It takes an hour to go from my house to Hong Kong Island on the subway. Yesterday it took 2.5 hours. The trains were filled with people wearing white symbolizing peace and justice. People were polite in letting people on and off the trains. It was noon on a Sunday.
Living in Hong Kong, there are ways to get around the city easier than the main roads, but yesterday they were all clogged with people wearing white. Everyone was thinking the same thing, how to get to Victoria Park as quickly as possible to join the protest against a law which would allow Hong Kongers to be extradited to Mainland China for the first time.
The slogan for the march is 反送中, which means ‘oppose sending to China.’ It focuses on the idea of Hong Kong not being part of China. As well it also contains a hidden message since 送中 sounds like 送終, which means seeing someone off to die, implying the potential death of Hong Kong. Many see the possible passage of this bill is the death of this city as an international city based on law.
The protest march moved from Victoria Park along Hennessey Road and ended at the Legislative Council Building. In total about 4 to 5 km of a 6-lane roadway. It was scheduled for 2 pm and needed to start earlier due to the number of people. MTR Subway Stations along the path were closed or partially closed to help control the flow of people along the route.
It was nearly impossible to get to Victoria Park and needed to get out of any exit and join. It was a sea of people. There are estimates of 1.03 million people by the organizers and 300,000 by the police who traditionally underestimate the numbers. The actual figure is probably in the middle, but people marched from 1 pm until 9 pm.
The march was hard. The police only allowed the protest in one lane of the main street. One suspects it was a way to slow the number of people and discourages people from joining in – too many people with not enough space isn’t appealing for most. There were moments of standing still for hours waiting for others to move forward.
The crowd was mostly young – secondary or university students. There were families with their children. There were the old and even the disabled being rolled in wheelchairs, walkers or lead by friends. It was friendly and more of a community with people asking if others had water. On social media maps of toilets, water dispensers, and recycling bins are shared. There is hardly any debris on the streets. People are festive and talking about the bill and speculating about what will happen next for the march and the future of the city.
The march is unlike any single protest in Hong Kong. Single because of the memories of the Occupy Central or Umbrella Movement Pro-Democracy demonstrations in 2014 that closing streets of Hong Kong for 79 days. There is still a sense of community. In the end, beside and around the Legislative Council building, people sit on the streets and listen to lectures, talks, and discussions on what is next. Chants are calling on the Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-Ngor to withdraw the bill and resign.
It is doubtful those things will happen. The government released a statement saying the bill will move forward with little or no changes on Wednesday when the next hearing will be on Wednesday. There are calls for more protests for then and wonder if the people will show up on a workday.