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Hong Kong Democracy Protests: A Journal of the Final Day

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Isabella Steger reports: Lunchtime strolls, camping gear and folding origami umbrellas in one of Hong Kong’s busiest thoroughfares will soon be a thing of the past.

As Hong Kong police prepare to clear the main occupied protest encampment in Admiralty on Thursday morning, thousands turned out to witness the final hours of the site, which pro-democracy protesters have occupied since Sept. 28.HK-painting

On Wednesday afternoon, a larger than usual crowd of office workers spent their lunch break at the Admiralty site, eating, taking photographs and talking politics.

“They have built up a good micro-community here. This is a place where people who support the democracy cause but who don’t necessarily align themselves with any political party can come together.”

— Jeff Cheung, 27, who works in nearby Central district

“They have built up a good micro-community here,” said Jeff Cheung, 27, who works in nearby Central district. “This is a place where people who support the democracy cause but who don’t necessarily align themselves with any political party can come together,” he added, eating a homemade salad with two friends in the so-called study area of the encampment, where volunteers built rows of desks for students to use.

Leaders of the two main student protest groups—The Hong Kong Federation of Students and Scholarism— urged protesters to turn out Wednesday night for a last hurrah and to stay overnight if they could.

Joshua Wong, the 18-year-old leader of Scholarism, said he wouldn’t be at the front line during Thursday’s clearance operation because he needs to avoid being arrested again before his Jan. 14 court appearance. Mr. Wong was arrested in November during the clearance of the Mong Kok site. Read the rest of this entry »

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Hong Kong Students Surround Government Offices

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Police Use Pepper Spray, Batons to Stop Protesters’ Advance

HONG KONG—Isabella Steger, Biman Mukherji and Phred Dvorak reporting: Police deployed pepper spray and used batons to push back thousands of protesters trying to block government offices, the latest escalation of the pro-democracy movement that entered its third month with no signs of resolution.

“We will continue our fight for democracy. We will keep up the pressure on the government.”

— Oscar Lai, a spokesman for Scholarism

The Hong Kong Federation of Students and Scholarism, the two groups leading the demonstrations, called on crowds assembled at a protest site to surround the central government offices and the office of the chief executive, the city’s top official, aiming to block government workers from entering Monday morning. Early Monday, police beat back the crowds and cleared the road outside the chief executive’s office. At least 40 people were arrested, police said.

The HKFS stressed that protesters should stay peaceful and not use force. The student groups asked protesters to bring umbrellas, goggles, masks, food supplies and helmets to Sunday’s assembly, to protect themselves in case police responded with pepper spray or tear gas.

After the call to surround the government offices, protesters filled the roads around the complex where the buildings and Hong Kong legislature are located, skirmishing in some areas with police who used pepper spray and batons to stop their advance. Read the rest of this entry »


Clashes in Mong Kok: Protesters Arrested

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HONG KONG — Yvonne Lee reports: Hong Kong police have arrested three men following clashes early Thursday in Mong Kok, a pro-democracy protest zone in the Kowloon part of the city.

“The pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong are in their sixth week, but there is little sign of resolution. Sunday, protesters are planning to march west from the business district on Hong Kong Island to the Chinese government’s Liaison Office.”

Local television stations showed police using pepper spray on dozens of protesters in the working-class neighborhood. The confrontation was allegedly caused by a man using a camera flash to provoke a police officer, the news channels said.

“Members of the Hong Kong Federation of Students have threatened to bring their protest to Beijing during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, as a way to gain publicity for their demand that China allow free elections in Hong Kong.”

A Hong Kong police spokesperson confirmed that three men—aged between 24 and 50—were arrested. One was arrested for suspicion of criminal damage, while the other two were arrested for obstructing police officers executing their duty. Read the rest of this entry »


[PHOTO] Van Veluwen: Hong Kong protesters from Balcony

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Cool photoblog to explore: This item from 10/4/14

Large swarm of protesters following police in Prince Edward, this was taken from my balcony. They escorted what was apparently an anti-protester out of the area before heading off down a back alley away from the group of protesters. Things are starting to get really heavy tonight and warnings are coming from those who say that Bejing will make a move tonight. It’s eerie hearing the shouts from the protest this close to home(more)

Van Veluwen


Hong Kong: Democracy Vote Suspended

For WSJ, Isabella Steger reports: Four weeks after volleys of tear gas by police led thousands of protesters to seize control of streets across Hong Kong, the leaders of the pro-democracy movement are struggling to control its disparate groups as fatigue and frustration set in.

[Follow Pundit Planet’s EXCLUSIVE coverage of the Hong Kong protests]

On Sunday, a split among the protest groups led to the abrupt cancellation of a two-day vote on the latest offer by city officials, just hours before it was set to begin. Some protesters criticized the vote saying the groups organizing it didn’t represent them.

‘“In this movement, I’m motivated by myself, not the leadership.”’

—Bonnie Kong, 30

“I admit the [leaders] have made a mistake,” said Alex Chow, secretary-general of the Hong Kong Federation of Students. “We look forward to having more discussions with protesters in the three protest sites.”

A pro-democracy protester sits on a barricade at a protest site in the Mongkok district of Hong Kong on October 26, 2014. Four weeks after tens of thousands of Hong Kongers took to the streets demanding free leadership elections for the semi-autonomous Chinese city, weary demonstrators remain encamped across several major roads.   AFP PHOTO / Philippe LopezPHILIPPE LOPEZ/AFP/Getty Images

A pro-democracy protester sits on a barricade at a protest site in the Mongkok district of Hong Kong on October 26, 2014.   Philippe Lopez/AFP/Getty Images

He linked hands with other key figures from the three groups leading the protests and bowed in apology. Joshua Wong, the 18-year-old leader of one of the two student groups, asked for protesters’ forgiveness, and all admitted that the decision to hold the vote was hasty and lacked preparation.

“Without [a united front] the protest groups can’t consolidate power and there is no structure for discussions, let alone making decisions.”

— Leung Kwok-hung, chairman of the League of Social Democrats

Bonnie Kong, 30, who works in media sales, said she accepted the leaders’ apology but said they didn’t represent her. “We don’t follow the leadership,” she said. “In this movement, I’m motivated by myself, not the leadership.”

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The city’s government, which has refused to meet their demands, is hoping that public opinion turns against the students. Groups of opponents to the protesters, wearing blue ribbons in support of the police, carried out a petition drive and held rallies over the weekend.

“The most resilient aspect of this movement is the unity of the protesters. There is no ‘organizer’ in this movement. Each time the crowds swelled, was it because ‘organizers’ asked people to come out or was it because of something the government did?”

— Keita Lee, 28, a cook, who expects the occupation of Admiralty to last at least until the Lunar New Year in February

On Sunday evening, Carrie Lam, the government official who led the one meeting with students, called for more talks. “Our community expects the government and the student representatives to hold more dialogues in order to as soon as possible get out of the current impasse,” Ms. Lam said in a TV interview.

Pro-democracy leaders (L-R) Benny Tai, Joshua Wong and Alan Leong arrive. Philippe Lopez/AFP/Getty Images

Pro-democracy leaders (L-R) Benny Tai, Joshua Wong and Alan Leong arrive. Philippe Lopez/AFP/Getty Images

Besides tear gas and pepper spray, the protesters have endured attacks from opponents and efforts by police and others to clear the roads they occupy in three densely populated districts of Hong Kong, including the main protest site surrounding the city government headquarters. Those actions have galvanized the protesters, drawing out large crowds whenever the movement was under attack.

But time is starting to take its toll. Read the rest of this entry »


Hong Kong Readies for Protester Vote

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City Calm Ahead of a Vote Organized by Pro-Democracy Protest Leaders

Chester Yung, Fiona Law and Prudence Ho reporting: Hong Kong was calm Sunday ahead of a two-day vote organized by protest leaders—an attempt to seek popular legitimacy for a pro-democracy movement that for almost a month has clogged the city’s main arteries.
[Follow Pundit Planet’s EXCLUSIVE coverage of the Hong Kong protests]

Crowds grew Saturday at the downtown protest site, as they have during other weekends, though there were no reports of clashes between demonstrators and police as on other recent evenings.

The student-led protesters want anyone to be able to stand for Hong Kong’s first ever public ballot for chief executive in 2017. China’s government in August ruled a selection committee largely loyal to Beijing will select those who can stand, sparking the protests.

People listened to talks between student leaders and senior government officials as they were broadcast live at a protest site in the Mong Kok district of Hong Kong, Oct. 21, 2014. PHILIPPE LOPEZ/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

People listened to talks between student leaders and senior government officials as they were broadcast live at a protest site in the Mong Kok district of Hong Kong, PHILIPPE LOPEZ/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

Some local citizens—who have taken to wearing blue ribbons—are angry that students have shut down parts of the city over the issue. On Saturday night there were reports that some blue ribbon demonstrators had attacked journalists covering their counter protests in Kowloon.

“I agree with the students’ goal. Who doesn’t want a democratic society?” 

— Tung Chee-hwa

Radio Television Hong Kong and Television Broadcasts Ltd. issued statements complaining their journalists had been pushed and kicked by blue ribbon protesters. Police haven’t made any arrests.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying reiterated Saturday he won’t resign, saying the protesters’ demands aren’t in accordance with the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution. Read the rest of this entry »


Hong Kong has too many poor people to allow direct elections, leader says

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Would You Like Pepper With That? Hong Kong Protesters Return to Mong Kok District

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HONG KONG—Thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators swarmed back to a protest site Friday night that police had cleared earlier in the day, clashing with officers yet again on the streets of a city struggling to find a way out of a deepening political crisis.

“Apparently their action has triggered more people to occupy Mong Kok again. It’s totally congested with protesters who are forced by police to block the sidewalks and we couldn’t move at all.”

— Lisa Wan

Crowds swelled in the city’s Mong Kok district, one of Hong Kong’s three main protest sites, chanting “open the way” as police in riot gear linked hands to block people from crossing into the area’s main streets. People who were being held back by officers spilled onto side streets and onto already-packed sidewalks, as crowds shouted and jeered.

[Follow Pundit Planet’s EXCLUSIVE coverage of the Hong Kong Protests]

Police used pepper spray on several protesters and detained a number of people, including acclaimed international photojournalist Paula Bronstein. A representative for Getty Images said Ms. Bronstein was on assignment for Getty to shoot the protests in Hong Kong and was awaiting more information.

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Hours earlier, before dawn Friday, protesters voluntarily left the Mong Kok encampment after hundreds of officers descended on the site and ordered the crowds to pack up and leave. Police were able to reopen traffic on one of the major thoroughfares in the area for the first time in days. But later in the morning, protesters started to rebuild their camp, again closing one lane of traffic. Tents re-emerged and trolleys of water and food were carted in as police lined the block and watched.

By Friday evening, thousands of protesters were again trying to fully close the entire street as police struggled to keep them at bay. Traffic was snarled throughout the area, and police tried to move demonstrators out of the way of city buses that had been caught up in the standoff. Read the rest of this entry »


Hong Kong Protests: The Power of Ridicule

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For Hong Kong Protesters, Ridicule Proves an Effective Formula

On the streets of Hong Kong, protesting students have found a novel way to assail their opponents. They sing “Happy Birthday.” As the WSJ’s Andrew Browne writes in this week’s China’s World column:

Lusty choruses of the song—in English—rang out in the working-class neighborhood of Mong Kok last week when thugs descended to try to break up the sit-in demonstrations there. The crowds would engulf a hostile interloper and strike up the melody.

It was musical mockery; the equivalent of the medieval pillory designed to publicly embarrass and humiliate. Read the rest of this entry »


[PHOTO] Kin Cheung: Walking through Tunnels on Barricaded Road in Hong Kong


6 Questions You Might Have About Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution

Democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong. Students and pro-democracy citizens being attacked and shouted at by anti-demonstration group in Mongkok. Pro-police rally. Joshua Wong, 17-year-old protest leader. by James Nachtwey

Democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong. Students and pro-democracy citizens being attacked and shouted at by anti-demonstration group in Mongkok. Pro-police rally. Joshua Wong, 17-year-old protest leader.
by James Nachtwey

TIME

1. Why the umbrellas?

Hong Kong students are currently protesting for more political freedom and have been using umbrellas to protect themselves from police pepper spray. The umbrellas became a symbol of the movement and gave it its nickname, the Umbrella Revolution. Though protest leaders say their campaign is not a revolution but a civil-disobedience movement, the name Umbrella Revolution has stuck.

2. Who are the main players?

The movement was initiated by a group called Occupy Central With Love & Peace, led by Hong Kong University law professor Benny Tai. Tai’s original agenda was to stage a sit-in on Oct. 1 in Central — the city’s financial district — but he decided to begin a few days earlier to capitalize on political momentum after several students were pepper-sprayed and arrested. That heavy-handed police action also spurred parallel sit-ins in Causeway Bay and across the water in Kowloon.

There…

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Hong Kong Pro-Democracy Protesters Split After Call to Retreat

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Amid Few Leader Directives a Mood of Resignation

HONG KONG—An absence of clear directives from organizers threw pro-democracy protests into confusion as some demonstrators called a retreat from two stronghold protest areas on Sunday evening.

“We are not afraid of the government and we are not afraid of the police. We just don’t want to see any more violent acts against residents.” 

Many protesters ignored the call to decamp to the city’s main protest site near government offices, which came as the clock ticked closer to a government ultimatum to clear the streets.

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But the division in the ranks appeared to drain strength from the crowds.

“They don’t represent me. It’s my own decision to come here to demonstrate and I’ll stay until the government answers our calls.”

—  A 22-year-old university graduate, who identified himself only as Tin

In Mong Kok, a working-class neighborhood, police appeared to control the barricades leading to a crucial intersection where protesters had set up camp and where some of them seemed ready to make a last stand. One speaker said, “Tonight we’re outnumbered. We’re going to lose.”

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“Frankly, I haven’t been able to sleep well… I’m worried that we will be on the verge of more serious incidents if this continues.”

— Hong Kong Financial Secretary John Tsang

Protesters holding microphones and speaking to crowds and television reporters in Mong Kok and in the shopping district of Causeway Bay tried to get crowds to leave and join protests at the Admiralty government offices, the epicenter in the 10-day wave of protests. Read the rest of this entry »


FONG FLASHBACK: ‘Prettier, Tastier Jell-O’: Fragrant, Foral Osmanthus Jelly

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fong-flashBACKOne of the many things I love about being in HK is the discovery of novel flavors. Like osmanthus! Its fragrant, sweet-smelling flowers (native to east Asia) are often dried and gently folded into florally nuanced desserts like osmanthus jelly, which also often contains wolfberries (goji berries – so it must be healthy!) and usually serves as a finishing touch after a belly-swelling dim sum session. Think of it as a refined, prettier, tastier Jell-O…(read more)

THE FONG REPORT

pundit from another planet

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NASA Photograph of Distant Planet? Lab Photo of Microorganism? Or Chinese Dessert?

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See more here…

[THE FONG REPORT: pundit from another planet]


Pundit Planet’s News Processing Plant

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Just kidding. This isn’t really our News division (though it does accurately depict our editorial style) it’s actually a photograph of butchers in a Mong Kok wet market by our Hong Kong Deputy Bureau Chief and Asia Photo Editor-at-Large Deb Fong.

From Wikipedia’s description of Mong Kok:

Mong Kok (also spelled Mongkok), is an area in the Yau Tsim Mong District in Kowloon West,Hong Kong. Mong Kok was part of the Mong Kok District before the district was merged in 1994. The Prince Edward area occupies the northern part of Mong Kok.

The district is characterized by a mixture of old and new multi-story buildings, with shops andrestaurants at street level and commercial or residential units above. Major industries in Mong Kok are retail, restaurants (including fast food) and entertainment.

With its extremely high population density of 130,000/km2 or 340,000 per square mile, Mong Kok was described as the busiest district in the world by the Guinness World Records…(more)

[The Visual Feast of Hong Kong: Through the Lens of Hong Kong Fong]

[also stop by and visit Deb at Hong Kong Fong]

© 2014 deb fong photography


The Visual Feast of Hong Kong: Through the Lens of Hong Kong Fong, Part 2

Greetings from Hong Kong Fong! Continuing in my new role of China Deputy Bureau Chief and Hong Kong Photo Editor for Pundit From Another Planet, and following my inaugural PFAP post, The Visual Feast of Hong Kong: Through the Lens of Hong Kong Fong, Part 1, I now share with you Part 2.

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Reflecting on Hong Kong and Chinese New Year celebrations

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Quiet deliberation before the boisterous Chinese New Year parade

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Winged dancers perform for thousands at the Chinese New Year parade

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An unguarded moment amidst adoring fans, after a traditional Chinese opera performance at the temporary West Kowloon Bamboo Theatre

The ICC skyscraper (replete with its own CNY-specific light facade) punctuates the skyline near the West Kowloon Bamboo Promenade

The ICC skyscraper (replete with its own CNY-specific light facade), punctuating the skyline near the West Kowloon Bamboo Promenade

The Piu Sik (Floating Colours) Parade, during which children appear to 'float' through the narrow streets of Cheng Chau island

The Piu Sik (Floating Colours) Parade, during which children appear to ‘float’ through the narrow streets of Cheung Chau Island

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Burning incense at Pak Tai Temple on Cheung Chau Island

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Massive incense sticks perfuming the air outside Pak Tai Temple

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Mother-and-daughter tableau at the Cheung Chau Bun Festival

Read the rest of this entry »