A question I’ve been asking myself since Occupy began prematurely, riding on the wave of striking students towards the end of September, is whether modern protest should cross international borders or if non-Hong Kongers who reside here temporarily (like myself) would be better off keeping away from the site, in case our presence feeds the propaganda machines of the world’s ‘great’ powers.
Here on the island all is peaceful while friends in the city man the barricades and let their voices be heard. True, I have been in to offer solidarity, and on Tuesday night the scene was far calmer than our bustling, touristy seafront on a bank holiday. Less so on Sunday night when the police had counterproductively resorted to teargas. How to create improvised protective uniforms to combat future attacks was being cheerily discussed by people braver than me.
So back to that nagging question: does my right to protest extend beyond my home country, especially when its own model of democracy, while far preferable to many alternative regimes, produces little real choice in terms of candidature? My sensible/cowardly self says no. If I want to affect change I should target the politicians back home. My heart? Well, that’s with Hong Kong, of course.
Are Hong Kongers themselves relying on the West? I’m not so sure. ‘We’ve changed things before, in 2003,’ a friend reminds me. ‘We can change things again.’ For those observing these events as ‘inside-outsiders’ we can only hope that when change arrives it does so safely and with as much consensus as possible.
What’s the worst thing to take into a potentially volatile situation? Turns out one of them could be a bass guitar. My friend was avoiding the teargas on Sunday having come on site straight from band practice. What did the police see? A brawny man with a large and suspicious case strapped to his back. He got away with it. Justice was done. Long may that continue.
You can read more of my thoughts about Occupy in an upcoming piece I’ve written for International Arts Manager magazine, accompanied by a fantastic photo from Kendy Lam.