On the approach to Exchange Square in Hong Kong Central District the biggest crowd of all was formed by the line of eager souls waiting for the new iPhone who knew nothing of the less commercialised action further along the way.
However, the red banner declaring Occupy Hong Kong introduced the real theme of the day to passing pedestrians and the motley crowd of enthusiastic Occupiers encircled a focal point that was replete with banners and more than one PA system giving vent to the slogans.
There was a good mix of those who really understood the root of the protest besides those who seen their particular gripe coincided with some grander picture.
Socialist Action, the Hong Kong branch of the Community of Workers International, were active and were one of a few groups with an organised presence. There was a strong contingent from a group called Anonomous – “We are a non violent decentralized resistance group,” they said.
The Anti Nuclear people were there. One recognisable political figure was Albert Chan wearing a People Power T-shirt. As a member of the League of Social Democrats he was with a group of protesters wearing Guy Fawkes masks from the V for Vendetta movie. Another group, Left21, took centre-stage at one point, holding a public forum that lasted hours and split the crowd though not for long as people drifted back to the main event fairly soon.
There were a number of individuals who wanted to show their wrath, such as the former securities trader and first-time protester, Matthew Wong Kai-ming, 38, who had taped fake US dollar bills marked “dirty money” across his mouth and carried a placard declaring banks were a cancer.
The daring Debbie Chen who works for SACOM. a group protesting against Apple’s treatment of its workers in China, gave her input on that situation to the crowd, an appropriate example indeed. *”As the world’s most valuable company they earn the lion’s share while the workers on the production line earn only 1% of the selling price of an iPhone. We hope there can be more even distribution of profits,”* she announced.
While some activists were keen to take the protest all the way and expressed staying power others had a more ‘localised’ view. Lee Chun-wing, 29, a member of Left21 and a social sciences lecturer, told the press that whereas the US protests were an actual occupation, the Hong Kong version was different. “We are not doing that. Today is an experiment for people to show how determined they are.”
Unlike in Europe or the US, unemployment has been falling in Hong Kong, a minimum wage has finally been introduced plus there is no residue of the 2008 banking crisis to spur resentment at banks though there is a remnant bunch of the disenchanted making lots of noise against Citibank for unfair selling of stocks. Fact is, affairs are very different in Hong Kong and looking at the banners the unsympathetic found what they thought was easy targets to ridicule. However, the Youth Manifesto:
that was spoken out really brought the message home and showed the parallels and relevance despite the different problem-base in Asia.
Following the Exchange Square action about 30 demonstrators spent Saturday night at ground level beneath HSBC headquarters about a kilometre away.
Iris Yau, 19, a member of underground radio station FM101’s “action team” and a participant of “Occupy Central” agreed with Jaco Chow Nok-hang, who told HK News Watch: “Unlike previous rallies – which are usually about single issues or policies – Occupy Central points at the root issue”; adding that the widespread social malaise in the world was due to the inequalities of wealth and power created by capitalism. Yau said the rally had a wider social meaning. *”We are trying – even if it’s only on a small scale – a different way of community and decision-making in a group,”* she said.
In the 24 hours of communal living, including the night spent together, Yau said the group had been trying to adopt the principle of “self-governing” – holding meetings to work out logistics, distribution of supplies and planning the next day’s events.
Twitter is in use and Facebook players have created pages such as Occupy Central, Occupy Hong Kong and Global Revolution Hong Kong.