A brief visit back to Hong Kong this week gave me an opportunity to go down to the protest site to see what is going on first hand.
I often hear the cry (from people of my age) that ‘young people must show leadership skills’, or even more stridently ‘young people must take a more responsible approach to life’. Well, many of the young people of Hong Kong are demonstrating considerable leadership skills, and a responsible concern for the future of their society, currently in the streets around the Tamar Building.
That the protests are led by young people had a very strong impact on me, it’s sort of like “Civics Lesson Practical Work- Developing Democracy pt 1″. What are the long term wider implications when the most politicised sector of society are it’s younger people ?
Another aspect of the protest which really struck me was the creative and artistic expression seen all around the protest sites. The students have made sculptures, drawn posters, written poems, and even put plants in the holes in the road where the cats-eyes used to be. I found the combination of youthful aspiration and creative expression quite inspirational.
The people of Hong Kong are often described as hard working and organized, after all they built an amazing city in 70 years, and manage to live in one of the most densely populated spots on the planet whilst retaining very low crime rates. Consequently the Umbrella protests are similarly very well organised. There are directional signs around the site, water & food stations for protesters, supply depots for many of the items needed for prolonged protest on the streets, classroom & study areas so that the students don’t fall behind in their studies, a lending library of books, a mobile democracy classroom, medical aid tents, in areas a networked electricity supply etc etc. If HK students are going to organise a protest it would never be chaotic, the functional organisation of the site is very much in keeping with how the city operates.
I was also very aware of the commitment and determination of the young people at the site. This political awakening has much of the force and energy of that ‘moment of‘ newly found ideas’ experienced in rare moments of social renaissance. As I walked around the notion of ideas suppression and denial kept entering my head : To deny an idea may be immediately dangerous, but to also deny the consequent emotion is to see both return with greater strength in the future.
The emotions I saw being fought for included fairness, acknowledgement, self awareness, and self direction. This is strong stuff, not easily washed away…,
Justice, Equity and Honesty may not strictly be emotions, but the evoke an emotional response. It was those responses that I saw, only fortified by the use of Teargas and Pepper-spray on 28th September & 18th October.
Hong Kong has already changed, many of the young people on the streets today are the future leaders of the city. Their leadership now needs to be echoed in the corridors of power if we are to get to 2017 and beyond without further fractionalisation.