by Lorie Ann Cascaro
Hong Kong — More people had filled up last Wednesday the streets in Mong Kok and Central to continue a mass demonstration called ‘Occupy Central’ that demands universal suffrage in choosing Hong Kong’s chief executive in 2017. The protesters held rallies simultaneously, allowing some speakers to express their opinions and emotions.
Occupy Central was on its fourth day during the 65th National Day on Oct. 1, which was a public holiday here. Some protesters witnessed in the morning the flag-raising at Golden Bauhinia Square. South China Morning Post reported that some students made gestures and chanted to show their opposition to the government and chief executive Leung Chun-ying at the ceremony.
Umbrella Revolution was coined to represent the movement after the police fired tear gas to disperse the protesters at Central in the evening of Sept. 28 as most of them used umbrellas as shields. Others wore goggles or wrapped themselves with cling film or plastic bags.
Attending the protest last Wednesday morning, David Leung, 30, said Umbrella Revolution was not a ‘real revolution’ because it did not aim for a total change of the system. “We just wanted to get back the promise that we had at the beginning,” he told this reporter. He meant by promise as the exercise of people’s democratic rights. He said he joined the protest without knowing the outcome mainly because he is a resident of Hong Kong and of his love for Hong Kong.
Asked whether or not he supported the call for the chief executive’s resignation, Leung did not directly answer the question. He said, “The next [chief executive] will be same since Hong Kong is part of China.” He added that it is possible to slow down the process of changing Hong Kong as similar to China.
Very difficult, but not impossible
Edwin and Peta McAuley, who owns the Edwin McAuley Electronics, Ltd. in Hong Kong and have lived here for at least 35 years, joined and supported Occupy Central. Walking through Connaught Road last Wednesday, along with his wife and daughter, Edwin McAuley told this reporter, “It is difficult for China to back down, but not impossible.”
Peta McAuley said the best scenario is that protesters would continue to be non-violent so that it could go a long time. “Hong Kong people are doing what they should do, which is taking advantage of the opportunity of freedom of speech,” she said, adding that they have to be patient.
The McAuleys said they had been in several protests in Hong Kong, especially the mobilization to support protesters in Tiananmen Square in 1989. They were not concerned about having a vote in the Hong Kong government. “I’ve lived here for 35 years without a vote. I am concerned about competent leadership, but one thing that would convince me to leave would be corruption,” Peta McAuley said. She added that what differs Hong Kong from China is the rule of law.
Tony Tong, 27, from Mei Foo district, said some students joined the strike at first to evade classes, but they learned about democracy during the sit-ins. University students began their strike, which was led among others, by Hong Kong Federation of Students and Scholarism, on Sept. 20. They held sit-ins in parks nearby government offices.
Tong had not joined the protest, but he said it was “the most powerful accumulated energy that I have ever seen.” He said with such “energy”, people can bring peace and food for the world when they persist as it is “really a waste to just ask for a vote.” He said he was touched by the protesters’ courage, but it was “not the time to support” such movement. “I know it is right to want freedom, but I don’t think Hong Kong is that bad,” he said.
“Real democracy is that, at least, there is no restriction to participate in the election of chief executive and everyone has the right to participate in this election,” Marcus Lau, 23, a student in Hong Kong Polytechnic University, said last Saturday. He was watching the program to commemorate in advance the National Day at Tamar Park, while policemen blocked passages to the LegCo Complex at Admiralty.
Lau was supposed to join the sit-ins outside the government headquarter earlier on Saturday. It was the second overnight of the students’ strike that was later supported by Occupy Central protesters. Later, policemen gave way when the program ended and more protesters swarmed to the area.
Lau said he was brave enough to do what other students did Friday night, referring to some students who attempted to enter the government building that led to their arrest. “I think, we only have [this] method to grab the attention from the government,” he said.
The political situation in Hong Kong affected “a little bit” Lau’s plan after graduation. He said he is not attracted to work for the government because his standpoint is not totally the same as that of the government.
While others have decided whether or not to support Occupy Central or Umbrella Revolution, Simon Yau, also a student of HKPU, said he did not support any side but admire the protesters’ braveness to express their opinion against the government.
“Democracy in Hong Kong right now is complex because of too many opinions from different people and different sides,” Yau said, adding that it is difficult to solve the situation. “I don’t know how to solve it, but I want the society to become better. The people should calm down and seek for solutions,” he said.