Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Last Look at Admiralty

Day 73 at Admiralty, two days before there are plans to clear the area
A court injunction has been approved for Admiralty to be cleared on Thursday morning.

Lawyer Paul Tse Wai-chun, representing Kwoon Chung Bus Holdings subsidiary All China Express, made the announcement this afternoon.

Many visitors wandered around for one last look of the site
He did not say how many police officers would be involved, only saying he estimated it would take two hours to clear Admiralty.

That seems like an underestimate, but we shall see...

They may also clear Causeway Bay on the same day, though no court injunction was posted in that protest site.

In addition Tse asked that those who wished to keep their belongings should remove them before Thursday morning, and so they had time to retrieve them.

A lit-up umbrella
Tonight I made a last visit to the area that has been occupied for 73 days and the mood was sombre but there was still a fighting spirit among those who spoke to crowds of people scattered through the area.

Some speakers advised that on Thursday they be peaceful and not provoke the police, that there will be another time to fight again for universal suffrage. Others remarked how amazed they were that they had been protesting since September 28, that it will be something they will not forget.

Meanwhile many visitors were trying to get the last of their souvenirs -- there was a massive line for a leather bracelet signifying the Umbrella Movement, while others like myself were taking photos of anything we felt we had missed.

Since the clashes with the police on November 30-December 1, some areas were barricaded like one side of the escalator closest to Admiralty Centre, and then the escalators near the government building were completely blocked off.

Admittedly the site was looking tatty, some garbage on the ground that had been trampled on and no one had picked up, and tents looking worn. Some tents had disappeared, particularly those on the overpass, and at the entrance to the Legislative Council.

An elaborately decorated tent complete with HK skyline!
But a lot of the artwork was still there in various forms. Tonight I saw a lit up outline of an umbrella, a glittering beaded yellow umbrella next to the cardboard cutout of Chinese President Xi Jinping, and a tent decorated with drawings of people holding umbrellas with "I want universal suffrage" and below Hong Kong's skyline. Impressive.

A keyboardist was playing ditties on his electric keyboard, and a guy gave a middle-aged man a haircut while an elderly woman looked on.

People were still gathered in groups to chat, some political, others not. Some emerged from tents, while others got ready for the night. Police officers patrolled the area in pairs, mostly from the bridge between the government building and Admiralty Centre.

The past 73 days have been a very exciting though at times violent ride no one expected.

The escalator barricaded on one side
I remember standing outside Admiralty Centre on the Sunday afternoon with hundreds of other people, demanding to be allowed to go over to Civic Square to see the students who had stormed the area.

Many of the people were armed with goggles and umbrellas and they sure came in handy when the police fired tear gas at them in the early evening.

No one will forget those images, the crowds trying to shield themselves with umbrellas and fleeing from the smoke. But most impressive was seeing even more people come out into the streets to vent their anger at the police.

And then it was the stoney silence of the government that revealed its ineptness, particularly that of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying who seemed to hide and give video messages denouncing the occupation as being illegal.

He further shot himself in the foot by admitting universal suffrage would mean the poor would have greater say in Hong Kong's agenda which added more oil to the flames of discontent.

Lennon Wall still has many visitors, not many new messages
Meanwhile the explosion of art, from satire to cartoons was unprecedented. The umbrella was quickly adopted as the symbol of the movement and the creativity was amazing to see. Everyone contributed with messages on the "Lennon Wall", to posters and pictures, sketches... the people's gallery right there for anyone to take part in.

It will be strange to see the area after it's cleared. It was nice to be able to walk around with no traffic and enjoy the space and the atmosphere. How are we all going to move on from this is anyone's guess and a lot of healing will be needed on both sides.

Nevertheless, what has happened these 73 days have been an awakening for many in Hong Kong who have had these pent-up frustrations for years and needed to express themselves.

A reminder of the climbers and their banner at Lion Rock!
We may not get more engagement with the government, but at least we now know what Hong Kong people are capable of and most importantly, they are proud to be Hong Kong Chinese.

How Beijing will deal with the city post Occupy will be intriguing -- it's territory senior officials have never tread before...

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