Gassed and Understanding – Hong Kong Protests
A cloud of tear gas is shot to disperce the crowd in Central Hong Kong.
I could hear the bangs and then the puffs of smoke in the distance. I thought I was far enough. I wasn’t. I started crying and coughing and running with everyone else as the tear gas moved across the tens of thousands of people in the crowd. When everyone ran, I ran. When they put their hands up to stop, I stopped. It went on like this for most of the night until the riot police disappeared then it became just walking and talking. It is a night I will always remember because of the fear, the excitement, the emotion and the draining day after; today.
I have been trying to put together the events of last night and it has taken me a while. In the cab to work this morning, I was crying a bit as Iwas just overwhelmed with emotion from what I saw and experienced. I was interviewed by a Taiwanese newspaper and to be honest, I forgot what I had said since it was so long ago, last night. I read through the Chinese characters and found the words “there’s a community” I had said and it is sums up the feeling. When the tear gas hit for the first time, many came over to offer water, a towel, goggles, food, I honestly felt if I had asked for a car someone may have given me one. It was special.
I spent most of the nightwith my Journalism classmates, a close friend, along with strangers who offered translations or food or information. There were a lot of rumours of tanks coming or police using rubber bullets. The tanks turned out to be false pictures taken a long time ago. The rubber bullets are still not true, but it is hard to tell what is true and what isn’t. A lot of my classmates sent out videos, went back to the lab to produce what they had shot. A lot tweeted on twitter, filed stories for their blogs. The only things I could think about were messaging to Facebook, the messaging group our school set up and sending pictures to Instagram. It wasn’t the best use of my time. I should have written a story that I need to do for one of my classes but I didn’t. I wanted to see how this protest was going to end as I was sureit would end by the light of day. Today I just needed the time to digest what I had seen and experienced in between teaching today.
The protests were to “occupy” the central business and government area of Hong Kong by a group called Occupy Central. It was thought the group would hold their protests this coming Wednesday but instead they joined with the ending of the Student Demonstrations at 1:30 am Sunday morning. I didn’t go down in the morning as I wanted to spend time with my love. The movement is to protest the Chinese Government’s proposal not giving the right for anyone to run for the highest political office in Hong Kong. The person would be chosen by Beijing through a committee appointed by them. Most Hong Kong people have called this a sham and the way Beijing announced its decision and its steadfast refusal to talk to others has caused a lot of frustration and the cause of this moment.
For me the night’s beauty was after the riot police went away and I was able to recover quicker to the tear gas bombs, when I started talking to people and especially one of my classmates, who I got to know for the first time. The conversation was great as he is from Beijing and had grown up in China. He asked a lot of questions about why what is happening is happening. I asked him a lot about his upbringing and his thoughts about what was going on and in the past. To me, it is a type of conversation which Chinese and Hong Kongers should be having at the highest levels and amongst the people. I feel China doesn’t understand Hong Kong and may never as well as the other way around. It is the beauty I found last night which gave me less time to write and more time to think.
Right now, the emotions are still a bit strong. I am not the most objective person after seeing what I saw and was part of last night but I think it has more to do with the silence on the government’s side. I know what a lot of Hong Kongers think. I know what some Chinese people think but I don’t know what the Government thinks.