Monday, 28 September 2015

Thoughts on One Year Ago

Thousands came out to watch the TV debate between the govt and students
It's hard to believe it's been a year since the Umbrella Movement erupted in Admiralty. I still distinctly remember the events like yesterday, standing next to United Centre and seeing people wearing masks and goggles armed with umbrellas (me with nothing except my gym bag). We shouted to the police to "open the door", to let us go to Civic Square to free those young people who had scaled the gates to get into the supposedly public space.

YTSL was with me when she decided she was hungry and we temporarily left the scene to grab a bite when I got the first tweets that teargas had been unleashed on the crowd.

We soon returned to see a completely surreal scene of people wandering the overpasses that were previously occupied by cars.

Umbrellas with the slogan: "I want true democracy"
That evening on the television the police released 87 canisters of teargas and thus began the occupation of the streets until mid December.

But what has happened since then?

The protesters didn't get what they wanted -- while they spoke out, neither the Hong Kong or central governments listened to what they wanted.

Another strong image was the students debating government officials. But what happened in the end? There was lack of trust on the side of the students who piled on the criticism, which led to the government freaking out and determining to take a tougher stand.

The demands from both sides became so polarized that you were either yellow or blue. You couldn't be green. This affected everyone in the city -- family members got into heated arguments about the Umbrella Movement and it was mostly a generational divide.

Messages to Hong Kong on what was Lennon Wall
The protests exposed out in the open Hong Kong's socio-economic problems, and how the government has done nothing to help young people get a leg-up in society despite the next generation being highly educated.

It also revealed how the Hong Kong government was definitely taking orders from Beijing through the Hong Kong Liaison Office in Western...

Being in the protest site was amazing. As soon as you walked onto the street the area had a chill vibe. It was quite relaxing to be there, everyone was so friendly and generous with food, water, handing out stickers and flyers. It was, as cinematographer Christopher Doyle says, a community that Hong Kong people wanted and had lost.

The outpouring of creativity there was also very impressive. People just made art, political art, satirical art, beautiful drawings of umbrellas, or mockery of 689. Lennon Wall was covered in wishes, hopes and dreams for Hong Kong, and artists came out in droves to document this unprecedented event.

The protest inspired lots of artwork that was gladly shared
It was bizarre to sit on the streets and then when it was all over to see cars driving over where we had sat for hours in the evenings and weekends.

Sadly the momentum has dissipated and who knows when the next call for democracy will begin again.

Beijing has been making strong pronouncements in the last few weeks to try to drill it into our heads about who is in charge. In our minds we are not taking this standing down, but who is daring enough to lead the next battle?

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