"I realise that some of my criticisms may be mistaken; but to refuse to criticize judgements for fear of being mistaken is to abandon criticism altogether... If any of my criticisms are found to be correct, the cause is served; and if any are found to be incorrect the very process of finding out my mistakes must lead to the discovery of the right reasons, or better reasons than I have been able to give, and the cause is served just as well."

-Mr. HM Seervai, Preface to the 1st ed., Constitutional Law of India.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Blue skies of Hong Kong - less pollution and hope of freedom & democracy in the air

The boycott of students have turned into a spontaneous "occupy central" by the last weekend. Instead of heavy traffic, pollution and commercial activities, the busy roads of central district of Hong Kong and certain outlying areas are now venues of student protest. The first night of occupation deepened the mistrust of the youth towards the administration. The images of indiscriminate use of tear gas canisters and pepper sprays on a mass of visibly unarmed students who made all efforts to convey to the police force their intention of non-violence touched the raw nerve of the community at large. 

Many whom I met on the on the streets and could strike up a conversation, overcoming the language barrier, shared the same sentiments- they could not remain at home after watching the images of use of force, students need support, we wont let them face this alone.  Most carried with them bottles of water, wet towels and food for the youngsters. This reaction might explain the complete absence of the police from the streets from day two. There were many, who were either neutral or would not have joined the protest in the streets but for the images flashed in local channels. Having said that, one cannot compare the actions of the police with the brutal force we are familiar in a country like India. That very night of standoff between police and protesters, students could be seen resting popped up against parked police vans. The next day morning Mongkok woke up to a police van sporting a flower on its front windshield with an invite to join the struggle for democracy. 

The continued siege from the next day onward show less of tension but more of responsibilities. A few ten thousands are always there on the streets, led and provided for by themselves. There is no visible leader in command, but of course the new age media is of immense help to communicate and coordinate. The occupy central leadership accept that the protest is ahead of schedule that the logistics planned are not in place. Students have organised provision supply points, first aid posts, trash collection and clearing arrangements. They manage themselves in order, at ease and in true sense of democracy. 

The values of democracy, freedom and the images of students armed with umbrellas and the resolve that cover them against the force of gas, sprays and the power have shaken up many people in various walks of life. The union of teachers of public school have declared strike, so also many other labour unions. The script of resistance so far is familiar and predictable, even the response of the administration. Chief Executive of Hong Kong have dug in heals and seems to have taken a position, let the occupation continue as long as it can last. The strategy as of now seems to be waiting for the steam to ebb out and the community to turn against the youth for disrupting daily life and livelihood.

Administration seems to sense that they were caught in the wrong foot in the use of force against the students that it brought the hitherto neutral bunch of people out into the street to rally up with the students.  Not all those who support the students stand for the cause but is touched by the media images. The wait is for the images to fade. Once media attention and interest is reduced for lack of action, sympathizers might turn around and begin to see the students as meddlers.

After the occupation, today is the first day the Chief Executive addressed the Territory. In his 15 minutes speech, he appealed the demonstrators to withdraw the illegal assembly that is causing disruption and inconvenience to the city, citizens and business. Stressed upon how this movement is affecting essential services like health, transport and ambulance. The leaders of Students Federation and Occupy Central have duly responded that they are ready to create humanitarian corridors for facilitating emergency vehicles to pass through. 

It is a stalemate. Even the Chief Executive have limited area to negotiate as strings are pulled by the Big Brother. The picture in South China Morning Post today is quiet ominous, a lone person viewing the streets of Hong Kong where protests are happening through a binocular from the People's Liberation Army Head Quarters and a series of tripods. 


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