Yesterday Hong Kong was dealt a tremendous blow as the funding for XRL (the HK section of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-HK Express Rail Link) was passed by the Legislative Council. At that painful moment thousands of protesters surrounded the LegCo building and shouted: Shame on you, Hong Kong government!
I wrote about my objections to XRL in this earlier post after I attended the first sit-in protest outside LegCo on Dec 18. The financial affairs panel debated the funding for non-consecutive days; each time it drew a huge crowd of protesters. In the last couple weeks there're also a series of events outside LegCo that aimed to raise public awareness of the impact of XRL and to celebrate the spirit of resistance. A variety of community organisations came together in a carnival--some sold their handicrafts and home-made snacks to raise fund for the anti-XRL campaign,. Scholars and poets gave talks and readings; independent movie makers held seminars; local musicians sang about life in HK, issues like unemployment and the increasing lack of freedom.
Yesterday I got to LegCo in the morning. In our hearts we knew the funding would be passed today: the royalists are the majority in LegCo and they'd always pass what the government proposes. The Pan-Democrats were going at the filibuster. The protesters came up with over 100 questions and the organizer texted them to the councilors. All the while we watched the live broadcast, sang, and booed the royalists when they showed their true colors. The Pan-Democrats proposed a series of motion debates - including that the government should promise to hire local construction workers over cheaper mainland labor; and that during the construction, the government would give sufficient information to the Tai Kok Tsui residents whose homes will directly affected.
Hunger strike. And the possession on their way to the Government Headquarter.
The royalists said No. To each of these motion debates they pressed the 'No' button. Thirty-one of them, our dear councilors, who get their fat salaries thanks to us taxpayers, said No, we don't care if you get no jobs or peace. All we want now is for the funding to be approved so we can get out of here. Some of these councilors are in the LegCo because of popular voting, but others are there because of functional constituencies. Suppose I'm a popular personality in the tourism industry and the 300 voting members vote me in--I go to LegCo meetings sometimes and doze off and there's nothing the HK public can do about it. In recent days there's a movement in HK that calls for the end to functional constituencies and I may write about that another time.
Mr Lee, mechanics and Mr Wong Nai-chung, owner of the now defunct Sun Chung Flower Shop. They both had to move away from Sham Shui Po because of urban redevelopment. After forty years of working in the same professions and in old districts, they can't pick up another trade nor can they afford rent in other districts. Mr Wong has a place at a local design college for now. Mr Lee is jobless and lives in public housing.
Today many HK people talk about the protest last night, which went on way after the meeting was over. The mission was to block all LegCo's exits so that the Secretary for Transport and Housing Eva Cheng would have to face the protesters before she could leave. Hundreds of youngsters sat or laid down on the streets arms in arms, some with plastic wrap over their eyes and noses. The police used pepper spray on the protesters without warning, and around 8pm they removed the protesters by force. Some of these kids returned to the scene though and Eva Cheng didn't manage to leave the area until 0.30am, when the police escorted her to the train station.
Some HKers, esp. those who're pro XRL, call these youngersters' move irrational, unnecessary or childish. A number of these kids were caught doing pretty stupid things like dancing, cracking irrelevant jokes on the cops ('Which one of you is the most handsome?') and the reporters ('Come dance with us, pretty'). A couple of these clips were shown on TV. Now, as a former journalist and a witness to last night's protest, I have to say: 1. the HK media is mostly pro-government nowadays and 2. the majority of these young protesters were very sensible. For the most part they called to their peers to stay calm and patient. 'Don't fight the police when they remove you so you won't be arrested.' 'We'd keep smiling because our cause is just and we'd keep fighting.'
What's irrational about a final sit-in on the streets? Did they hurt anyone or themselves; did they burn up a car or spray paint on the LegCo building or throw threats at anyone? To condemn some of these youngsters because they danced and said some silly trivial things--that is so petty. A journalist had the balls to write 'How sad if this is how our future generations will turn out' in a note on her Facebook. Hello? Are you Fascist or are you that uptight? A few years ago the Korean peasants came over to HK for the WTO. At one point some of them broke the police's barrier and dived into the Victoria Harbor for a swim--that's a part of their protest. HK people had a good laugh about it. So what's with you being so judgmental and intolerant of our young people?
Today I laid in bed and thought over what I'd seen in recent days--suddenly tears were rolling down my face. I can't bear the thought that in the next six years, our government is going to throw a gigantic amount of our money down the drain, strip many HK families of their dignity and peace, and rape our opinions because of this XRL that runs straight to Beijing and stands for political unity rather than promotes economic development. If I feel as angry and weary as I do, what about those whose lives will be messed up by the XRL? The residents of affected areas who will be fighting noise and air pollution everyday, or see their buildings half collapse because of the underground work? The residents of Vegetable Garden whose homes would be wiped out? What is my hometown coming down to?
To those who say our resistance was unnecessary--say what you will. You have your reasons and opinions. I'll tell you this much: the Hong Kong people who give their time and hearts to certain causes, such as opposing the XRL, do so out of a sense of justice. That the tides can't be turned doesn't mean we'll turn a blind eye to what's unjust. Or that our System is changing doesn't mean I'd resign myself and go along with those insane rules and values. I'd do what I do - including writing about it - even if it comes down to nothing and many other Hong Kongers will do the same.