On Tuesday we asked readers to share their reports about the pro-democracy protests happening in Hong Kong. Here are the first of those reports. As we get more, we’ll add them to the top of this story. If you have a story to share, send an email to email@example.com.
From Rebecca, a recent UW graduate now living in Hong Kong:
Today is Oct. 3, the 6th day of Occupy Central Movement. Triads have been creating ruckus the whole day. I go to Admiralty after work, despite many of my friends messaging me asking me to go home.
“You don’t know what you’re doing, you just want to feel good about yourself. It’s dangerous, just go home,” one of my friends says.
Yes, I want to feel good about myself, but I know what I am doing, I can’t leave my comrades alone. People can condemn us all they want, but when the day comes that they aren’t allowed to condemn anymore, it’s too late to speak up.
The crowd is not as big as it was Thursday, but the people are more emotional. Some people are crying as they read the news online about the ruckus in Mong Kok, and how the police “protect” the protesters; some men are gathering together to protect women; more are encouraging each other by giving out snacks, energy bars and homemade sandwiches.
I did not support the Occupy Central Movement originally, even though I supported the idea behind it — to have real universal suffrage. However, no reasonable leader on earth would use tear gas to attack his unarmed and peaceful men. This was horribly unfair and unreasonable. I must stand up.
“Thank you guys, you’re so brave.” I turn around and see this Pakistani girl in front of me. “You know what, I made some cake pops, thought I would spread the love. Would you want some?” she asks. “For sure,” I say, “thanks so much for supporting us, that means a lot.” She says “Of course! I was born here. This is so impressive, you guys are amazing.”
As she goes and spreads her love with more people, I feel like my heart is pounding harder and stronger. I know we are not out here for nothing; we have awakened so many souls. When will C.Y. Leung open his eyes, I don’t know. But I truly hope this day will come soon.
From Ben Tully, who writes a blog called “A Mariners Fan in Hong Kong”:
I’ve lived in Hong Kong for three years and three months, equal to more than 10 percent of my life. At this point, it’s quite clearly my second home now. But more than ever before, the Occupy movement has given me a new respect for the spirit of the Hong Kong people.
Despite overwhelming odds that the Chinese Central Government would refuse to compromise in any way on their decisions regarding the 2017 elections, the protesters have peacefully held strong. Thursday night, as I sat at home glued to my computer screen, Chief Executive CY Leung stated that he is sending his Chief Secretary for Administration, Carrie Lam, to meet with the main student group to discuss political reform. It’s far too early to say whether this means real change is on the way, but the fact that the government is even opening the dialogue is the first time they’ve really acknowledged the protesters as more than a nuisance. So in that sense, things are looking up.
The way I have been most directly affected by all this is that school has been suspended where I work in the Western and Central District. Monday and Tuesday became preparation days for staff, and on Friday, after the back-to-back public holidays, the school was closed altogether. Essentially, I was given a day off and a dozen extra hours at work to use as I pleased, with no consequence to my pay or future schedule. Needless to say, I have graciously accepted this outcome. However, I also want things to get back to normal soon as I like my job and think that the more time the kids have off, the more they’ll forget what they’ve been learning.
For me personally, I don’t want to live in a place where China’s economy is the first priority and all else is secondary. Hong Kong is a thriving, diverse city but at the current rate, it will be a place where only the rich can afford to live comfortably. Along with escalating stresses of supporting a family for the middle aged middle class, getting a job out of university is becoming much more challenging for the youth. And similarly to many income inequality battles being fought in the USA, the minimum wage is not enough to live a human life in this city. For the lower class, if the focus continues to be only on Hong Kong as the cash cow of China and not on assisting those in dire financial need, more and more will fall into the terrifying plight of literally living in cages.
Along with that of course, it’s about every citizen having a voice. I hope that China can see this isn’t a war against them; it is simply a plea for trust. Hong Kongers realize that China is their future and only want the ability to elect a leader who can promise to devotedly serve his/her people, without suspicion of a greater calling in Beijing.
Stay Strong Hong Kong!
From Vowel, a UW graduate who relocated to Hong Kong two months ago:
Six days ago I started taking part in the “Umbrella Revolution.”
Bearing the responsibilities of both a sister and a citizen, I asked my 18-year-old brother to go with me too. It was Sept 29, the day on which the HK Police Force started using pepper spray and throwing tear gas at protestors. We decided to stay overnight in Admiralty where we were later “attacked” with two cans of tear gas in the middle of night.
My brother was taking a nap on the street after being so alert for more than 6 hours. All of the sudden I had to roust him and have him put back on his “protective” gear. I.e. To wrap his head and eyes with a piece of plastic wrap we got from the supply station set up by volunteers and put on his HKD$10 plastic raincoat and a N95 mask. Like us, other protestors woke up and tried to see what happened and if the cops were approaching. Two minutes later we heard a loud noise and white smoke came toward us. I am a 5’3 girl and I had to climb over a really tall curb in the middle of the roads in order to escape from the tear gas. My 6’3 brother tried to help me and my high-school friends to run. But we didn’t run fast because others were saying: “Stay calm. Walk slowly. Don’t run.” We tried to prevent things from getting too chaotic and thus people get injured. So we held each other’s hands and walked opposite to where the tear gas came. The smoke smells really bad and all of us were coughing. Our face hurt so much, too. Because the mask most of us had weren’t that protective at all, when it came to harmful chemical gas like the cops have used that night.
We left at 6 in the morning that day and I went to work from 9-6 right after that. I believe nothing I’ve ever done could be more exhausting than that. Things seem to be a bit better after all those violence they’ve used. Not even one cop has shown up at where we “occupied” yesterday. But then protestors seem becoming more relaxed. I fear if this movement would end like other Occupy Wall Street spinoffs that have ever happened in the history. And this is not something we want to see before our requests have been fulfilled. …
Basically, all we want is a universal suffrage that allows HK citizens to choose and vote for our leader. “High degree of autonomy” and “one country two systems” are something that were promised when the government signed the Joint Declaration in 1982, with the British government. I really want this as well.
From Derek, a student here in Seattle who is from Hong Kong (he asked that his full name not be used):
Personally, I believe the problem lies in the common misunderstanding. Yes, there were widespread fears back in the ’80s that Hong Kong would just become another Chinese city under Beijing’s rule. However, it was during the negotiations (that eventually led to the agreed handover) that the prominent communist party leader Teng Xiaoping promised Hong Kong would not have to change its history, culture or way of life, and coincidentally this was the basis for the establishment of the famous “One country, two systems.”
However, with the rise of China in recent years, Beijing has also become increasingly oblivious to the constitutional principle, adding custom regulations on top of our law despite they have no jurisdiction, building new military facilities without going through the proper process, forcing local schools to teach a newly introduced, “improved” (read: censored) version of national education and history classes starting with 6 year old kids, forcing Hong Kong to comply with China’s way lackluster food inspection and tourism standards … The list goes on and on, and all aforementioned items were just a few things that came to mind on top of an even longer list of failures that the Hong Kong government has created itself. …
What does the future hold for Hong Kong? I’m not entirely sure myself, to be honest. This is a critical moment in history where Xi Jinping must make a decision – he could wait for the movement to disperse, he could begin a new round of negotiations that really better meet the demands for public accountability of our officials in Hong Kong, or Xi could force the movement to disperse by force. The choice is really his.
From Holly Harris Wood, who says she moved to Hong Kong two months ago:
We just moved here from Seattle in July, and although we live on the south side of HK Island, the effects of the protest on the north side are rippling everywhere. We were in Admiralty and Central (downtown financial and gov zones) on Sunday and saw hundreds of police and a few protesters. Haven’t been back to the area since things stirred up that night.
My biggest impression is that people are heartbroken and quietly angry. They feel betrayed that their promised freedoms are being compromised, and there’s a real sense of urgency mixed with loss.
This morning we took a taxi to a beach full of people trying to keep busy on a day we all have off from work but feel strange celebrating (National Day is not exactly a time when locals round up for BBQ–even on a normal year they’re annoyed, at best, by it). Our driver summed things up so well (in broken English): “Every country has some problems. Everyone has an opinion, but that is freedom. I am so sad.” He got quiet and didn’t really talk the rest of the drive.