Wednesday, July 2, 2014

no small thing

Yesterday at the 1 July rally a police officer mistook SB for a tourist and informed him that this was no big deal. SB lowered his camera, smiling at the man, and said, "Come on, you know this is a big deal," to which the officer gave an enigmatic smile. I wonder if the officer was told to say this to possible tourists and onlookers or if he was really pro-Beijing. It would make sense that Beijing was attempting to influence the flow of information and had sent a task force to approach foreigners with assurances that this was minor. Other officers, the ones keeping the peace and not approaching foreigners, seemed only intent on maintaining order and crowd control. We also noticed that some retail spaces such as Hysan Place left observers alone as long as they were not blocking a thoroughfare, while others patrolled their lobbies and evicted anyone pausing to take a picture of the crowds from their windows. Interestingly, a jewelry store actively cleared most of the people who were standing near their entrance but did nothing to remove a woman with a loudspeaker who was berating the protesters. I guess they know who keeps their multiple side by side stores in business. The woman went on for about ten minutes before moving on as nobody was paying her the slightest bit of attention.

SB and I did not take part in the march because we did not want there to be a chance that we could be used to claim that the rally was influenced by foreigners or participated in by non-stakeholders. We did walk alongside the protest, slowly making our way from Victoria Park to near Chater Street. It was important to us to be witnesses and to show our support. In the aftermath of an event, it is the witnesses who often carry the message abroad and to other audiences. As we were posting images on social media, we started receiving queries about what was going on from friends in other countries. There was also dialogue being opened as others chimed in. Those were the roles that we gave ourselves as witnesses: to spread global awareness and show our support to the many, many people of Hong Kong who were protesting Beijing's heavy hand.

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