

Alex Chow Yong-kang, secretary general of the Hong Kong Federation of Students said the idea was suggested by Occupy protesters, but he admitted they still had to sort out a back up plan in case they were not allowed into the Chinese capital.

"If the representation can enter Beijing successfully, of course we would want to have a dialogue with officials on universal suffrage," he said. "If Beijing officials value the opinion of Hong Kong people, I believe they will talk to students."

We're afraid the buck stops here.

Who in Beijing will actually speak to the students?

In state media they have already been branded as outlaws doing illegal things, so which official would even want to be associated with them in any way?

The students really need a Zhao Ziyang character, but these days with Chinese President Xi Jinping consolidating his power and having little patience for negotiation, particularly with teenagers, who would even dare to take up their request?

Their chances of even being allowed to enter the mainland are probably very slim -- their names are probably on a blacklist already. The students are foolish to think they can very easily enter China and do what they want like they have in Hong Kong.

China is another beast altogether.

We appreciate the students trying very hard to resolve the situation, but this is beyond their control.

They are right to seek the cooperation of the pan-Democrats to push through politically, but there's a lot of disappointment this group of politicians hasn't done nearly enough to take advantage of the momentum to push forward in a multi-pronged approach.

It feels like the Umbrella Movement is losing its steam, with less coverage in the media and fewer people coming out to the protest sites.

We're just concerned the students need to really calculate their moves because a publicity stunt in Beijing isn't going to be very productive -- in fact if they do get in and do something, there is a chance we may never hear from them again...

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Hong Kong's Culinary Stars

The Michelin Man makes his appearance in Hong Kong today
The Michelin Guide 2015 Hong Kong and Macau was released today to much fanfare at the Four Seasons Hong Kong.

I wasn't there, but it's always an exciting moment -- much like the Oscars -- to find out who got how many stars -- and who lost them.

This year there were five restaurants awarded three stars, 14 two stars and 45 one star.

While three stars is a crowning achievement in the culinary world, in Hong Kong the winners did not change at all compared to last year.

They are in alphabetical order:

Bo Innovation
L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon
Lung King Heen
8 1/2 Otto e Mezzo
Sushi Shikon

Then things got interesting with three new restaurants attaining two-star status:

The Principal
Yan Toh Heen

Again, places like Amber, Pierre and Caprice retained their two stars, and again we wonder why the likes of Amber still only merit two stars...

We like The Principal chef Jonay Armas' culinary creativity, who is always looking for new flavours as well as combinations on the plate that are beautifully presented, but I have yet to try Duddell's...

Restaurants that gained their first star:

Ho Hung Kee
Kam's Roast Goose
Kazuo Okada
Sushi Ginza Iwa
Tin Ho Wan (Tak Kwok Tsui)
Upper Modern Bistro
Yat Lok

Having recently sampled some roast goose places, Yat Lok is definitely delicious, though it will be a trek for most people to get to Taipo, while Kam's Roast Goose is a new eatery that opened in early July, using a recipe very similar to Yung Kee.

Seasons has a lot of promise, as chef/owner Oliver Elzer has a lot of fine dining experience behind him having worked for Joel Robuchon and Pierre Gagnaire. His restaurant offers an array of dishes in either full or degustation portions, but I have yet to eat at NUR and Upper Modern Bistro. The location for Kazuo Okada is out of the way but offers authentic Japanese cuisine.

Some lost stars, like L'Altro, Gold, Spoon by Alain Ducasse and Tosca... what happened?

We still can't figure out how the Michelin guide works, and why they awarded stars or no stars to certain restaurants, which gives the rest of us lots fodder to talk about...

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Trying to Clear the Air

Perhaps Jasper Tsang is finally talking some sense following CY Leung?
Is Jasper Tsang Yok-sing the next to go after James Tien Pei-chun?

The Legislative Council President and pro-establishment lawmaker says there aren't any "foreign forces" influencing the Umbrella Movement. "I can't see it happening," he said in an interview with Cable TV.

"Unless you treat foreign diplomats expressing concerns as an intervention by external forces. I think their concerns, raised objectively, were not intended to influence, dominate or instigate any side," he said.

Earlier this month Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying claimed "external forces" influenced the mass protests and occupation of streets in Hong Kong, but he refused to identify them, only saying he would reveal them later.

One newspaper cartoonist drew the suggestion it was Mary Poppins.

Others said it was Jesus, Che Guevara and Bob Marley, with photographic evidence of their images at the protest sites.

So will Tsang be punished for his comments, claiming there are no external forces involved in the Umbrella Movement because he's not following the same narrative as Leung?

The drama continues.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

The Threat of Expulsion

The CPPCC may revoke James Tien's seat for saying CY Leung should resign
It has been exactly a month since teargas was unleashed on protesters on Harcourt Road, and at Admiralty tonight they are marking the milestone with nostalgic songs, rousing speeches and shining their mobile phone lights.

But James Tien Pei-chun is facing an unprecedented crisis tonight with the standing committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) threatening to strip him of his seat in the country's advisory body.

Last Friday Tien made the unusually bold move to say during an interview with Commercial Radio that Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's relationship with the Legislative Council had deteriorated, that his leadership was poor, and he should ask Beijing to allow him to resign.

This is not the first time the leader of the Liberal Party and pro-Beijing lawmaker has made a radical move -- he resigned from the Executive Council days after the 2003 July 1 march that forced then chief executive Tung Chee-hwa to rescind Article 23, the national security legislation.

And a day after this year's July 1 march, Tien said Leung should consider resigning after tens of thousands marched from Victoria Park to Chater Garden.

But it looks like this time Beijing doesn't want to be seen as entertaining divergent points of view and may be set to punish Tien for sticking his head out.

This afternoon the CPPCC discussed removing Tien as a delegate and it will be put to a vote tomorrow.

CPPCC standing committee member Chan Wing-kee said the proposal to unseat Tien is based in the CPPCC charter that says the standing committee has the power to strip the post of a delegate who violates the charter or the resolution of the CPPCC's plenary session.

One resolution passed in March states CPPCC delegates must "resolutely support the chief executives of Hong Kong and Macau to govern in accordance with laws".

While Tien says he will make a comment tomorrow, his younger brother Michael Tien Puk-sun said, "A delegate has the duty to observe the CPPCC's rule and should be prepared to pay a price if he feels there is a need to air his views."

The fact that the CPPCC discussed the issue this afternoon perhaps means James Tien's guanxi is not as strong or deep has Leung's, that the central government continues to stand by their man even though he's made so many verbal gaffes in the last few days one has to wonder why they insist on keeping him.

But it looks like loyalty trumps competence and again adds ammunition to why protesters are out on the streets.

The mainlandization of Hong Kong is happening much faster than I thought. If James Tien is indeed kicked out of the CPPCC, other pro-Beijing lawmakers will probably tow the Party line even more so.

This is creating more divisiveness and harder to find some kind of compromise.

Seems like the buck definitely stops here with Beijing. Now what?

Monday, 27 October 2014

Keeping the Passion Alive

Looking at the Admiralty protest site towards Central
This evening I took a friend around who just came back after a month-long trip and completely missed the entire first four weeks of Occupy. We walked off our dinner by walking from Central to Admiralty and so she was able to see the protest site from the flyover and then get into the thick of things.

The protest encapsulated in a cartoon
She had read up on what was going on while she was away, but hadn't actually experienced it which adds another dimension to understanding and absorbing what is going on. My friend was very impressed by how creative people were, and the willingness of people to camp out for so long.

We walked up and down the steps along Lennon Wall and she contributed a message, whereas I think mine from four weeks ago was washed out by the rain! Since then they have put plastic covers over the ones on the outer edge.

Then we saw a group of foreigners standing by the gate where Civic Square is and a Chinese woman speaking English explained to them the chronology of events. Has this now officially become a guided tourist site?

Near the Legislative Council entrance is a shell-shaped area, a public space, and tonight on the cement wall they were projecting short films people had made about the Umbrella Movement. They were quite funny and satirical.

Colourful origami mobile with an umbrella!
In one a guy pretends to be a reporter checking out the Umbrella Movement scene. He points to big yellow umbrellas and wonders if these are the missiles the police were warning the public about...

Another featured a slide show of the supposed bromance between Federation of Students' Alex Chow and Lester Shum and singing in the background is Denise Ho with her song called Louie & Lawrence about two guys in love... quite amusing really, when juxtaposed with the two student leaders' pictures of them giving speeches, arms around each others' shoulders...

Here are the lyrics:

Louie and Lawrence were both good-looking boys
Louie was the popular one,
while Lawrence only loved reading
They were, however, inseparable
always wearing those innocent white shirts
This romance began in proximity
yet they did not dare let their guards down

Outdoor cinema right by the Legislative Council
To be as friends, there's more of less love involved
But to become brothers, and to love as such,
Bystanders would certainly not accept them

If they were to hug, even by accident,
one of them would surely shy away
However enjoyable that might be,
they're afraid to admit
Even if they avoided making eye contact
Deep down they'd know love was involved

A boy and a boy, how could they be that close?
Louie couldn't deal with it,
but he did promise her Lawrence was just as infatuated
Until she finally took a leap
Images of Alex Chow (left) and Lester Shum (right)
Their eyes met as she took off her blouse
It was only then did Louie realize
he had never thought of his close friend as a girl

To be as friends, there's more or less love involved
But to become brothers, and to love as such,
Bystanders will certainly not accept them

Why does true love always end on a sad note?
He is truly surprised, as he thinks about the past
of how they used to shop, study and stare at the sea

They're practically lovers, as the cards finally did reveal

Why be afraid, if you feel that this is love?
Why calculate who he is and wonder if it adds up in the end?
Which bystander will accept love as such?

Perfectly compatible but against all odds, just let it go
To be in denial and not come out
The world will then never change
As there will only be more tragedies as such
Or do you prefer to love like the Butterfly Lovers?

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Keeping Up Morale

A Lego dramatization of the Umbrella Movement on show at Admiralty
A referendum was supposed to take place tonight at Admiralty to gage what protesters thought should be the next plan of action.

But it was called off hours before it was due to start, mainly because protesters had different views about how to move forward and felt the poll would not achieve much.

Have your portrait taken at the site with an "umbrella"
"The public may feel that there are problems with the movement's organization and leadership, and we admit that... I promise that in the future, we will have sufficient notification and discussion with protesters, before making a major, formal decision, said Occupy co-founder Benny Tai Yiu-ting.

Federation of Students' Alex Chow Yong-kang said some protesters felt there was no need for a vote because them occupying the streets proved they supported the issues in the referendum.

It's an embarrassing gaffe for the Occupy/Umbrella Movement, but tonight there was a strong turnout in Admiralty.

There was a mini concert held, a guy with a guitar sang a few songs followed by speeches by others to fire up the crowd, marking Day 29.

A yellow umbrella mobile hanging by the escalator
The newest thing now is to take a portrait at the protest site and with the camera shutter open for a long exposure, a guy with a yellow light "draws" between two people to make it look like they are holding an umbrella.

We also saw a young woman using a whiteboard marker drawing on the hood of her convertible -- how did she drive it in there? She wrote "I love students" complete with a drawing of an umbrella and lion with the banner "I want true democracy", referring to the Lion Rock banner stunt. She invited two kids to write "add oil" in Chinese.

There wasn't any hard feelings about not having the vote -- it was probably for the best.

However this weekend Robert Chow Yung's group was out in force, collecting signatures to support the police, an indirect pro-Beijing reference. They were in every neighbourhood including mine soliciting signatures, though I heard even children's autographs were accepted, which may explain why they had some 300,000 on the first day.

A woman draws on the hood of her car
This numbers game just creates a greater divide between people instead of trying to inch closer to some kind of consensus...

But it got really ugly in Tsim Sha Tsui last night, when some anti-Occupy supporters had scuffled with journalists, when a RTHK reporter was dragged to the ground, and a TVB reporter and two TVB cameramen were injured.

And people try to claim Umbrella Movement protesters are inciting violence?

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Re-Balancing the Economy

Protesters making lots of stools and picnic tables in Admiralty last night
Before Occupy Central was supposed to take place, Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah warned it would cause serious damage to Hong Kong as an international financial centre, and how it would burnish the city's reputation.

Twenty-eight days later and Tsang has had to admit Hong Kong's economic situation and financial markets have remained stable -- and in fact the stock market beat every other developed market in the world this month.

While some sectors have been hit badly, such as transport, food and beverage, retail and tourism, a few landlords in Causeway Bay and Central have been more forgiving lately and lowered rents, some as much as 40 percent.

Drawing cartoon portraits for people
And most of the retail that's been hit are the high-end luxury brands that the vast majority of us -- as Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has pointed out this week -- can't afford -- so it doesn't affect us much really.

Tsang also said a few days ago that credit-card spending had plunged in major shopping areas like Causeway Bay. He did not give figures, but said the government was watching closely and again urged the protesters to leave the area.

Is the usage of credit cards another of his indications of those in the middle class, along with drinking coffee and watching French movies?

He did not indicate that perhaps more people were using cash in these areas instead, or that perhaps they aren't buying designer handbags, and eating foie gras, but purchasing camping gear and hardware supplies instead?

Can we add here the protesters are not entirely selfish -- In Causeway Bay there is a large map that protesters have drawn that encourages others to patronize local shops in the area so that they aren't hit too hard by the occupation.

So other than the cleaner air, community atmosphere and more face-to-face dialogue between people, can we also say the Umbrella Movement has actually helped re-balance the local economy?

Friday, 24 October 2014

Keeping the Banner Alive

The "in" thing to do at the Admiralty site this evening
Just over 24 hours later, the 28-metre-long yellow banner that read, "I want true democracy" on Lion Rock was taken away by government services around 11am.

Police cordoned off the area so that a team of eight firefighters and five mountain rescue officers could clear the banner that was hung by a mountain climbing group called The Hong Kong Spidie.

Street art continues to flourish here
Nevertheless, the pictures of the banner were all over the place, and will be remembered for a long time. It's probably the most creative idea to date with regards to the umbrella movement.

But not before the banner was gone, people were already taking creative license with the banner. For example, they took a picture of the grown up Simba from Lion King and draped the banner along its back, to represent Lion Rock.

In another they took the picture of the five government officials pictured before they debated with the students, and on each of them, covered their faces with a smaller copy of this banner.

Some say this is similar to what Taoist priests do to exorcise Chinese vampires -- by sticking a piece of paper on their heads with calligraphy on it. Are they implying Hong Kong's government officials are vampires and democracy with exorcise them?

Umbrella supplies just in case...
And so tonight at Admiralty, YTSL and I saw a few people have that yellow piece of paper that says "I want true democracy" and the sticking it on their faces to be photographed.

Seems like the "cool" thing to do at the protest sites now...

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Picture of the Day: Lion Rock Supports the Umbrella Movement

Big enough sign for you? Unfurled this morning on the peak of Lion Rock
Around 11am this morning, a group of about 10 climbers called police from the peak of Lion Rock to say they were about to unfurl a banner "as long as two shipping containers".

The 6m x 28m yellow banner reads, "We want genuine universal suffrage", in response to Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's remarks earlier this week that the poor should not have equality in elections.

The group calls itself "The Hong Kong Spidie", and putting the banner on Lion Rock has a lot of meaning.

Unlike Victoria Peak on Hong Kong Island which represents the tycoons, Lion Rock is a symbol of the average person, whose characteristics include perseverance and hardworking.

Any bets on how long the banner will stay up there for everyone to see?

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

The Occupy Saga Continues

The Federation of Students who debated government officials last night
Today everyone was still talking about the debate between the students and government officials last night. Many remarked how good the students were. Can we put this into perspective? What were you doing when you were 18 years old? Since when have you seen teenagers debate adults more than twice their age with intelligence and passion?

It dawned on me this evening that no one knew the debate would happen after 25 days of occupying the three protest sites. Who knew the protests would last this long? Everyday has brought with it a roller coaster ride of drama and we haven't had time to even catch our breath.

Today there were more developments. It took more than 24 hours for locals to pick up on Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's comments to foreign media that if candidates were nominated by the public then the poor would dominate the electoral process. He claimed that meant more than half the population made less than $1,800 (HK$13,964) per month would dominate the political agenda...

A truck collects stuff used to create barricades in Mongkok
Despite the delay, poverty groups quickly organized and about 100 people marched to Government House where Leung resides to protest his remarks. They didn't even apply for a protest march license, but the police let them make their way there anyway. One police officer even helped push a wheelchair up the hill.

And then this afternoon the Taxi Drivers and Operators Association tried to execute its court injunction in Mongkok, reading out the legal letter and then began to take down the barricades and removing the materials with a large truck with a crane.

However, as protesters tried to stop them, scuffles ensued, and police had to get in between the two parties and hold each other back. Eventually the taxi group retreated and said it would have a rethink about how it would take back the street legally.

But this evening things got ugly when someone threw three glass bottles of paint thinner at protesters standing near the supply station, and then tried to set fire to the supplies but was stopped in time. Then there were four bags of a mixture of faeces and oil thrown at protesters from a nearby building. Will police investigate?

One of the many civil sservant ID cards photographed
Other drama includes the revelation that there is a Facebook page that was only set up on Monday for civil servants who support the Umbrella Movement. Called "Civil Servants Support Umbrella", there were about 1,500 signatures to counter another group called Government Employees Association and Hong Kong Civil Servants General Union who denounced the movement.

There are many photographs on the Facebook page showing people's staff cards showing titles, but blocking out the names. They come from various departments including the judiciary and police...

But finally -- the biggest news of all was that jazz saxophonist Kenny G is in Hong Kong and he was photographed visiting the protest site at Admiralty. On his Twitter account there was a picture of him with the words: "In Hong Kong at the sight [sic] of the demonstration. I wish everyone a peaceful and positive conclusion to this situation".

Immediately there was speculation -- as Kenny G is a very popular musician in China -- would be allowed back into the mainland to perform.

Kenny G gives the protest his blessing
This afternoon Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying was asked to comment on his appearance at Admiralty.

"I think Kenny G's music is popular in China, though regarding the illegal protest in hong Kong, the Chinese government has a clear position. We think that is an illegal campaign," Hua said.

"We support the government of Hong Kong to handle it in accordance with the law to maintain stability in Hong Kong. Thus we hope all foreign countries and individuals could be discreet in words and deeds and not support the illegal protest in any forms," she said.

Maybe Kenny G was the "foreign force" Chief Executive Leung was referring to a few days ago?

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

The Students vs The Government

Some 2,000 people gathered in Admiralty to watch the live debates on TV
The highly-anticipated debate between the students and government officials was finally held after 24 days of occupying the streets.

Everyone knew there would be no consensus, but wanted to see how it would all play out.

I missed the first hour, commuting from work to Admiralty, where it was jam-packed with people, mostly standing and listening intently.

The students got advice from former Secretary of Justice Wong Yan-lung as well as Democratic Party stalwart Martin Lee Chu-ming, Dr Joseph Chan Cho-wai, former head of University of Hong Kong's department of politics, and Occupy Central co-founder and associate professor of sociology Chan Kin-man.

Federation of Students' Alex Chow said after the debates they prepared all last night with some 20 lawyers and academics helping them.

As a result the students were very well prepped and they showed it, particularly Yvonne Leung, who cites the constitution that laws can be changed, countering Secretary of Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung's claims.

Students on one side... who on the other?
"According to the constitution of the People's Republic of China, the National People's Congress possesses the power to overthrow the decision," she said. Cheers in the crowd.

The law student's other points were that the government has a responsibility to initiate electoral reform decision instead of anticipating the central government's decision, and that the government has given up its right to fight Beijing for democracy.

Some tweeted she would make an excellent constitutional lawyer.

All the students spoke, but on the government's side, only Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, Yuen, and Raymond Tam, Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs; Edward Yau, Director of the Chief Executive's Office and Lau Kong-wah, Under Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs did not say a word in the two-hour debate.

Immediately people online created caricatures of Lau hiding in a trash bin in the room...

There were a lot of comments of why the officials were addressing the students by their English names and not by their last names as stipulated in the rules. Many found it condescending, perhaps a tactic to keep the students in their place.

But the students were undeterred and kept voicing their grievances to the government, that people are unhappy with the way things are now which is why they have protested and slept on the streets for 24 days now.

They also attacked Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's remarks yesterday to foreign media, like The New York Times and Wall Street Journal that if one man, one vote was given in Hong Kong, then the poor would be the dominant voice.

Many were outraged to read his comments, which will get the poverty advocates out on the streets as well. To say that Leung is only interested in courting specific interest groups again shows his contempt for the majority of the population and particularly those who are barely eking out a living.

The officials tried to reiterate their position, and that the students were being naive, that they didn't know the politics behind trying to get electoral reform passed. Lam also threw in the anti-Occupy poll that had over 1 million signatures, to which the crowd groaned. Really? Not all those signatures were verified and many were not even Hong Kong residents!

She also claimed that Mongkok was dangerous which is why the occupation should end. But some people said afterwards that Lam should go there herself to see how peaceful the protesters have been, particularly these past two days.

In the end Lam tried to soothe the students, and said she hoped there would be more dialogue, that 2017 was only the first step towards electoral reform. But will the students buy it?

A lot of people left Admiralty as soon as the protests were over, but the solidarity was there. Will the crowds continue to hang out in the protest sites remain to be seen, but the students definitely made Hong Kong people proud -- they were speaking out their frustrations to the government directly, who should have been listening all along.

Monday, 20 October 2014

A Legal End to Protests?

One of many protesters camped out in front of the Legislative Council last night
It took three third parties to get the High Court to issue court injunctions to clear the protest sites at both Mongkok and Admiralty tonight.

In Mongkok there were two plaintiffs, the Taxi Association and Taxi Drivers and Operators Association who asked to clear Nathan Roads, near to and between Argyle and Dundas streets, and Chiu Luen Public Light Bus Company who wanted Argyle Street between Tung Choi Street and Portland Street to resume traffic.

While accepting the plaintiffs' arguments that the occupied streets caused a nuisance and were an "inconvenience", the judge also noted Mongkok was the site of violent clashes with police, and that prolonged occupation could lead to even more violence.

Not long after the High Court issued another court injunction saying protesters in Admiralty must clear fire exits, emergency vehicle exits and the entrance to the car park at Citic Tower, at the intersection of Tim Mei Avenue and Lung Wui Road.

A string of yellow umbrellas on the walkway
The applicant for the injunction, Golden Investment Limited, claimed protests were "severely affecting the operations of commercial and retail business within the property", and putting tenants at risk.

Both court injunctions are effective immediately, as police could evict protesters at any moment, but they aren't leaving anytime soon.

People Power lawmaker Albert Chan Wai-yip said he was talking to legal experts about appealing the decisions, though he warned that from now on there was a risk in staying on the occupied roads, as contempt of court could lead to a custodial sentence.

Scholarism founder Joshua Wong Chi-fung says it's up to protesters to decide if they wanted to stay or not, and those who remain should be aware of the legal consequences.

But everyone seems to be waiting to see what happens at tomorrow's talks before deciding what to do next.

However Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and the Hong Kong police have decided to vilify the protesters before the dialogue.

Yesterday Leung was interviewed by ATV and claimed that "external forces from different countries from different parts of the world" had taken part in the Occupy Movement.

"This is not entirely a domestic movement and it is getting out of hand," he said on ATV's Newsline.

Can Hong Kong still retain its unique identity within China?
Leung did not clarify exactly who, and the US Consulate today denied any part in the protests.

Meanwhile the police said parents who brought young children to the protests were doing something "extremely irresponsible and dangerous".

"As some protesters act more and more radical, anyone bringing young children to high-risk areas may put their safety at risk in case of confrontation. The parents or adults concerned may have breached the laws of Hong Kong," the statement said.

Police said they would take "appropriate action to protect children from unnecessary harm", without elaborating on what exactly they would do.

Parents would be silly to bring their children to Mongkok these days, but Admiralty? We saw many young kids last night, even newborns. Their parents obviously wanted them to see what was going on even if they were too young to comprehend.

The shrillness of the authorities' voices are so reminiscent of Beijing. The extreme language they use and the vagueness makes it all the more... pathetic.

Except for the tensions in Mongkok, who really believes their protectionist language that borders on paranoia?

Yet another sign of Hong Kong fast becoming like another Chinese city...

Sunday, 19 October 2014

The Final Showdown?

A decent turnout at Admiralty tonight, determined to protest peacefully
Overnight there were violent clashes in Mongkok with police taking away the protesters' supplies and trying to reclaim Nathan and Argyle roads.

Several people were hit by batons and pepper spray but again like before, the police were outnumbered and had to retreat.

Parents were applauded for their support of the movement
Many report it was the police who provoked the violence, not the protesters...

Today things were calm in Mongkok, but tonight may be a different story.

This evening YTSL and I again got some dinner and brought it to the flyover from Admiralty to Central. We chose to sit near the Central Government Offices and there were only a handful of officers behind the barricades, casually looking out for trouble.

But behind them were more and more police vans -- well over two dozen -- parked on the road. There were periodic streams of officers coming into the offices, and then coming out later, some with helmets, others with plastic bags. Two carried a large gray box, and another carried banners used for police warnings.

We periodically checked on them and saw they were departing as they came, and guessed they were going to Mongkok...

A sea of tents parked right at the entrance of Legco
Tomorrow is the start of the party plenum tomorrow in Beijing, and perhaps there was hope the streets would be cleared by then, but it doesn't look like it. Mongkok will definitely be hard for the police to take back with the triad undertones there.

Tonight Admiralty was very calm and about 2,000 people, either die-hards or passing by. The student leaders came to speak and stressed this was a peaceful protest, they were the ones who weren't violent, but the police. This got cheers from the crowd.

Another admitted he didn't know what the government was going to say on Tuesday during the televised talks. They are probably trying to figure that out now themselves...

A speaker who was an adult, praised the parents who have supported the students for the past 22 days. There were lots of applause. Not only did they cook dinner for their children when they came back to eat and rest, but also made soup for them too! As he was speaking we could see two mothers, one pumping both arms in the air. Obviously he was speaking to them and many others in the crowd.

"Society's Library" with many books for people to borrow
We wandered to the entrance of the Legislative Council, an area I hadn't been to before, and I was surprised to see so many tents right at the entrance where the driveway is, as on the grassy areas. There was also a mini library for people to borrow books and of course many creative signs.

One read: "People driven by dignity will always stay longer than those driven by money". Well said!

We also spotted Totoro with a yellow ribbon pinned to his chest and holding a yellow umbrella...

Some say the students should have claimed their victory already and let life go on, while others believe they should stay there until the end.

If they do the former, they will have lost their bargaining chips. This is why they are occupying the streets. Who has been making all the missteps so far? The government.

Totoro also holds a yellow umbrella...
Blame it for being completely caught off guard by people's anger and frustration that has been simmering for years.

Hong Kong is very dysfunctional, catering to the rich to make themselves even richer, while the rest of us eke out a living. What kind of future is that for the majority of the population?

This is why we need accountability, why we need democracy.

But for now there are worries of what tonight will bring...

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Establishing Dialogue At Last

Sketcher-Kee founder Kay Cheung's drawing of Mongkok early in the protests
Is there finally some progress?

After the violent clashes in Mongkok last night that saw police using pepper spray and batons on protesters, the Federation of Students called for talks with Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor.

It will be held on Tuesday at the Hong Kong Academy of Medicine in Wong Chuk Hang and moderated by pro-Beijing Lingnan University president Professor Leonard Cheng Kwok-hon.

Each side will have five representatives and the dialogue will be televised. Wonder if it will be a situation of who blinks first. While the Hong Kong government has made a series of missteps dealing with this now three-week-old occupation of streets in the city, it will be interesting to see what, if anything comes out of the talks.

Police Commissioner Andy Tsang Wai-hung
Will Lam reiterate the Basic Law again and lecture that there is no room for negotiation about civic nomination for the next chief executive? And will the students be persuasive enough to make Lam realize they are serious about their intentions and not a bunch of hooligans Police Commissioner Andy Tsang Wai-hung is trying to make them out to be?

Today almost three weeks later he finally made a statement angrily condemning the protesters, which just inflames the situation.

"Police strongly condemn those who participated in the unlawful assembly, charged police cordons and illegally occupied major thoroughfares in Mongkok earlier this morning and last night. Such behaviours are neither peaceful nor non-violent," he said.

"The police have been extremely tolerant of the unlawful acts of the demonstrators in the past two to three weeks. We did this in the hope that they can calm down and express their views in an otherwise peaceful, rational and lawful manner. Unfortunately these protesters choose to carry on with their unlawful acts... which are even more radical and violent.

What the protesters think about the Hong Kong government...
"To these protesters, you may think that your illegal acts have prevented the police in going about our duties, disrupted our deployments and even forced us to retreat. Superficially that may be the case. But let me tell you this: these illegal acts are undermining the rule of law, undermining [what] Hong Kong has always been relying on to succeed," Tsang continued.

"If, from now on, the police fail to uphold law effectively, who is there to benefit? And what is there to gain?" he said, then turned and walked away without taking questions from the media.

Reporters probably wanted to ask him, if the police are so tolerant, then why did seven of them beat up Ken Tsang who was already detained? Why were police dogs used on Lung Wo Road last night? And does he not see it is the police that have provoked the protesters to be defensive? Who are the ones with more weapons?

Yes the students and protesters are occupying the streets, but that's because the government refuses to have a dialogue with them.

It's pretty simple really. And they should not be talked down to. They are the future leaders of Hong Kong.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Continuing to Fight Their Ground

The crowd singing and lighting up their phones tonight in Admiralty
Actions speak louder than words.

Yesterday Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said he was open to dialogue with the students, but also clearing the streets. And he (or rather the Hong Kong Police) did that early this morning in Mongkok.

They swooped in at around 5am and again systematically cleared tents and barricades to get the streets ready for the morning rush hour. However, protesters refused to leave and occupied part of one street.

"Hui Sir" with his famous line "I will now recap in English"
More people came by later and tonight there are clashes with police who are using pepper spray and batons to push back protesters away from Nathan and Argyle roads that they reoccupied, by constantly dropping and picking up coins on the roads.

This clearly shows Leung is not bargaining in good faith -- he has scheduled to meet with the students on Tuesday, perhaps his deadline to clear the roads by then so that the students will have no bargaining chips left.

And this is why Joshua Wong Chi-fung is calling on protesters in Admiralty to go to Mongkok to maintain their ground. It really is a battle for territory now.

Breaking news -- the protesters outnumbered the police and have retreated for now...

A straight-forward message in baby tiles...
I didn't go to Mongkok but stayed in Admiralty, where there were probably 2,000 people including Central who were there to show support.

Students were in tents lit with desk lamps where they did their homework, though how do you concentrate when people are giving speeches? There was even a sign that read "We are not a tourist site", as a hint not to take pictures of them.

We still saw a lot of artistic creativity pouring out, from urban sketching to fantastic caricatures of Leung, and even a painting of Chief Superintendent of Police Public Relations Branch Hui Chun-tak.

Broken umbrellas create a canopy
He has been the face of the Hong Kong Police since day one, giving daily afternoon briefings to the media. And locals have made Hui, or "Hui Sir" or "Mr Hui" a celebrity online, creating spoof videos of him or rap songs using his usual line, "I will now recap in English".

Occupying the roads has been an amazing experience. We literally sat on the flyover and had our dinner, chatting. Many others were gathered like us too, having conversations and not always checking their phones every other minute. More people are seen reading too, which is not what you'd see much in the city.

Over a year ago everyone was gaga over a large, inflated yellow duck. Now they are fighting for democracy.

Here's a heartwarming video to remind us all what we're fighting for:

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Looking up to the Next Generation

Joshua Wong (in the red shirt) addresses the crowd at Admiralty
This is an editorial written by Lam Hang-chi, founder and former chief editor of the Hong Kong Economic Journal. The English version was published last weekend, but is still relevant:

Hong Kong's Next Generation of Democrat
The organizers of Occupy Central, as well as the city's democratic lawmakers, are fading into history.

Wednesday was the 11th day of Occupy Central, or the "Umbrella Movement."

It is evident that in Hong Kong's pursuit of genuine universal suffrage and full democracy, young students have come to the fore to lead the campaign. By contrast, Occupy organizers, as well as pan-democratic lawmakers, are fading into history.

It's safe to say that the aspirations of Hong Kong's youth for civil nomination in the selection of chief executive candidates have caught Leung Chun-ying 's administration off guard. Officials have been expecting their enthusiasm to fizzle out. How wrong they are.

Mr. Leung thought his heavy-handed approach early on—deploying riot squads and firing tear gas—would deter the students. This after white terror was unleashed by the early arrest and lengthy detention of student leaders before the sit-in began.

But the scare tactic backfired, galvanizing citizens to participate in the protest after the brutal police action on unarmed and peaceful demonstrators was splashed across the international media.

The truth is that the students are undaunted in the face of crackdowns.

Since the 1997 handover, numerous marches and public processions have earned Hong Kong a reputation as the protest capital. These students, who have been polite and well organized since the first day of the demonstration, have drawn solidarity from people around the world.

The only place that is unmoved is mainland China, where the government-run media and propaganda organizations have labeled the protests unlawful.

Alex Chow, secretary general of the Hong Kong Federation of Students, told his fellow protesters that they have taken a big step forward but a lot more has to be done before final victory is in sight.

I deeply admire these young people and I also appreciate the support from their elders, who choose to maintain a low profile and let the young democrats take the stage. Still, when it comes to whether we can ultimately win, I am still in grave doubt.

It remains unclear whether talks between the students and government can resolve the crisis. Meanwhile, repeated appeals from former government officials, university presidents and other well-known figures for an end to the protest are raising some eyebrows.

I am particularly disappointed with some of our dignitaries and religious leaders, who should have helped dissuade the government from using force instead of showing superficial concern for the students by asking them to withdraw immediately to avoid bloodshed.

These people asked the students to surrender even before the government showed the slightest sign it was willing to compromise.

The right thing to do would have been to lobby the government. Only when there was a chance of a good response should they have told the students to leave.

For instance, when Cardinal Joseph Zen, the former bishop of Hong Kong and a predominant figure in the democratic campaign, told the students to leave, it appeared to me his words were nothing but a disclaimer: If you get hurt or find yourselves in danger, it has nothing to do with me.

By the same token, I have some serious doubts about the motive of former chief justice Andrew Li.

Former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa joined the appeal last week. But I sincerely hope he would also spare some time conveying public views and social sentiments back to Beijing the same way he relayed messages from the central authorities after leading a group of Hong Kong tycoons to the capital last month.

In this sense, I must pay respect to Joseph Wong, former secretary for the civil service; Joseph Ha, auxiliary bishop; Edward Chan, former chairman of the Hong Kong Bar Association; as well as a number of university professors and lecturers for their petition to get the government talking as soon as possible and ensure the safety of the students.

Scholarism founder Joshua Wong warned that pepper spray and tear gas are just a prelude to more severe means to suppress the protesters. He urged high-school students to leave first.

The purpose of the protests is not to create martyrs. A mass protest can only last a dozen days and it's unrealistic to achieve all the goals in one go.

What's the point of sacrifice if the protesters are injured and hospitalized before civil nomination is realized? Mr. Wong's remarks show that on top of their dedication and enthusiasm, the protesters are rational and realistic.

When scuffles first broke out in Mong Kok, where several students were shoved and punched, one young student spoke in front of a television camera, saying they would be playing into the government's hands if they surrendered to their fear and gave up.

In him, I see a new generation of Hongkongers who are well educated, more civil and more courageous and committed.

The movement is inevitably causing inconvenience and losses to residents and shops. But taking to the streets to voice our discontent is perhaps the only bargaining chip we have in our pursuit of genuine universal suffrage.

It remains a daunting task to press ahead with the campaign while minimizing disturbance to society and avoiding provocation and further clashes. For the time being, talks without further ado are the only solution.

Finding Courage and Hope

Thousands come to listen to the student leaders speak tonight in Admiralty
This afternoon Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying gave a press conference with Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor standing by him.

He basically explained the government was working on three things: holding and maintaining dialogue with the protesters, which could be as early as next week; restore order in Hong Kong by clearing the roads; and holding the second round of public consultations regarding electoral reform.


Many are camped out here for the long run...
Leung reiterated the National People's Congress August 31 decision on electoral reform cannot be revised, and that "politics is the art of the possible", insinuating that civic nominations were impossible.

Raymond Tam Chi-yuen, secretary for constitutional and mainland affairs also explained that no where in the Basic Law does it say anything about universal suffrage, and that Hong Kong people should accept what has been decided by the NPC for 2017, and that this was "the beginning of a new chapter" for Hong Kong in its quest for democracy.


No one really expected Leung to say anything enlightening, but the fact that they repeated over and over that there was no way of changing Beijing's mind on its decision on how candidates would be chosen for the next chief executive showed the Hong Kong government was just a conduit for the central government, that Leung hasn't really spoken for the city's residents.

And the second round of consultation -- has he not seen or heard what has been going on for the past 19 days? The people have spoken, but he has not listened. He explained that he had taken into consideration people's views and put them in a document presented to Beijing, but he obviously didn't choose a wide range of opinions.

A string of paper umbrellas decorate Admiralty like flowers
Surely if Leung collects more views and they are all the same, he definitely isn't representing the interests of Hong Kong people.

And so it wasn't surprising to see several thousand people out in Admiralty tonight.

They, like me, came for consolation. I was overwhelmed with emotion seeing so many people there, of all ages, clapping and shouting approval at what the student leaders were saying. They continued their refrain about how this movement was peaceful, that it was fighting for democracy, that Leung was not sincere, and how this is about Hong Kong's future.

I was overwhelmed to see these protesters, die-hard ones as well as people coming in the evenings in their work clothes, all united for one cause. Despite the bad news they received from Leung today, they were still determined to continue fighting for what they believe in.

This is Hong Kong. This is what Hong Kong people are. Resilient, determined, hardworking and amazingly civil.

I finally heard Joshua Wong Chi-fung speak tonight. He advised the rapt audience not to swear at and clash with police. The bespectacled 18-year-old recalled the protesters' fight with police over Tung Lo Road, saying:

Italian painter Francesco Lietti invites protesters to make art
"It was 4am. Some protesters were swearing at police officers. I also saw masked men standing at the back telling people to clash with police while they themselves did nothing," he said. "I felt so helpless and didn't know what to do.

"I hope you can remember that we are here to protest, not to vent our anger," Wong continued. "Should we see the police as a tool to vent our anger? This is a question each of us here should think about."

I can't help but think that the students will meet with Leung, but then it will be the same thing all over again, that he won't even address their concerns about broadening the nomination process, and the chief executive will again parrot that they should read the Basic Law.

As Civic Party lawmaker Alan Leong Kah-kit says in his reaction to Leung's press conference, "What CY Leung has in mind is, obviously, to lecture the students, instead of having genuine dialogue," he says.

"But I would hope that the Federation of Students would... say yes to the dialogue [because] it is important for [Leung's] lack of genuineness to be exposed to both the Hong Kong public and the world by this so-called dialogue."

Any talks are better than no talks. That's something probably everyone can agree with...

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Another Dark Day

The scene around 6.30pm on Harcourt Road with more people streaming in
This morning I was out of the office and by the time I came back at lunchtime, my colleagues were excitedly telling me the story of a guy who was arrested by the police and seven of them allegedly dragged him to a dark alley and started kicking and punching him. This was all recorded on video and has gone viral.

On the TV I saw scenes of the man, now identified as Ken Tsang, a social worker and member of the Civic Party, and of the nominating committee for the chief executive representing the welfare sector, sitting on a stretcher being wheeled out of an ambulance and into Ruttonjee Hospital. He may have aggravated the police by pouring liquid on them, but is there a need for a group of officers to beat someone up who is defenseless?

One side street still blocked with protesters, police watch
Like the pepper spray teargas over two weeks ago, this alleged beating has further eroded people's respect for the Hong Kong Police. They seem to be under orders to use excessive force without regard for what the consequences will be. No wonder protesters are now calling for the resignation of Police Commissioner Andy Tsang Wai-hung.

Meanwhile Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has cancelled his much-anticipated Q & A tomorrow, with his spokesperson citing the recent conflicts police had with protesters, and how protesters were called to be near the Legislative Council during that time. Some speculate it's because Leung needs to give Beijing more time to figure out how he would answer all these questions...

Then there is the added fiasco of his receiving HK$50 million from an Australian engineering firm, and now news that he asked for another HK$37 million as part of the same of his company...

Hundreds of tents are near the government offices at Tamar
Internationally what is being done about the situation? While China insists other countries not meddle in its internal affairs -- a favourite line -- the Democratic Party is taking the issue to the attention of the UN Human Rights' committee meeting next week in Geneva.

They will explain why Beijing's decision on Hong Kong election reform fails to comply with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. But will anything be done to alleviate the situation?

Around 6.30pm I wandered into the protest area on Harcourt Road. There weren't as many people as before, though there are reports that after I left, the crowds swelled to about 2,000 people.

There were young children around 5 or 6 years old doing their homework, people listening to speeches, but much fewer people on the flyover towards Central.

Batman to save the Umbrella Movement?
At the end of the barricades by the Hong Kong Club, a middle-aged man gave a speech while another man jumped in to add his views. Where in Hong Kong do people have such open discourse on politics? And with complete strangers?

The situation is fluid and who knows what will happen tonight. We can only hope Ken Tsang's alleged beating is the first and last violent incident for the Umbrella Revolution.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

The Beginning of the End

This morning around 10am hundreds of police officers ran out from their headquarters in Admiralty and started cordoning off the area in Queensway. In a very coordinated attack, some police officers prevented protesters from interfering as other police in dark blue armed with chainsaws and clippers, systematically cut up the barriers created last night made of bamboo and other materials and they were taken down in about an hour or so.

After the discarded barricades were picked up by a truck with a crane and cleaners swept the road, Queensway was open again to traffic and drivers must have been very pleased to take the road back.

However Harcourt Road is still being occupied, as well as two side streets leading to Queensway, though tonight riot police tried to clear protesters from Lung Wo Road, which is a tunnel. The riot police looked aggressive with batons, but then they found they were surrounded by protesters and had to retreat, even asking for space for them to leave the tunnel! Not a well thought out plan.

And now as I write (11.50pm), YTSL reports riot police are approaching with tear gas masks in their hands...

It's been an emotional day for protesters, seeing their territory shrinking. As the police took down the barriers, they told the protesters that they had occupied the streets for 17 days and now it was time to give it back to the public.

We don't know exactly how many people are for the students and against; we just know there are some outspoken anti-Occupy critics, some verbally trying to voice out their frustrations, others with intimidation and force.

So much for Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying saying the government was willing to wait this out. Perhaps some tycoons expressed dismay that the protests had even lasted this long and wanted the government to do something about it before it further damages the city's reputation as a financial centre?

But when Queensway in Admiralty and two lanes of Yee Wo Street in Causeway Bay were opened, there was a massive traffic jam at the beginning of rush hour. I ended up getting off the bus in Wan Chai and walking all the way to my gym in Central.

On the way I passed by Admiralty and across Queensway I could see several rows of police standing in front of where the protesters were hanging around on the side streets. And on the Pacific Place side, there were police vans and several police standing around watching the proceedings.

Needless to say it looked tense.

It's now 11.15pm and YTSL reports the situation at Admiralty has now calmed down because of the sheer numbers of people there and she is now leaving the area.

The police may have have suffered a minor set back abut half an hour ago, but they gained a lot of ground this morning. They have already warned Mongkok is next, and the protesters are ready for them to come.

It seem the police agenda is to clear the streets this week, but we shall see how successful they are. As I said earlier, if the police had allowed protesters into Civic Square at the government headquarters over two weeks ago, the authorities would have had an easier time corralling people... but such is life.

Again how this is all going to end is anyone's guess. But we want it to be as peaceful as possible. If the protesters must retreat, so be it. But they will definitely come out fighting another day.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Picture of the Day: Where Has My Dream City Gone?

A relevant sign for the events that happened today
The relaxing atmosphere at Admiralty over the weekend came to a crashing end early this morning when police began taking down the barricades at Queensway and Chater Road in Central to allow vehicular traffic through.

Protesters there quickly set up other barricades to slow down cars and trucks, much to the dismay of the drivers.

Then in the early afternoon, some 500 anti-Occupy protesters showed up wearing masks and began dismantling the barricades on Queensway again. They were also backed up by a fleet of taxis and the drivers honked their horns demanding to be let through.

This led to a nasty confrontation between them and the protesters, and the police had to intervene, holding back both sides. One anti-Occupy protester had a knife and had to be subdued by the authorities.

Again there were complaints the police weren't reacting fast enough to protect the protesters, and again there were rumblings the anti-Occupy group had some triad elements... otherwise why would several hundred people show up all of a sudden together in the same place, many of whom could not speak Cantonese?

As a friend dryly suggested, someone couldn't rustle enough Hong Kong-based triad members to rough things up in the city?

Tonight after dinner, YTSL and I again headed to Admiralty via Central. Chater Road and part of Connaught Road Central were re-opened, so cars could go along Chater, turn left at the Hong Kong Club building and then left again onto Connaught Road. Now the lonely doorman at the Mandarin Oriental is a bit busier now...

However there was a heavier police presence than I had ever seen previously outside the barricades at Central. Beyond that though, protesters were very busy hauling water, perhaps to make cement to reinforce barricades. They took water from a fountain at the Hutchinson Whampoa building which seemed appropriate...

Others were reportedly making more barricades out of bamboo poles given to them by construction workers, who taught the protesters how to bind them together. It's a great community effort.

But most poignant was this sign I spotted on the way to Admiralty -- which by the way had a huge turnout this evening.

What has happened to my city? Why have some people become violent? Some groups who haven't been able to make much money these two weeks have petitioned the courts to try to legally force the protesters to move out. Isn't that a more civilized way to do things?

It will be interesting to see how the judge rules on this because what the protesters are doing is civil disobedience, but they are doing it for the common good...

In the meantime, I hope things do not escalate further. We cannot afford to have more violent clashes. What is happening demonstrates the inaction by the government in not speaking to the students on Friday, leaving frustrations to simmer even more.

We need dialogue. The students are willing to talk. How about meeting them at the table, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor?

You are perhaps the only person who can help break the impasse at this moment and make birthday boy Joshua Wong Chi-fung's wishes come true.