Singapore is safe. One of the many perks of living in Singapore. We seldom have major protests and riots so we almost never get to experience a protest first hand. Whatever we know of the experience, we find out through the media. We learn that such situations are dangerous and we should do what we can to avoid those places where protests and riots are taking place. That is what normal people do. Me? I run away first, then when I’m out of any immediate danger, I itch to go back into the vicinity to observe.
In 2011, my mum and I were strolling around Milan passing the time before we were due back to the tour meeting point. We were minding our own business walking back towards the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II when we noticed a group of policemen in riot gear marching towards us.
We both wondered what was going on so we glanced behind to see why these policemen were coming towards us. That’s when we saw a horde of people holding up signs marching towards the policemen.
Yes. My mum and I were right smack in the middle of the advancing policemen and the protestors. We didn’t run. We didn’t want to seem like we were part of the protestors charging towards those policemen. But we did quickened our pace and aimed straight for the Galleria.
Once inside, we both heaved a sign of relief. Then I stopped in my tracks and said to my mum, “Mummy, let’s go back there.” My mum looked at me like I was mad. I had never seen a real protest before and this was the perfect opportunity. She said “no” of course. And that was that.
Something similar but less serious happened in Greece too. Greece was experiencing some rioting in the capital and we saw a couple of policemen rush past us. And if memory serves me right, I think they were in riot gear as well.
Fast forward to 2014 and I’m faced with another chance to see a protest in real life. Truth be told, I hadn’t thought to go take a look. I had wanted to avoid those areas. However, my friend was keen to go check it out and I didn’t protest. I had heard from my Hong Kong colleagues that protestors in Hong Kong are very civilized and non violent. So when it was suggested, we decided “why not?”
So the Pitchin Bitches and I went to take a look. At was truly an eye opener.
If it were any other normal day, these buildings’ architecture would fascinate me tons. But it isn’t.
Looking up everything seemed so peaceful and uneventful. But when you look down, it’s an entirely different situation.
We didn’t just watch from above. We also took a good look at the other people who were just as entranced by the protest.
After we realised that there was no immediate danger, we decided to get a closer look. So we ventured to the highway and walked among the protestors.
I’m sure not all protests are so cordial and peaceful. But in Hong Kong, protestors have a reputation for being just that – polite and non violent. We spent over an hour there and were offered towels and bottles of water multiple times even though it was very obvious we were tourists and not supporters of the cause.
After we snapped tons of photos we left Central and made our way to the pier and chanced upon this…
We didn’t stay long but I couldn’t resist and snapped a few shots before going on our way.
Central was not the only place we got firsthand experience of the protests. When we got to Causeway Bay there were also people sitting in the middle of the road. I believe they were students as they were actually studying out in the hot sun. Killing two birds with one stone – protesting and studying.
When we arrived in Hong Kong, Mongkok was still functioning as per normal. But on the night we ventured to Mongkok, the first few buses were stopped dead in the tracks and left in the middle of the road.
Seeing these buses abandoned in the middle of the road made me realise how serious this protest was. The atmosphere was intense and after seeing with our own eyes this sobering sight, whenever we encountered a mass of people, we did our best to steer clear.
In the day, it doesn’t feel so scary. But at night, it’s an entirely different feeling. At night it’s harder to tell the difference between tourist and protestor. So it felt like anything could happen.
That said, all in all, being in the heart of the protests has been a very interesting adventure. And with my fellow Pitchin Bitches, I felt a little braver.
What do you think?
What would you do? Stay and watch the protest take place or run as fast and as far as you can? Were you present at the Hong Kong protests? What was your experience like?
- Occupy Central (scmp.com)
- Occupy Central- What’s Happening in Hong Kong? (voicesofyouth.org)
- Hong Kong protests: What changed at Mong Kok? (bbc.com)
- Occupy Central leaders surrender to Hong Kong police (theguardian.com)
- Fully occupied? Hong Kong’s protest hotel (edition.cnn.com)
- Occupy Central Is Not Like Previous Protest Movements (news.vice.com)
- Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement spawns new generation of protester – but can they ever win? (telegraph.co.uk)
- Occupy Central Hong Kong turns streets into art galleries (artradarjournal.com)
- How a song from Les Misérables became Hong Kong’s protest anthem (telegraph.co.uk)
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