Once the melody of the Chinese national anthem was sounded, thousands of troops dressed in sleek military uniforms marched through Tiananmen Square in a solemn and orderly manner. As President Xi gave the toast to the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, Chinese people waved their flags vigorously and cheered in extreme delight.
The 1st of October, 2019, marks the 70th anniversary of the establishment of PRC. While the country is overwhelmed by extravagant celebrations and a jubilant atmosphere, the protests are far from ending. Hong Kong people who have lived under the threat of police brutality for 17 consecutive weeks are determined to continue their non-cooperation movement as citizens call for a citywide rally in the name of ‘National Mourning Day’ (國殤日).
Early in the morning, the two conflicting parties: government officials and protesters, started gathering at opposing waterfronts for antagonistic purposes. While the former party gathered at the Wan Chai waterfront for the flag-raising ceremony, the latter party responded to the call from an online forum (LIHKG.com) and showed up for a ‘Black balloon flash mob’ in Tsim Sha Tsui. The stirring atmosphere that continued throughout the indoor flag-raising ceremony and the ‘Black balloon flash mob’ is expected to linger during the citywide rally that would take place in the afternoon.
Police are coming from the other side and reach the protestors. //Photo by Ng Song Fang
Ahead of the citywide rally, a sense of White Terror was deliberately created throughout the city.
With the extensive closures of over 25 major shopping centers and 11 MTR stations ‘after risk management’, the cramped city of Hong Kong almost seemed like a ‘ghost town’ with ‘curfew’ imposed among local residents. In Causeway Bay, one of the busiest shopping districts in Hong Kong, large malls in the area such as Hysan Place and Sogo Mall were closed. The usual sights of Yee Wo Street being packed with tourists, shoppers, and residents, waiting for the traffic light were nowhere to be found. It was almost as if we had entered another dimension – an ‘upside-down world’. The sight of pedestrians crossing the streets has become rare, whereas the sight of police officers patrolling empty routes all over the city have become Hong Kong’s new norm. In regards to the call for public assemblies in six districts, the police force has apparently enforced their patrolling to impose a deterrent effect.
footage credit: CCTV, The Guardian and campus TV, HKUSU
Moreover, not only were the streets haunted by serenity but the spread of rumors online also added to the bizarre atmosphere. Starting from a few days ago, rumours have already taken over the local forum (LIHKG.com) warning potential violence that may be deployed by the police force. Earlier today, LIHKG.com was even hacked by unknown sources and shut down throughout the day, potentially destroying the main platform where protesters post updates and discuss plans throughout the day. The overall atmosphere in the city was tense and uneasy as if paving way for an ‘Endgame’ to take place on National Day. The People’s Voice Under months of political persecution and such terrorizing atmosphere, why would Hong Kong people still insist to come out, risking their futures and even their lives to fight for the ‘five demands’?
“I struggled a lot as well,’ said Chan, a Fresh Graduate from a local university. “I was so terrified by the rumors. I even thought of getting off the bus 1 station earlier to avoid running into the police.” When asked about why did she attend the rally today, Chan sighed, “Officers have injured and arrested too many of our comrades, I just have to come out.”
Simultaneously, Mrs. Wong, who identified herself as a local resident in Wong Tai Sin, expressed similar views. “If we do not come out and fight against the authority, there is nothing left to do,” Despite feeling “exhausted” and “heartbroken” seeing how armed suppression has been deliberately deployed to silence people’s voices, she believes that Hong Kong people must not succumb to violence. “Coming out and letting the world hear our voices are the only hope we get.”
Similar to Mrs. Wong, Li and Cheung, who are both local secondary school students also came out as they felt the urge to fight back. “People called it the ‘Endgame’,” They made reference to the discussions on LIHKG.com, “However, endgame or not, we will still do whatever we can in order to help our comrades.”
People are leaving to the other side after knowing the police are coming. //Photo by Ng Song Fang
The Journalist’s Role
While we were interviewing protesters in Wong Tai Sin, we also ran into a HKU undergraduate, Chan, who was reporting for the school magazine ‘Undergrad’. Although Chan had covered most protests for the past 4 months, he also felt that the atmosphere was a bit different today. He commented, “The stationing of full-geared riot police imposed further pressure on protesters. The atmosphere is quite heavy,” Yet, as a journalist, he also felt a sense of responsibility in reporting verified, accountable and unbiased news. In spite of the impartiality that comes with being a journalist, press freedom has been under continuous suppression over the past few months. In regards to the repeated cases of police attacking both local and international reporters with tear gas, rubber bullets and bean bag, Chan commented such act as “illogical” and “unethical”. “As long as the police force is bright and honest, they should not be afraid of the press, who are there to present the truth.”
Just like the eye of a storm, our generation is living in the center of the revolution era. We could neither escape nor ignore the harsh reality that is happening right now. There may be a long journey ahead of us, there may also be tremendous hardship ahead of us. However, the only way to carry out our revolution is to resist tyranny and insist on our five demands. Remember:
Five Demands, Not One Less;
Free Hong Kong, Democracy now;
Fight for Freedom, Stand with Hong Kong;
Liberate Hong Kong, the Revolution of Our Times;
and most importantly: Hong Kongers, Add Oil.