On the Ground in Hong Kong

On the Ground in Hong Kong by Jeff Thomas for International Man

Throughout the world, the media televise weekly reports on the protests in Hong Kong. Developments have remained highly visible, courtesy of regular demonstrations that take place like clockwork, every weekend in the business district of the city.

And these are not small demonstrations. A crowd of up to two million has gathered on at least one occasion. Although they began in the thoroughfare that divides the Admiralty from the government offices, they’ve spread east and west for a mile or more along the thoroughfares of Connaught Street, Harcourt Street and Gloucester Road.

Further, the demonstrations have occurred consistently, each weekend for several months, ensuring that the media have fodder each week for yet another update.

Normally, worldwide, demonstrations are a one-off, or at best, they begin with a major demonstration, then any repeat demonstrations slowly deteriorate to a trickle. But the Hong Kong demonstrations are a major event every weekend. Hundreds of thousands of protestors participate. All of them need to be bused in and kept fed. They need thousands of portable toilet facilities and medical stations. And someone, somewhere, must pay the enormous weekly bill to ensure that it’s all possible.

Who might that be?

Another interesting aspect of the demonstrations is that, although demonstrators pack the thoroughfares each Saturday and Sunday, they’ve all left by Sunday night. The cleanup crews then come in, and by the start of the business day on Monday, all traces of the latest demonstration are gone. The litter has been removed, traffic on the thoroughfares is moving smoothly, the taxis are flowing to the Exhibition Centre and travelling businessmen are in no way hindered in their visits.

Each weekend, a major protest takes place but doesn’t impede the progress of business in a city that’s built upon business. Quite extraordinary.

So, what’s going on here? How is all this possible? Does it happen spontaneously?

Here, on the ground in Hong Kong, these questions are not immediately answered. Instead, the plot thickens, adding layers at every turn.

The leader of the demonstrators, or at least their self-appointed mouthpiece, is a college student, Joshua Wong. Although only twenty-two, he’s been an activist since he was seventeen. Interviews with him from those days show a very bright and well-informed young man who was very concerned about his native Hong Kong being transformed.

But since the demonstrations started, Mister Wong’s tone has changed dramatically. Where he once offered well-reasoned discussion, he now specializes in rhetoric and dogma, with revolutionary demands. He’s refused all requests to talk with the Special Administrative Region (SAR), Hong Kong’s territorial government, or its head, Carrie Lam. He instead has insisted repeatedly that a letter he once sent to the SAR government has never been answered, and unless his demands in that letter are fully met, no discussions will occur.

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