Kids in tents – nothing else matters

Every media outlet in Hong Kong starts the day with it: the Occupy Central protest is entering its third week. We take it for granted now, but it wasn’t supposed to be this way. The core business district itself remains unaffected, save for traffic diversions that have made the area less crowded, noisy and polluted. After all the branding and other plans, the actual sit-ins sprung up spontaneously elsewhere.

They have taken root. The main one surrounds the government complex at Tamar. It has become a bohemian tent city with food and water depots, shower stalls, first-aid stations, lectures, art displays, shelves of books, and – perhaps strangest of all – an open-air study room with kids doing homework at rows of well-lit desks. Over the harbour in what the overseas reporters are required to call gritty Mongkok, the Umbrella Uprising is more proletarian. Chain-smoking tattooed protestors with dyed hair and bling fight with local gangsters and copulate in the dark under flyovers (probably), while their more contemplative comrades worship at religious shrines. Then there’s a smaller settlement in Causeway Bay that I haven’t checked out.

Those of us who felt that after a euphoric week or 10 days it would make sense for the occupiers to withdraw have learnt to shut up. Only perpetual hand-wringers and bleaters still bother to call for the kids to pack up and go home, point made. What’s the betting they will still be there, strumming guitars and offering help with English assignments, at Christmas? At most, protestors seem to be consolidating their holdings of street acreage, as if to make themselves more comfortable. The police are taking the opportunity to reopen a few roads that probably didn’t need to be closed in the first place; for a while this morning, the kids thought the Big Clear-Out was about to happen, complete with tear gas, but it seems the cops just wanted some of their metal barriers back…


As always in Hong Kong, it is essential not to step back and look at the big picture; instead we must zoom in and get obsessed with the micro-issue. What was supposed to be about freedom, social justice, good governance, political reform and a – let’s say ‘unique’ – Communist-compatible semi-universal suffrage is now about kids in tents on streets. Nothing else matters. Businessmen wanting to shoe-shine the government need only bemoan the appalling economic cost of the road closures, and the press will dutifully spread the word. Pro-dems are not naturally gifted when it comes to countering this sort of criticism (hint: if you want something that damages the economy, try the high-land-price policy). And Chief Executive CY Leung declares the protests ‘out of control’. I suppose this is basically true in the sense that the participants are totally oblivious to what he thinks or wants.

This is the first time in ages that he has emerged from his bunker for a press interview. The main result of this has been to piss off the rest of the media for gracing TVB alone with the opportunity (a basic PR blunder). To Hongkongers, he and Chief Secretary Carrie Lam abdicated their responsibility to the city by taking off for some wretched-sounding Pan-Pearl River Delta Partnership Horsecrap Blah-Blah thing in Guangzhou over the weekend. But apparently, the Mainland participants felt the same way, with someone from Jiangxi Province complaining about the Hong Kong officials’ eagerness to skip the trade waffle and get back home. (OK, I had to look it JianxiMapup – like Carrie, I bet. Apparently, it has a border with Guangdong. And to think we never even knew it was there…)

It is left to Legislative Council President Tsang Yok-sing to remind us all that this is about potentially big things, starting with electoral methods and an attempt to cram a democratic process into the space allowed by a one-party state. It might be grasping at straws, and most people blank out when the conversation turns to the Nominating Committee, but his point is that the pre-selection phase of the process offers a chance for pro-dems or other non-stooge life-forms to get into everyone’s face and opinion polls. While it won’t impress the activists, it’s the sort of argument that – if put in plain, non-technical language – could persuade the undecideds and don’t cares and conceivably save Beijing’s reform package. But few establishment figures have the wit to push the nearest thing the package has to a bright side. From grim-faced Beijing officials and CY down, it’s a fight to the death against kids in tents.


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14 Responses to Kids in tents – nothing else matters

  1. Tom says:

    I went to Jiangxi once. It was quite nice.

    In the provincial capital, Nanchang (not to be confused with the identically-named MTR station Nam Cheong) is a museum housing works by the calligrapher and painter Bada Shanren 八大山人. He was a minor Ming royal who went into hiding around 1644. The museum is in the former monastery where he sought refuge from the Qing dynasty and became an artist rather than a princeling. One of the leading painters of his era, in fact.

    He achieved much more in the life he was forced into by political upheaval than he ever might have in the one he originally had planned for himself. An example CY might care to ponder, perhaps.

  2. Scotty Dotty says:

    Excellent post from Hemmers – a must read at lunchtime.

    Traffic better today, a little.

    The new police strategy is probably death by a thousand cuts. Tomorrow or next day they’ll need another few barriers back and another bit of road needs to open etc. They will still allow a core protest site probably for ever now – Greenham Common in Tamar. But it will look progressively more pathetic each month. Shame.

  3. Joe Blow says:

    Yesterday I sat with the kids in CWB and this morning I visited Tamar and surrounds for the first time. I struck me how big it was. Walking over the traffic-free fly-over was exhilarating. The students have planted small plant shoots in the road itself. Each plant has its own water bottle. En passant, I saw Martin Lee standing around and I listened in to a street interview with Joshua Wong. Just another Monday morning. And the weather was gorgeous.

    One impression prevails: reading all the posters, it’s obvious. CY is the most hated person in Hong Kong, even beating Vagina (runner-up).

  4. Not In My Backyard says:

    “”Pro-dems are not naturally gifted when it comes to countering this sort of criticism (hint: if you want something that damages the economy, try the high-land-price policy).””

    Spot on in your second part of the above comment, but I’ll bet most Pro-Dem Camp politicians own property already. It’s true that first time buyers want cheap property prices. That is until after they have got property themselves. Then nearly all of them want to see the prices surge up. This doesn’t make sense for anyone who loves Hong Kong and wants to stay here forever, but many property owners don’t. They hope one day to sell off their inflated balloon and move on to Australia, Canada, the USA, or for the really small flat owners with no expat skills, Taiwan. Hence really wanting “affordable” property prices is against most of these politicians and a good part of their constituency self interest. The Students can smell out this hypocrisy, that the Democrats make a lot of empty sounds, but really don’t have the best interest of the Students at heart.

    For a better, happier Hong Kong I’d be happy to sacrifice most of my property value, since I don’t have an outstanding mortgage. That is if I’m doing it with every other property owner in this society, because I’m not leaving Hong Kong alive (assuming the CCP doesn’t round up all the non-Han and shove them onto boats and planes – in which case our property will be confiscated anyway). However, while the market price today is meaningless to my livelihood, but I’ll bet this isn’t the case for most of HK. It could be accused of being selfish, because if anything, a price collapse aught to reduce the tax I pay on it until the government finally raises the rates.

  5. Stephen says:

    Lets look ahead. Three persons put themselves forward to the Chief Executive nominating committee in 2017 – Lets call them Fred, Carrie and DAB Under-Orders.

    Fred leads in the opinion polls by a country mile and would likely win an election at a canter. Despite being an affable chap, competent if not spectacular former lawmaker, he used to belong to the Democratic Party and therefore is deemed a threat and challenge to the all-knowing and wise CCP. Therefore the nominating committee (comprising of the usual Bunny’s, Arculli’s, Assorted Scions and Allen Semen etc etc) are instructed by the CCP to ensure Fred falls short of the fifty per cent required to run. But don’t despair you get a vote between Carrie and Under-Orders. Carrie wins easily and the turnout is a robust 14%.

    Tsang Yok-sing reminds us this is a potentially big thing! I vote for canvas and will also vote for young Joshua and Alex in 2016 Legislative Council Geographical Constituency election.

  6. Maugrim says:

    Leung is a cad. However who is likely to be better? Ip? Pfffft. Under one country two systems HK cannot serve two masters . No future leader can adequately meet our needs while at the same time meeting China’s I’m afraid .

  7. Joe Blow says:

    New Territories Association of Triad Societies.

    You can’t make this up.

  8. @Maugrim – maybe someone with the right connections over the border needs to try convincing the Central People’s Government that they would actually be better off with a more robust leader here – one who told them in plain words what Hong Kong people really want, think and feel. Then perhaps they wouldn’t be making so many disastrous decisions for the SAR – based on CY and his cohorts telling them only what they want to hear instead of the truth – that leave them with tents full of students all along Connaught Road. They talk about making decisions based on “the actual situation in Hong Kong”, but everyone they trust paints the picture in pretty shades of pink instead of the grim grey truth. Even now the HK government is insisting that its nonsensical report to the NPCSC was accurate – perhaps they’ve even fooled themselves into believing it. Rigging the next election to get another toady into Government House will only ensure that China’s leaders make more wrong decisions based on flattery and lies. In the bigger picture, a leader who doesn’t “meet their needs” might serve their real needs better.

  9. Herr Torquewrench says:

    Agree with Nimby – why doesn’t the press publish pictures of ALL Legco members together with pictures of the property (ies) they own? Oh, I know why…..

  10. john says:

    Only IF Heung Yee Kuk/Cheung & Henderson (have 80million sq ft) sit with Govt and work for hongkong people.. high price policy is as long as I remember & unlikely to change

    good to read hilarity that lingers; must give freedom to those whom we despised!

    Who is louisa mingling with local honorable lads, HKU/Baptist polls are done thru whom? Thru unknown limited companies .. situations like these overshadow the real zest for direct election and accumulated actual grief.. change is long due

  11. Queensway Stroller says:

    As a regular stroller along Queensway (now perforce since the trams have stopped) I have taken the opportunity to open up … or rather loosen … the barricades to assist fire engines and ambulances who want to take a short cut backwards down Cotton Tree Drive into Queensway (Eastbound lane) and thence into Hennessy Road (Westbound lane) .

    Having watched three fire engines a week or so ago take ten minutes to circumnavigate the students’ barricades I thought it my civic duty . Anyway, the sudents don’t own the roads.

    Armed with nothing less than a pair of wire snippers one can do a lot of damage to cable- ties in a just a few minutes before the students storm up to stop me

    A week ago it was still “love and peace”
    Three days ago it was violent rage (but no swear words)
    This morning (long before the lunchtime triad movement ) it was FUCK YOU / FUCK OFF !

    Seems our tender loving students have lost the love and peace angle despite the Tent City with flowers romantic angle

    Anyway, the triads and taxi drivers moved into Queensway, then the police, then the students sat down, then they built a monumental pile of barriers … then what next ?

    Tomorrow’s Queensway stroll will reveal all

  12. Queensway Stroller says:

    Sorry : I meant
    Queensway Westbound lane and Hennessy Road Eastbound

  13. Joe Blow says:

    The anti-Occupy crowd is no match for the democracy movement because Occupy is organic while they are mechanic. The student/ occupy movement has a life of its own and when it gets hurt (ripping out barricades f.e.) it repairs itself.

    Anti-Occupy has to be strictly organized and managed: bussing in the DAB grannies and Heung Yee Kuk thugs, providing them with a free lunch and tea money and bussing them back again. The triad punks have to be paid a full day’s wages or they won’t show up for ‘work’. The taxi cowboys have to be compensated for lost revenue. And somebody with a fat wallet has to pay for it all. Not something you can, or want to do, on a daily basis.

  14. Hills says:

    The most disrupting issue here is to coordination between police, triads and other assorted pests from the NT. Now I never hold the police in high regards, but after this successful cooperation, it is down to zero.

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