I'm a fine-art photographer based in Boston. This blog is where I post artwork that inspires me, as well as some of my own work.
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I also have a blog called Galaxy Girls and Lady Knights where I discuss and review books written by women in the science fiction and fantasy genres.
Finally, I post about general fandomy things at my nerdy blog: here.
I’ve been on vacation and am returning to the real world now, and I’m sure what I’m about to write will be repetitive for some. But I can’t not write it, and I hope that you share it because tomorrow, October 1, has the potential to be a historic day for Hong Kong, good or bad.
You have probably heard about the protests going on in Hong Kong. I won’t revisit the general history or most recent events. Instead I wanted to post some important historical and contextual points that are significant to how we understand the particular conflict that’s taking place right now.
This is a long post, and far from comprehensive because I am only human and exhausted at that, but please bear with me.
WHY HONG KONG IS NOT THE SAME AS CHINA
- Hong Kong was a fishing village on a goddamn rock when it was annexed by the British in 1842. The population grew and exploded during the 20th century as a result of a number of factors, but a huge one is the creation of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). During the Chinese civil war and subsequent purging, thousands fled the violence by escaping to Hong Kong — including both sets of grandparents in my family. One was a Western car dealer in Shanghai; the other was from a landowning family. FWIW, I still have some distant relatives from the latter side in China. I have no living relatives in China on my maternal grandparents’ side. Everyone was killed.
- Throughout the 20th century, Hong Kong flourished, grew, and developed a distinctive culture and economy. I’m not saying everything was rosy as an English colony. I’m saying the culture and economy are real and independent from China.
- The events of Tiananmen may seem like they were a long time ago, and have entered history as the kind of event that’s lost its shock over time. But twenty-five years is a short time for many Hong Kongers, and Tiananmen’s outcome was far from predictable at that time. Remember that Tiananmen was only eight years before the handover. Imagine watching the coverage that summer and knowing that was to be your government soon.
- All of this is to give just a bit of history as to why I and many others say: Hong Kong people do not consider themselves to be the same as mainland Chinese. When I say I’m from Hong Kong, I mean that. It is not the same.
WHO IS PROTESTING AND WHY
- During the handover, dates were set for universal suffrage. Those promises are looking pretty damn compromised in the latest announcements from Beijing. You can read more about that in literally any article on the events; I won’t dive into it here.
- The main groups of activists engaging in the protests are students, and Occupy Central. Most articles I have read from Western news sources emphasize the role of OC, and they are not insignificant. But keep in mind: the students began to boycott school in the face of those changes from Beijing. They did it because student politics is a real movement in Hong Kong. It’s their future and they know it. Their parents know that Tiananmen was powered by students. My mother, who lives in Hong Kong, says that on the first day of student protests, their parents were out on the street with water, chargers, etc, because they saw Tiananmen and understand their kids’ fears: they fear the lack of a future.
- Occupy Central is not the same as the other occupy movements we’ve seen around the world. Please do not confuse the goals of this movement with the goals of other Occupys. This is about democracy and representation. If I see any anti-capitalist leftist co-optation of the movement in Hong Kong in the Western coverage, I am going to flip my shit, and I say that as someone sympathetic to and supportive of Occupy in general. Do not get it twisted.
- The protesters have been keeping the streets clean — removing garbage and recycling; sweeping; using public toilets; etc. There is no black bloc-style activity that I’ve heard of. They have agreed to create “humanitarian corridors” to let ambulances move through because the government alleged that the protests were a safety hazard. These things are not just a cute feature of the protests. They are a manifestation of the love we have our city, and they are also strategic politicking. If you are clean, apologetic, peaceful, unarmed, and responsive, they lose some of their very tenuous foundation for saying the protests are wrong. I’m not advocating for this as the only route to change. I’m just pointing out the tactic.
THE VERY REAL THREAT OF VIOLENCE
- Tomorrow (Wednesday October 1) is National Day for China, the commemoration of the creation of the People’s Republic of China. Tens of thousands, if not a hundred thousand, citizens are projected to protest tomorrow on a day set aside for celebrating China and the party.
- Also worth noting: loads of tourists from mainland China are coming to Hong Kong to see the fireworks and enjoy the holiday. Tourism from mainland has boomed in the past decade — only this month, they came to shop and instead saw peaceful civil disobedience.
- State violence against its citizens is not an idle threat when you are dealing with the PRC. We are talking about a serious, real threat here. Tear gas has not been deployed in Hong Kong in decades. The use of it this weekend, the dragging and arresting of teenagers, the police in riot gear, is a big, big deal. It is a shock to the system for Hong Kong people to see peaceful protestors be treated the same as the Uighur population in China, or Tibet.
- There are a few things that continue to restrain Beijing from bringing down the hammer. The incredible damage it would do to international finance is one thing. Media attention is another. Note that foreign media outlets covering China have been based out of Hong Kong for decades, due to restrictions from Beijing. The PRC knows better than most how bad they will look if they crack down violently. Tiananmen was a PR catastrophe for the government, and back then the 24 hour cable news cycle was still being born.
Hong Kong is 12 hours ahead of EST. I feel hopeless, thrilled, scared; I feel that we are facing something totally unprecedented. I know that the people who are out on the street know what the possibilities are. I am heartburstingly proud.
Do not look away.
My city is in chaos.
This is what’s happening to Hong Kong right this minute.
It is difficult for me to put into words, but simply put, University students started a class boycott movement demanding democracy and universal suffrage from the Hong Kong and Chinese Government this week, and the movement has escalated into citizens occupying Government Square and now, a main road leading into Hong Kong’s central hub.
Most protesters are younger generation Hong Kongers, including university students and even secondary school students. The leader of the student movement himself is barely even old enough to drive a car.
The movement began peacefully with citizens merely sitting quietly and occupying a public space in a silent protest on Friday night.
Then at 7:00 in the morning the next day, policemen stormed into the public square and began clearing out the area by force, dragging youngsters out violently, injuring many of them. Policemen have also been witnessed to beating youngsters without reason, and using high-concentration, anti-riot pepperspray on civilians who are merely attempting to protect themselves. No civilian put up any sort of fight or attempt at assaulting the police as far as i know,
(Police justified clearing out the area with the reason that protesters are holding illegal meetings in a public space.)
(Protesting civilians who remained on the streets overnight are wearing plastic wraps and raincoats under 30 degree weather in an attempt to protect themselves should the police utilize peppersprays again.)
The movement escalated again tonight when the protesters (now 4 times the size of the student movement the previous week) occupied a main road leading to the central hub of Hong Kong.
The police barricaded the roads and attempted to stop more people from joining the crowd this whole afternoon, but the peaceful crowd remained persistent and would not leave the area even after the police issued verbal warnings. (I emphasize “peaceful”, because protesters continued to be orderly and did not display any forms of aggression. They even cleared out a path for cars to pass the area, something the police didn’t even bother to do.)
At around 6:00, the police began using peppersprays on civilians again, this time high-powered ones that came in tanks instead of in bottles. Our people continued to shield themselves with umbrellas, but the umbrellas were also soon snatched away by the police. Live feed videos have also confirmed that police have been misusing peppersprays by firing them at close proximity, and also not giving any sort of verbal warnings before firing.
Video of a policeman firing at an elderly man at point-blank range:
Yet again, protesters remained, and at 7:00, armed forces were sent into the crowd. They began firing tear gas capsules INTO the crowds and even INTO First-aid stations. The rounds came every few minutes and i counted at least 5 capsules being fired in a 10-minute period according to the live feeds.
at least 30,000 people continue to stand their ground right this second, more armed policemen are being sent in, and news is that these police are ordered to use guns (loaded with plastic bullets) on civilians if protesters continue to remain.
I fear for the people because policemen are not what they used to be anymore. These “police” who should be protecting us are now private armies for the government. I am watching my city die. It’s a terrifying feeling. If the police feel they are justified to use force on innocent civilians, tonight could end up in another massacre just like that of the Tian An Men June Fourth Massacre in 1989.
And at this point I am too emotional to say anything else except that we need your prayers and your support. Please spread this out, people all over the world need to see what is happening right now.
LIVE FEED OF THE CURRENT SITUATION:
- Ferguson protests aren’t over. Here’s why they picked up again this week.
- Last night’s protests (storify)
- Officers “preparing for the worst” if Darren Wilson is not indicted
- DOJ tells Ferguson, STL Co. cops to ban “I Am Darren Wilson” wristbands and says they need to wear name tags (Wristband letter) (Name tag letter) (storify)
- Time for MO’s Supreme Court to enter the Ferguson fray
- 5 things about covering Ferguson
- Tef Poe: “Hip Hop is failing us”