Saturday, 4 October 2014

Strength in Numbers

Some 200,000 people gathered tonight for the anti-violence rally in Admiralty
Fatigue has definitely set in, and combined with the shocking scenes yesterday and last night in Mongkok, it was a challenge to get on with today.

There were still scuffles today in Mongkok in particular, with more angry people charging verbally and physically at the protesters. Many around town were overheard complaining about the inaction of the police officers, and how thugs were paid to stir up trouble.

Crowds of people on the highway overpass
Which is probably why an anti-violence rally was hastily announced late this afternoon for 8pm this evening in Admiralty. A friend texted me about the event, asking if I would go. How could one not go? He worried not enough people would know about it, but I told him I had seen/heard the announcement on the news.

This afternoon the assistant commissioner of the Hong Kong Police Cheung Tak-keung reiterated the police did a good job in handling the situation in Mongkok and that protesters should not cause trouble... right.

He added 19 people were arrested, eight of which had triad links, but surprisingly they could not yet identify which triads they belonged to. Seriously?

When asked about troublemakers being "arrested" and the later released and spotted again making trouble, Cheung claimed he could not speak about individual cases. I wonder if any reporter there asked if it was Hong Kong police practice to place rabble rousers in taxis and not police cars or vans?

A sign to replace Connaught Road Central?
Later on Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying made a video announcement that the Occupy movement would not be tolerated past Sunday,saying schools and offices "must reopen" by Monday. He said that if the conflict between pro- and anti-Occupy Central groups continues, it would "very likely keep getting out of hand".

Earlier in the day Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah complained that Occupy Central had damaged Hong Kong's economy and that it should end soon. Some commented he should go and meet with the students instead of continuing the refrain of how money trumps democracy...

After a late dinner with relatives in Kowloon, I didn't make it back to Central until just after 10pm. I walked from the Star Ferry pier to Connaught Road Central and on the way saw many people were leaving, but also many others like me, going to check out the scene.

The "Long Drive" ahead towards democracy
And what an astonishing sight -- thousands upon thousands of people, mostly young in their teens to their 30s, sitting on the highway looking down onto Admiralty, filled with people, listening intently to the speakers.

They and I were all there for one reason -- to denounce the violence that erupted in Mongkok in particular, that we wanted to continue our protest in a peaceful manner.

When Occupy Central co-founder Benny Tai Yiu-ting takes to the stage, interestingly people standing near me aren't really listening and would rather talk amongst themselves.

Not everyone likes him or what he stands for, but he is an integral part of this movement that has mushroomed beyond anything he had ever expected and is riding the wave.

He gave a long speech, saying civil servants are expected back to work on Monday and that protesters should not obstruct them from doing their jobs.

"We have heard many rumours that the site may be cleared tonight," he told the audience of some 200,000. "Civic servants are also Hong Kong people, we only target Leung Chun-ying."

Signs of encouragement
He adds the current protests are not a "colour revolution", but a movement of Hong Kong people demanding a fair election system.

Then the crowd gets excited when they find out actor Anthony Wong Chau-sang is on the phone long distance. His voice isn't very loud so people fall quiet to concentrate.

He said the use of violence on the protesters would backfire.

"Peace and non-violence have long been the core values of Hong Kong," he says. "I think [the movement] is more not only fighting for genuine universal suffrage, it is also about safeguarding Hong Kong's values."

Other celebs like Andy Lau Tak-wah and Tony Leung Chiu-wai have also publicly criticized the heavy handed response of the police last week. They are a few days late, but better late than never.

Then the crowd began to sing Beyond's Under the Vast Sky which has quickly become the adopted anthem of this movement. People turned on their mobile phones and lit the area up.

It was around this time I decided to head back home, but not without looking to my right at the PLA barracks, which is right by the area we were standing at. I didn't see anyone specifically looking out the window, but surely they must be monitoring the situation... What do they think of us?

Lufsig hanging from a bridge in Central!
The Federation of Students Secretary-General Alex Chow announced the federation is ready to talk with Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor immediately if the government meets its conditions, which include investigating the police and if there are any triad links between them; they will only speak to Lam; and police must properly handle conflicts among protesters in all protest areas.

We're waiting to hear back from Lam...

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