О насVOSTOK Magazine - это первое независимое медиа об обществе, культуре, истории и политике стран Ближнего и Дальнего Востока. Мы пишем обо всем, что кажется нам важным и интересным.
How did it all start for you?
Douglas: I joined the protest on 26Sep and 30Sep-1Oct. As I remember before 26Sep Scholarism (a group of students, Chinese name: 學民思潮) was at the Central Government Offices protesting against the HKSAR government about the political reform. It was not a big protest at first, but the police enveloped a group of students at the open area in front of the Offices, not allowing them to go to toilet, no food no drink for hours. On that day the news spread in mass media, online social media. It is a shame that a group of students stand in front of us (adults) and fight for the democracy for us. With the inhuman way police treated the students, me and my friends join the protest and want to help. I was having busy days working but I decided to join them. How could we leave our kids alone there?
Gensan Yim: I went to Admiralty on Sunday and saw the tear smoke happened. I was safe as I am not in the frontline.
Kit: I have started to protest on 29/9, after the police have launched the tear gases and pepper spray. I was politically apathetic before and seldom read news. But since students have started boycotting classes last Monday, I have been reading news and thinking about the situation of our city. I even don't sleep in order to read the most updated information released by protectors. After reading news in the past about the government forbidding her citizens to step into the Civic Plaza outside Central Government Offices (headquarters of our government), and news about the currently proposed voting system by the Beijing government, I think I need to join the protest. That Civic Plaza was open to public to stay there and protest before, so when the government closed it down, we feel we have lost our freedom of expression, and that the government closes its ears for our demands. And the voting system is about some candidates who are proved to be close to China can be our chief executive (leader of Hong Kong). We feel in that way the chief executive can't truly represent the citizens. So we join this protest just to speak up. From Facebook, I knew most of my close or non close friends went to protest before I decided to join. Some of them were hit by police and some felt discomfort during the launch of tear gas. This also encouraged my participation. Not because of peer pressure or following the trend, but this also encouraged me to read more news and to use my critical thinking.
How would you estimate the number of protesters?
Alan: There are in total 150,000 -160,000 people in different spots (The Government HQ at Admiralty, Causeway Bay & Mongkok) at different time. More people are joining the protests on 1/10 & 2/10 as that are public holidays in HK.
Yet, I believe the number of people will be decreasing, once the long holiday ends, people back to work, And there is no solid changes of the attitude of government. People will start to lose faith in the movement.
Cristina: I cannot estimate the number of protesters, just that it is exceptional and in different parts of the city (from central to causeway bay on Hong Kong island, and in MongKok in Kowloon). Traffic is limited since the protesters keep clear of unauthorised grass areas, but barricaded access to highways and settled camp on the roads and intersections. Bus routes are shorten or diverted. People join the protests by foot, or by mtr (the undeground system). As far as I can gather, whatever the numbers are, ten thousands of people +, they aren't decreasing. They are very organised and steady, and the attendance is surprisingly high to everybody. They have first aid tents, food tents, they distribute water and snacks, warn against dehydration, walk around calmly and politely, in fact it is even more civilised and polite than the usual rush hour circulation.
Who are the majority of people in the streets?
Douglas: The majority are young people, mostly students. Surprisingly, more and more people joined, teachers, parents, drivers, even gangsters. The core people should be in Scholarism and Occupy Central movement, but when the police throw us tear gas, spray us pepper spray, we stand out to protect ourselves, helps each other, saying no to violence etc.Umbrella Revolution is a very peaceful movement. Not a single car is burnt, not a single shop damaged. We want peace. But during these days, some people slandered us how violent we are. When police spray pepper spray on us, we use plastic wrap to protect our eyes and umbrella to cover ourselves. The next day police said plastic wrap and umbrellas are offensive weapons while the police were wearing masks and some were holding guns. The HKSAR government keep making these nonsense and irrational statement. Also while the whole world is watching this protest, the China media reported "thousands of people are gathering to celebrate Chinese National Day". How could the police celebrate with tear gas? Hong Kong is now ruled under this nonsense government!
Kit: Most of us are high school students and working population aged between 15 to 30. There are small children brought over there by parents too. We don't particularly belong to any groups. I believe we come out after using our own critical thinking. The Occupy Central organisers and the young 17-year-old leader Joshua Wong sometimes come out to give speeches and encourage our stay. Some people say that people on streets have received money to go out and that we are tools. But we aren't. Staying on hot and rainy streets, sleeping or sitting there without normal meals is not fun nor comfortable. We sacrifice because we want to express. Though other's daily life is affected because roads are down, we are fighting for our future. We don't want our city to become China where false news are spreading and people don't enjoy freedom of expression nor can browse whatever websites they want.
Aren't people afraid of brutal actions by the authorities?
Alan: People are afraid of brutal actions. Especially those who witnessed June Forth Incident in 1989. But, Chinese & Hong Kong government won't let it happen easily, as a matter of fact that they have other issues to deal with (e.g. Japan asking to have a permanent seat at the UN Security Council), anything they do wrong now, will provide an excuse from other countries to attack on the government.
Douglas: Everyone is afraid of brutal actions and so do I. If we just hide it doesn't change anything. We have to be brave to stand out and voice out loud. Students and the workers struck. People are occupying the main road. A lot of people donating food and drink for the people occupying. I think none of us want any violence. But we have to do something to force the government to answer our request. (Hongkongers tried a lot of times parading but the government keep ignoring us)
Gensan Yim: After the tear smoke incident on Sunday, The Hong Kong Government and Police Force were heavily criticized by the world (you can check the news on CNN and BBC), so we are pretty sure that it's quite impossible they will use rubble bullet on the Hong Kong people. Also, our Chief Executive CY Leung has stated serveal times that People's Liberation Army Hong Kong Garrison will not join the action of Hong Kong Poice. So, we believe we are quite safe… at least for the time being. Of course some people are afraid of the brutal actions and so they stay at home. For the people on the occupied areas, they have setup some barricades on the roads preventing the police cars. In other words, the protesters are staying alert. Most of them know this is not a carnival. Also, people are monitoring with each others to make sure the movement is peaceful, rational and nonviolent, and this is very important – they don't want to see Chinese Government or Hong Kong Government may use the chaos as an excuse to crackdown the movement by brutal actions, such as rubber bullets, and the worst case, People's Liberation Army Hong Kong Garrison.
Kit: Yes, once I step into Adimiralty, the network is down, probably due to too many people staying at the same place, though there was rumour that the government would cut the network. It's frightening for me because most of us lose the way to get useful information, and lose contact with outside, such as to inform our family members of our safety, and to get news of the possible actions will be taken by police. Many of us will leave if there are dangers. Because our family members worry about us. And because we believe that keeping our lives is more important and that we can express our demands only if we are alive. Of course we feel afraid of the brutal actions but we know the world is watching. And their 87 tear gases were too irrational and brutal.
What do you think the outcome of the events will be?
Douglas: I think the government cannot hide, they have to face the crowd. I am not sure what decision the government will make but at least they should give us a satisfy answer – a REAL universal suffrage (which the government agree to give us one since 2003). And of course the protest will be ended in peace.
Cristina: Nobody can foresee the outcome, just that the protesters are very determined to obtain the right to universal suffrage, and that they are settling in unusual strategic areas (in comparison, regular annual protests in Hong Kong commemorating Beijing's 1989 Tiananmen crackdown are held in Victoria park, where they do not disrupt traffic).
Gensan Yim: The occupation will collapse within a month. Hong Kong people are not trained to do this kind of thing over a long period of time. On the other hand, it is quite impossible NPCSC will withdraw the decision on the framework for Hong Kong's political reform. Let's wait and see.
Alan: I can't tell the outcome of the event, but definitely we can see people in HK are waking up. They finally know what they truly need: the real democracy. I would agree that some still think it's a waste of time to ask for democracy, but Rome is not built in one day. We'll see the change soon.
Kit: I think the outcome might be the China government asking C.Y Leung to step down fromhis chief executive post as he can't control his people for a week. And maybe restart the space for discussion of the voting process, as now it's closed the possibility for discussion.
In case you are aware of the events in the Ukraine, do you think HK protests are somehow similar to Maidan ones?
Cristina: As for comparison to Russia and Ukraine, i am afraid it's too big of a stretch and not related. There is no issue of independence here, no violence or chaos, everything is extremely peaceful. Nor there is any question about nationality. Protesters in Hong Kong are Chinese and do not question their being part of China, what they are asking for through democracy claims is the right to remain themselves, one country, two systems, as it was planned when the UK handed the territory over to China. One more thing, apparently protesters are now also asking for a prompt resignation of CY Leung, which I believe would be a quick fix solution for the Beijing government too, a way to save face, and strategise. Again, it really shows how smart and organised these protests are.
Hong Kong citizens interviewed by Alexandra Urman