The ‘P.O.P.‘ series covers international issues in every corner of the world, offering a voice to those that may not be heard…

Location: Hong Kong, S.A.R.

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The Umbrella Movement, the name of the current protests in Hong Kong, has been – since September 2014 – a result of the mounting tensions between mainland China and Hong Kong. With accusations of police brutality in the city, protesters in Hong Kong are attempting to have their voices heard. At the center of this heated debate is the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress decision on electoral reform, something many in Hong Kong do not agree with and are seeking to change. Here are three perspectives on the current battle, by Hong Kongers, in their words. The outside world will get a perspective through their eyes….

In your own words, briefly describe why people are protesting.

Sam: Under the basic law (the constitution specially made for Hong Kong by British and China government before 1997). Hong Kong people will enjoy the right of universal suffrage for the Chief Executive (CE) of Hong Kong. At 31 august 2014, the Chinese Central Government made a decision that the candidate of the CE election will be selection by the nomination committee with 1200 members. All potential candidates will be “pre-elected” by the committee; each of the candidates has to get over 50% votes from the committee in order to become the CE official candidate for Hong Kong citizens voting. The members of the nomination committee are mainly pro Chinese government individuals and representatives from “four social groups”, such as businessman. Many of them have been enjoying benefit brought by the pro Chinese government policy. It is very doubtful that candidate with different political stands can pass thought the “50% voting check point” and become official candidate. In late September 2014, The Hong Kong Federation of Students (HKFS) held a protest and boycott to raise the concern on the CE election issue at the HK government Headquarter. At 26 September 2014, protesters attempted to claim the “civil square” – a land that at the front door of HKG HQ which used to be open for public and later on blocked by the HKG. For those successfully breakthrough and claimed the square (including Joshua Wong from Scholarlism) were arrested by the police and triggers many citizen to go to HKG HQ to support the protesters. Police started to use pepper spray and tear gas at 28 September 2014 to drive the students and protester away. Many people felt that the police was using unnecessary force and started to occupy the area around HKG HQ (part of Admiralty and Central). Some people initial occupying movement at different area including two downtown areas (Mong Kok and Causeway Bay) of HK.

Sylas: It is not all about democracy or any political format like many proclaim. The past decade, the society has been facing numerous specific problems, which are caused by the government failures in a way that the Chinese government thinks is being best for both parties. Most protesters are fed up with these social problems that are done by the leader assigned by (and listen to) China, therefore demanding real democracy now hoping to stop the problem, causing policies from popping up constantly. Some of the key things protesters are defending: food safety(a major issue), housing, social welfare to be inclusive to its citizens, hospitals, education curriculum (no brainwashing materials), personal safety, media control, freedom of speech, career opportunities, moral standard, our language/dialect and culture, etc.

As a HKer that has lived in China, I would point out the major difference in the mainstream mainland culture that HKer detest is the moral standard. Some values that are passed from the last two generations (with historical reasons/selective force), HKers take pride in justice, diligence, and consciousness. In mainland China on the other hand, economic development is ultimately the most important matter, meaning ‘money comes first’ has become an acceptable culture. Across the board, many injustices have submerged in the mainland society; most Chinese know about these but they have become accustomed to it.  Examples: lethal toxic industrial salt in food to lower production costs (one of the countless food safety examples). Substitute trash for building materials – these allegedly strong buildings crash easily in earthquakes and kill many more than a natural disaster should otherwise.  It is common that no one would help out if crimes or accidents happen on the street; with plenty of witness present, no one speaks or acts.  Animal abuse is also another topic. In a sense, the majority of mainland Chinese are also victims. People in China see a limited view of the news because of media control and they are accustomed to these occurrences. We see them on a daily basis in HK for the past decade and are freaked out each time.  Business with the Chinese is also difficult; promise breaking is a common practice; contracts and laws have little values. As Hong Kong becomes more and more ‘invaded’ by China, we start seeing this culture flooding in and the fear of injustice has grown. If you have the chance to visit the protest sites and understand Cantonese, you might notice the written slogans and speech are against violence, injustice and lies.

It is possible that the real democracy cannot solve the social problems. It is also possible that a leader assigned by China can solve some of these problems. However, after the people have been repeatedly lied to, fed up with mainlanders and communist party related ridiculousness, protesters are now demanding the right to choose their own leader and take control of their own destiny.

Gloria: We protest because we want to abolish functional constituencies and want civil nomination.

 

Typically, Hong Kong protests have been peaceful. How are these different and what is the atmosphere like on the streets of Hong Kong currently?

Sam: Generally speaking, the protest is under a very peaceful atmosphere. Small conflicts occur sometimes between the protesters and other citizens since the occupying movement is interrupting normal daily life of the Hong Kong people, especially for those that work and live near the protest areas. Since early October, one of the protest area s– Mong Kok has been attacked by a group of people which believe the assault was done by mobsters and pro-Chinese government society members.

According to the news, a protester was beaten by 7 police officers (some said 6) on 15 October 2014. Since then, many protesters feels angry about the police force and doubt that the police is performing their duty fairly. Mong Kok’s situation became even more tense though people are claiming most of the time and number of conflicts between the protesters and police increase. One note has to be mentioned is that all the protesters are acting in a civil manner, no violence has ever been actively conducted by the protesters.

Sylas: Protests in Hong Kong happen many times in a year, big ones in June 4th and July 1st are inevitable.  In the past years, police and media have increasingly gone against protesters, restricting protesters’ activities and the media downplaying the reports. My friends and I (all university graduates) attended theses peaceful walking protests and noticed now the news twisted the facts. It was happening gradually and barely noticeable by the vast majority (people that do not attend). If the trend continues slowly, well… we might become accustomed to it.  Now this time the protesters started out even more peaceful than before, as they are young students. CY Leung was stupid enough to allow tear gas to be fired at them. Currently, the street is filled with art, music, harmony, and humor. It’s beautiful.

Gloria: The difference is that we go to protest every day and is very safe and the protestors are very helpful and selfless with one another.

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Sam: I support the movement because universal suffrage was promised under basic law but the central government does not keep the promise, at least not in the way that most Hong Kong people believed in. Under the current framework, the CE candidates will most likely have the same political stands, in other words, there will be a lack of political diversity for the Hong Kong people to make their choices.

Gloria: I am pro-occupy central movement because I want to vote for a HK leader freely without any restrictions imposed by Beijing.

 

 

Reports are that there have been beatings/sexual assaults? Elaborate.

Sam: There is solid evidence that beatings occur during the protests, caused by the individuals who are against the protest. The protesters are always accused of affecting the normal operation of society and some radical individuals beat the protesters up. The police force is suspected to have beaten up protesters during the operation of clearing the barricade built by the protesters. As for the sexual assault, most of the cases reported during the conflict are between individuals for and against the protests. It may have occurred or not, because no solid evidence has been presented.

Click HERE for an online link that collects the incidences occurring during the Hong Kong protests.

Gloria: I wasn’t at the scene when the beating and sexual assault happened. Of course, I am angry with the ways they tried to disperse protesters as it was immoral. I think they can’t come up with any legitimate methods to disperse people.


Are you for/against C.Y. Leung? Why/Why not?

Sam: I am against CY Leung. Since CY Leung has become the CE of HKG, he has told many lies that are ridiculous and he has tried to cover up his mistakes. For example, he tried to cover up his suspicious activity of corruption with UGL involving the amount of 50 million HKD. He said that there is no conflict of interest because the contract term is telling CY not to do anything rather than do something. In my perception, ‘not to do anything’ is the service required by the contact. As the CE of HKG, one should not provide service to a private cooperation, not to mention that the cooperation is bidding on some fundamental constriction work of HK (some of the railway construction work in HK).

From a protester’s point of view, CY Leung has refused to liaise with the protesters and refuses to take the responsibility of police using tear gas against protesters (which is a very serious issue and high level of force toward HK people). His attitude does not comply with the post of CE and that’s why there are many voices asking him to step down.

Sylas: All I can say is that he could do a lot better, but he hasn’t.

Gloria: I am against CYL because he was elected by 1200 businessmen, which is not representative enough in Hong Kong. I see him as a puppet controlled by Beijing. I don’t see that he works for the benefits of Hong Kong.

 


Describe for people that don’t know the difference between Hong Kong and mainland China.

Sam: Hong Kong was a colony of the British until 1997 and returned to the Chinese government on July 1st,1997. Hong Kong has its own currency (HKD) and law system (all laws in mainland China are not applicable in Hong Kong). Under the basic law, Hong Kong is operated under ‘one country, two systems’ with high autonomy. The common languages in Hong Kong are Cantonese and English, but Putonghua is the common language in mainland China. Hong Kong people do not like corruption, though corruption in mainland China is very common. There is no restriction of internet browsing in Hong Kong, but many websites are blocked by government in mainland China including Facebook, Youtube, and Instagram, etc. Foreign investors can set up a company very easily in Hong Kong but foreign investor must co-op with a local company or investor in order to set up business in mainland China. Hong Kong is a very free market but there are many restriction made by the government to control the market in mainland China.

Sylas: First of all, the modern day China is not the China we people generally think or have seen in ancient history. The ancient China and modern China have separate identities. Although the race of its inhabitant is biologically the same, the modern Chinese inherited (preserved) little morals or wisdom from their ancestors after what happened in recent history.

I am a biologist and my way of explaining these might be a little offensive to certain religions, but to illustrate:

After the communist party take over, China was sealed off like an island. Many families of professional and military background escaped to Taiwan; families with foreign relatives moved overseas. Families that moved to Hong Kong are mostly the work of grass-roots efforts who tried hard and resourceful enough. Basically, 90% of those that had the ability, left.

Then for about fifty years in mainland China, the remaining people were robbed constantly and under heavy control. The selective force in mainland China was against anyone outstanding, outspoken, open-minded or knowledgeable.

Meanwhile the selective force in Hong Kong for these grass root immigrants in the newly developing city were being resourceful, diligent, watching out for each other (because the Brits weren’t that nice to the locals in the beginning). For businesses to consolidate, people placed high value in keeping promises and being reliable. Freedom of speech has been granted; this allowed local culture to flourish as Hong Kong was being built, and later developed alongside the local film and music industry. Although Hong Kong is largely a commercial city, most people are sentimental and very attached to this shared memory and culture.

Gloria: The difference is we embrace freedom of speech, press and religion and western-standard democracy and highly respect human rights.

 

 


Are the police helping or hindering the protest? What are protesters exactly fighting for and what would you like see happen for the elections?

Sam: At first the attitude of the police was natural but became a hinderance to the protests lately. The protesters are fighting for the mainland government’s National People’s Congress to withdraw the decision made on August 31st, 2014 about the CE election in Hong Kong at 2017. On top of that, provide a true democracy election proposal which is promised in basic law.

Sylas: I do not have a confirmed opinion on that, but I feel bad for many of them put in this position.

Gloria: There are mixed views; some of my friends go to the demonstration site every day to show support while others who are pro-occupy central movement stay at home and sometimes go to the site.


What are protestors exactly fighting for and what would you like to see happen for the elections?

Sylas: Personally, I don’t care about the political format or elections at all. I want a sensible government that aims to serve Hong Kong for the interest of Hong Kong, be opened-minded and learn from various countries for solutions to the problems we face. Hong Kong needs sustainable development and promotion of local creativity, not constantly combating ridiculous policies for China’s sake of ‘uniting’. At this point, I do not think any governor assigned by China can calm the people or are capable of helping out. This is because they have been lying repeatedly and getting busted repeatedly. They have shown little sophistication and civilization. The trust has been shattered.

Gloria: We are fighting for democracy in Hong Kong. We believe this can bring sustainability for Hong Kong development in all aspects such as economics and social.

Triston
Triston is an American jetset performance artist, writer, event organizer, and activist based in Europe. As a freelance journalist, he has covered both the underground and mainstream aspects of the arts, culture, music, entertainment, travel, fashion and Fashion Week in several cities, including New York, London, Berlin, Istanbul, Sydney, Bangkok, Hong Kong, and Tokyo to name a few. He has been published in The Huffington Post, Trespass (London), Adaras Magazine (Miami) as well as featured in publications such as the New York Times, Vogue Italia, Turkish Huriyet and other on-line and print magazines in the U.S. and internationally. He recently released his memoir on life in Europe, 'Heaux Confessionals'. As a solo performer and with his band $kandal Du$t, he has toured in some of the world's most renowned clubs, simultaneously maintaining an underground renaissance, blurring the lines of all that is traditional and leaving his indelible, and ultimately unforgettable impression. There is no divide.

Brace yourself.


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