28. Occupy: personal impressions of an inside-outsider


Occupy

Occupy Central with Love and Peace

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.

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fashion free zone

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.

IMG_2609So 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.

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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.

IMG_2611What’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. 

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2 thoughts on “28. Occupy: personal impressions of an inside-outsider

  1. Its not like London in 2003 that’s for sure – there is always the underlying fear like in Tiananmen they will open fire! This gives me all the more admiration for those that do go – for those who believe in fighting for real democracy. None of us in London expected that the police would open fire though – we have this much faith in our government at least. Democratic principles are powerful and good. But perhaps it isn’t our fight Pete. We are British after all – but by definition didn’t our country make this mess? – gave people this hope..just to have it taken back by China? But its powerful when people have had a taste of what is better, there passion is strong.

    There is a twist to the tale though. The west itself is becoming more and more undemocratic e.g. Patriot Act (2001) and its funny how there is so much press coverage in the west of the protests (to make the so-called democratic west look good) but when in London when 1 million protested against the British government in 2003 – only 1 newspaper covered it. I feel though soon enough there will be similar protests against the growing police states in the west. (1984 was written for a reason). The unions like the UN and EU are essentially enabling those who control government to consolidate vast umbrellas of power under the guise of philanthropic deeds. Though there may be much good done in these organisations – this is only permitted in order to hide their darker intentions.

    I think if we can summon the courage to go on protests like these – we may need the practice. Maybe the exhilaration of making a stand for good outweighs the potential risks. If i was there I would probably go on certain days but not be a permanent protester, that way you can continue to show solidarity but in moderation as you have been doing. That said it could get ugly soon – and why would you want to go then?? (unless you are an army). A place that has outlawed peaceful protest is always a dangerous place to live in. Moreover it shows they have an alternate agenda (and you can bet its the rich that are organizing it) if they don’t want people to even have freedom of speech. We should though, I believe, exercise our freedom of speech that we have before we lose it. The more we use it the more it grows the more we take it for granted and rest on our laurels the more it may shrink.

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    • Thanks for your comments Gus. You hit on several areas that prompted my initial unease (e.g. not wanting to be seen – via any anti-Occupy coverage – as a salesman for a West that picks and chooses its global causes while restricting rights back home) as well as reminding me that reassurances made, however optimistic, should not be taken lightly (as they have been in the past). The initial post was prompted by reports of Chinese news stories saying Western agitators were stirring things up, and a story I read about a woman with blonde hair supporting the protest only from afar as she didn’t want to play into that idea. A bit of a side issue perhaps but it prompted my pause for thought. I tend to look at these motivations and self-analyse when perhaps the best thing to do is not think too much and follow your gut! Anyway, I will be back in, much as you suggest, to try and offer a broader perspective. Freedom of speech is being exercised out there en masse and it is inspiring to see. Tony Benn said every new generation has to fight for its rights all over again. I guess because of a certain apathy after the UK anti-war marches in 03 that awareness seems to burn brighter here than back home right now. Hopefully what young HKers are doing now will inspire their peers in the UK & US.

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