(The first night of the protest in Hong Kong was bad with tear gas & pepper spray on the protestors and this prompted greater support for the rally but it is not something new here. Image source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk)
Well thing for sure, my trip this time has been screwed up big time and need to be rescheduled. There’s plenty of work that needs to be done and the last thing I need now is for a prolonged public protest and plenty of uncertainty.
A couple of days before my departure, I managed to get my watch fixed and change the “leather” strap to the original strap that I had ordered online. Finally, it was comfortable wearing my chronograph. The flight from KL was good as usual and this time, I even had plenty of space to my side, thanks to the flight not being that too full (I opted for a seat at the back and managed to lose the crowd in the process).
I was not aware of the protest and thought it will be the usual breeze reaching my apartment after I had landed in Hong Kong but thanks to a friend who had been keeping a tab on the protest and the traffic situation, he managed to inform me of the latest situation and I had to ditch the idea of taking the taxi from the Hong Kong MTR station and instead had to change train to another station where the roads were not blocked and outside the protest areas.
It was not easy taking my heavy luggage bag up and down the escalators. It was even worse when doing it in a station packed like a sardine can (many probably missed their bus or could not get a taxi). My friend who just happened to be outside visiting another friend was also caught in the chaos and had a problem getting a taxi or bus. We decided to meet up at the last train station and get the taxi from there (where the queue was long as well).
As Malaysians, we are no stranger to street protest having seen Hindraf and Bersih rallies in the past but we did not cause major disruption to others’ daily routine for more than 1 day (other than perhaps, the usual police roadblocks a few nights before). And to ensure that we do not disrupt our weekdays too much, we usually have it on the weekends where a majority of Malaysians are happily resting at home.
Getting prior notice of the expected traffic jam and road closures from the organisers and the police helps a lot too. And when it comes Monday, everything goes back to normal with hardly any evidence of the street protests on the weekend, other than on Facebook pages and blogs. For that alone, I guess we need to salute Malaysian street protestors.
In Hong Kong, the protests that crippled the financial district is coming to almost 2 weeks now and there is no definite date for the end of the protest even though everyone involved is very tired of the protest. Given the fact that some seem to distrust the Government, some even saying that it will be weeks or months before things go back to normal.
Bus service has been badly affected and in a country where people rely very much on public transportation to get from Point A to B, a lockdown of a key road on the island has been very damaging. Some temporary arrangements have been made but the bus services have yet to come back to a more normal level.
According to the administration, top officials were still working from other locations because of safety concerns. Courier service for internal documents and office supplies remained suspended, off-site meetings were cancelled and disabled staffers were still unable to get to their workplaces.
The police reported at a press conference that at 8:45 am, there was a whopping 9-kilometer-long line of traffic backed up along the coastal highway from the piers at Central to the Shau Kei Wan area in the east.
Traffic blockages have been most acute on the Hong Kong Island, but commuters in Kowloon also suffered badly. Some were stuck in a 7-kilometer-long standstill as vehicles attempted to reach the harbour crossing. Others were stranded in a 6-kilometer traffic jam on the Mongkok-bound thoroughfare.
With 30 kilometers of heavy traffic lining up on trunk roads in the morning rush, the Transport Department concluded that traffic conditions on Monday were the worst since the protests broke out eight days ago. It warned that the situation could worsen as more businesses resume operations during the week.
And despite the long hold up by the protestors (who mainly consists of students), there are some things that one could only see in Hong Kong (and nowhere else) as this compilation from BBC clearly shows:-
Doing your homework
Perhaps it isn’t actually anarchic but it is definitely one of the biggest protests in Hong Kong for years. And yet students – some of whom were at the vanguard of this movement – find time to sit down and do their homework.
Apologising for the barricade you put up
An entrance to the Causeway Bay MTR station was barricaded and emblazoned with signs shouting out for democracy. In the middle was a small cardboard sign – also written by the protesters: “Sorry for the inconvenience.”
Concern for how fragrant fellow protesters are
Hong-Kong-based journalist Tom Grundy tweeted a picture of a protester proffering free shirt-fresheners. At times the temperature has been sweltering and amid the crowds things are bound to get a little bit sweaty.
Shirt freshener anyone? And while on the streets with the protesters, the BBC’s Martin Yip witnessed volunteer armies spraying people with water to keep them cool and fresh.
Keeping off the well cut grass lawn when asked by a cardboard sign
A picture on the live page of the South China Morning Post showed a sea of protesters who it noted had parted for the grass courtyard where Hong Kong’s cenotaph is located. Protesters still obeyed signs telling them to keep off the grass at the monument, putting the “civil” into civil disobedience.
“Despite the crowds around the war memorial in Central, not one person is standing or sitting on the grass. There’s a new cardboard sign over the usual sign telling people not to go on the grass,” the Hong Kong-based paper wrote.
Being the tidiest protesters on the block
The BBC’s Saira Asher reports on how diligently the protesters cleared up after themselves. “The morning is being spent mostly removing rubbish left over from last night’s huge crowd. Students are picking up cigarette butts and plastic bottles, others are distributing breakfast buns. That is why those on the street are being called ‘the politest protesters’ by some on social media.”
Recycling has also been organised by those on the streets. Many agree that the world hasn’t seen organised and tidy protests quite like this before.
There were even photos of the protestors shielding the policemen who been manning the barricades from the rain and there are also photos of the policeman helping out protestors hit by tear gas.
(Helping each other during the protest – It is something we can deploy in the next BERSIH rally which I expect will happen before the next general elections. We had not seen any improvements in governance since the last general elections. Images: Google/AFP)
But still, continuing to protest on something that will not happen is going a bit too far.
Unlike in Malaysia, where street protests in the past had dented the creditability of the Government and had seen them losing valuable votes in the general elections, there is little that the protestors in HK can expect to achieve, more so when it is not a free country on its own.
Look it from the Chinese Government point of view – to accede to the protestors’ demands now would be to open Pandora’s box and it is something that the Chinese Government is not willing to accept for the time being. The fear that once the Government gives in due to protests, it will cause similar protests on another side of China. And those who are protesting in HK knows this all too well.
Sadly, Occupy Central is doomed to fail. The Chinese government will not accept the protesters’ demands.
Beijing has already made it clear that it views free and fair elections in Hong Kong to be a threat to one-party rule in the country. At most, it will allow Hongkongers to select one of the candidates that it pre-approves.
It has also deemed Occupy Central illegal. In other words, the Chinese Communist Party views the issue as one of its “core interests,” and it hasn’t stayed in power this long by compromising on issues that it views as threats to its survival.
Protestors know this would be the ultimate outcome of their week-long protests and it is time to end it quietly and peacefully. They have made their point loud and clear and if they hope that the Chinese Government will ponder on this, enough room must be given without pushing them to a corner, forcing them to respond with drastic measures.
Businesses have been suffering from huge losses and must be allowed to get back on their routine business before they lose more and goes bankrupt. Some sense of normalcy must return as well. In Malaysia, we too protest passionately on what we think is the right thing to do but not to the extent it causes huge losses or inconvenience to others in a long run.
And do it in a way where the Government has enough lee-way to introduces some small changes to appease the protestors without giving in too much and knowing that if not much is done, they can expect more protests and this ultimately will come to haunt them in the near future.