Timelapse: Occupy Central protests

 

I was so sorry that I had not enough time to go for any live coverage of the protests in Hong Kong Island due to amounting assignments from my university. After these few days, we had heard a lot of news on how these protests were leading to. Scuffles had already taken place between Occupy activists and anti-Occupy groups – some consisted of angry business owners who were affected by the occupation, and some others – possibly Triad members – who were paid by certain pro-Beijing parties to cause unrest. There had also been some divisions among the protesters themselves. Some demanded that the occupation sooner as the longer it takes, the less support they will receive from Hong Kong people; others, in a more idealistic mindset, remained insistent to blockade the whole business district, and some even extremely resorted to taking over government buildings, until an ultimatum was issued by Hong Kong’s Chief Executive, Leung Chun-ying, yesterday. The 36 hours he gave for the people ‘to disperse themselves’ was seemingly a scare tactic; majority of the occupiers had already resumed with their daily lives as of today. Some people still continue to occupy certain corners of the downtown, but as time goes by, the spirit is increasingly dwindling.

Bad news: democracy hasn’t really been achieved. As already expected, it will take a long period of transformation for this city to achieve such ideals, given the hurdles they face, and the real ‘master’ behind their lives: China. Good news: no tanks are being seen on the streets, no soldiers are used, and violence – no matter how regrettably it was – remained minimal. Change will not come soon, but I believe Hong Kong people have at least done something to let the whole world knows what’s going on here.

Here’s one video I just came across Youtube, also from South China Morning Post, about a couple of Mainland Chinese elders who show up their support – very energetically – for the Occupy Central protesters. A very rarefied moment to see such a beautiful human emotion being involved here (the male repeatedly said: ‘God watches over you! God watches over you!’). Watch the one-minute clip below:

 

Hong Kong protests, as seen over the drone

 

A pro-democracy activist has released a drone to capture the real situation happening in Hong Kong Island right now, as hundreds of thousands of protesters occupy the business district of the city.

People outside Hong Kong, if you are curious enough to know the latest event in this city, you can watch this video as an introductory session.

 

Hong Kong: in China’s shadow

hong kong in dark shadow

 

Two years before the mass protests that now paralyze Hong Kong, Michael Paterniti from National Geographic has already written out a lengthy article that explains how Hong Kong’s future – and also credentials – is being put at stake with encroaching control by Beijing. That is increasingly evident with the recent decision by Chinese government’s National People’s Congress (NPC) to restrict democratic reforms in one of the world’s most important financial and business hubs.

Entering day 5, Occupy Central movement is becoming increasingly larger than ever.

Read the full article in National Geographic, published in June 2012.

 

Excerpt:

 

“If you want to see capitalism in action, go to Hong Kong,” economist Milton Friedman is credited with saying. Yet to idealize the city today as a free market paradise, thriving in its 15th year after the British handover to China, is to sorely oversimplify, if not misconstrue, the darkening forces at work here. It’s to miss the tensions and tectonic shifts beneath the glitzy financial center that Hong Kong shows to the world. In the city underneath, one finds asylum seekers and prostitutes; gangsters with their incongruent bouffants; thousands of Indonesian housemaids who flock to Victoria Park on their precious Sundays off; and those barely scratching out an existence, people crammed into partitioned apartment blocks of “cage houses” the size of refrigerator boxes. While Hong Kong’s per capita gross domestic product ranks tenth in the world, its Gini coefficient, an index that measures the gap between rich and poor, is also among the highest.

Hong Kongers say their city reinvents itself every few years, citing the ever morphing skyline as one visible example. “We feel all of these great changes, but we don’t know how to name them,” says Patrick Mok, the coordinator for the Hong Kong Memory Project, a $6.4 million effort to address Hong Kong’s identity problem by creating an interactive website of old objects and photographs. “The pace of the city is too fast for memory.”

Yes, Hong Kong is changing again, but into what and molded by whom?

7 things that Putin really loves… (17+)

Aktivistin der Frauengruppe "Femen" demonstriert auf der Hannover Messe vor Putin und Merkel

 

Putin, I don’t put any silicone here! It’s real boobs!

 

Foreign Policy’s Passport blog – which oftentimes bears resemblance with your typical celebrity tabloids – has compiled some of the weird passions that Mother Russia’s most ‘beloved’ president has zeal in (and many, in fact, are proofs of American exceptionalism):

1. He loves Steven Seagal, and wants him to represent Russia’s weaponry industries.

2. He can be as stiff as a statue when dealing with a nude protester people thought could have instead been a PETA poster child.

3. He ‘probably’ gets inspired from Yellow Submarine – and he really boarded it.

4. He plays solo piano and sings Blueberry Hill!! (and Russia Today had even its full coverage).

5. He has a penchant for biker gangs. (and he only wants those in love with Mother Russia.)

6. He has an obsession in Super Bowl rings that he even collected one.

7. He loves puppies. Huge puppies, indeed.

 

Aktivistin der Frauengruppe "Femen" demonstriert auf der Hannover Messe vor Putin und Merkel

 

In an instance, people mistake Putin for being ‘another statue you see in Madame Tussaud museums’.

 

Read the full article in Foreign Policy. Access more of these pictures in Der Spiegel. And watch precisely how Putin sings an American blues.

 

 

 

A fairy tale about Cairo

tahrir square

There was, initially, outpouring anger. There was, afterwards, voluptuous exhilaration. And there was, in no time, the reiteration of both explosive feelings like tidal waves, of sudden wrath and unexpected anguish. The Egyptian revolution, in two years, had wretched the entire foundation of the nation, but it had not entirely swept it away from a perpetual wave of dictatorial rule of the potentate. There comes an ongoing bloodbath between the Islamists and the secularists, an ensuing power game between military and political parties tied to those so-called ‘honorable Islamists’, and a deteriorating multidimensional crisis, threatening to set the whole nation apart.

And for this Egyptian, the ideals of the revolution he so solemnly adored, of a Cairo cleaned of chaos, of savagery, and of morality mess, have instead ended up going off further away from reality.

This is one of the most gripping essays you will ever read in your lifetime.

Read the complete version in Aeon Magazine.

NB: this essay was published in March 2013, four months before Egypt’s President, Mohammad Morsi, was ousted by the military after days of ensanguined protests, killing over 36 civilians and wounding up to a thousand.

Excerpt from the essay:

I say ‘fairy tale’ because I’m no longer sure what people really died for. Can it be said that one died for the greater good when the greater good itself is so riddled with contradiction? For example: President Mohamed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood candidate, won the election after he was arbitrarily stamped with the seal of the revolution in the run-off vote; such was the desperation to make sure that his Mubarak-affiliated rival wouldn’t win. Yet many of those who so stamped him have been tortured and killed protesting against Muslim Brotherhood policies, by the police waging a two-year-old vendetta against their arch-enemies, ‘the revolutionaries’, or else by Islamists guarding their turf. How far can one sympathise with such martyrs?

I say ‘fairy tale’ also because I want to string the events I have witnessed into a bedtime story for Kismet: a way to explain how her mother and I participated in things being the way they are, to apologise creatively. I want my story to be compelling and edifying, so it can’t be that same one about the fight between good and evil — in which, because good is too rhetorical to be true, its triumph is indefinitely postponed. At some level, our life together will always be shadowed by the fact that Baba and Mama, though never as mulishly unseeing as other activists of their generation, did contribute to the ousting of Mubarak. It will always be true that Kismet came into the world just as this historical achievement was revealing itself as no more than a turn for the worse, mere authority changing hands, making more room for sloganeering and violence, and for society to sink still lower. The winning cards in the ensuing power game were marked from the start: not the ones with the pledge to grant civil rights but those with the imperative to deny them. Misogyny, tribalism and brute force are far more popular in Egypt than equality, institutionalism and reason. The Cairo of our dream, like that of Ismail Pasha, the 19th-century Khedive of Egypt, is gone; we cannot even return to the semi-medieval mega-village we had always known. And Kismet will grow up in a third squaloropolis, even further removed from our fantasy. Were we fools, then?

Indonesia’s fuel fervor (and chaos in other emerging markets)

fuel hike protest in indonesia

Fuel subsidies remain a sticky issue for most of the developing world’s governments. At a disproportionate amount, this imposes a threat to fiscal stability to a nation’s annual budget; lowering it may trigger inflation, and possibly, social upheaval. The effacement of fuel subsidies in Nigeria have resulted in days of rioting across the country’s major cities. Several regimes in Asian and Latin American countries fell prey to en masse protests when fuel price hike is announced. The lifeblood of Venezuela’s highly discounted basic items relies heavily on the rulers’ generous subsidies on oil production, a slight increase of which may even shake the already fragile social structure of the nation.

And Indonesia itself is not impenetrable to this ‘poison’. Over the last 2 decades, the ‘up-and-down’ game of fuel price politics has widely affected the livelihood of the nation: a decades-old dictator deposed, riots flaring up in major cities, university students clashing with police and even societies themselves, labor protests and union-enforced strikes, red-plate vehicles burnt down, street blockades resulting in total logjam, and pre-election ‘money politics’ allegation as seen from compensation packages offered to the hardest-hit poor (a mere monthly cash of 15 US$ distributed to every family).

Until you realize that the country itself is not alone (it is, in fact, happening in numerous emerging-market hot spots), in context of ‘social fervor’.

Read the full article here:

http://www.businessinsider.com/now-indonesia-is-seeing-riots-thanks-to-a-fuel-price-hike-2013-6

http://www.businessinsider.com/protests-in-indonesia-and-brazil-2013-6

Don’t be afraid of the masses

 

Recently, within two weeks, and on the same Friday afternoon, two massive demonstrations had been eructating in front of a 4-star hotel named Emerald Garden. More than one hundred civilians, all of whom are members of hard-line Islamic groups, protested what they alleged of the hotel’s management having toppled down a mosque. I did not check out further whether the hotel had really compensated it with building other ones or not (some remarked that the management had done so, and I hope so), but the main thing that I detested from these protests were of the racist remarks they put on certain ethnicity, particularly those of Chinese descendants. Personally, I myself felt uncomfortable with their words.

One of my friends changed her display picture in Blackberry Messenger with the one showing how the protestors carried out anti-Chinese posters, menacing that ‘one more mosque down, a thousand Chinese homes singed’. Another poster impended the Chinese, what majority of the hard-line Muslims here acknowledge as neo-liberal capitalists, to get out of this country. She told me that she stayed home all the afternoon, while anticipating any unfortunate spate that might any time happen. Meanwhile, another one of my friends, who is used to having English tuition in a house belonging to a Korean-American woman in close proximity to the hotel, was told by the woman not to come across the location.

To admit it honestly, no matter how unnice it is that everytime we hear any racist epithets pronounced by many of the denizens, there seems to be no other way but to accept them, no matter how these words might hurt, assume you were the one who’s in the minority. I myself personally confess that in general the ethnic Chinese are capitalists, but we must realize that it has been long taught in all the economic textbooks, that not all economic systems are entirely of evil concepts, and neither of them is considerable as being ‘the ultimate, the most sacrosanct’ ones. Every economic system, even capitalism itself, does contain itself its own advantages and disadvantages. In addition, I can’t comprehend what on earth is actually underlying their subconscious minds; they have ultimate belief that all Chinese people are demons. I certainly give a credence that all religions or forms of faith in this planet, including Islam, never teaches anyone to put excessive hatred in someone only because of their racial backgrounds, or only because they are not Muslims. They never promulgate messages of waging wars against those they consider opposed to what they take into their heads in, but it is usually the men themselves who have misused all the essential values of their religions to merely garner benefits for their own sake. And that’s what I always have been convinced with.

 

 

Here is my main concern: will this spark another worse-than-1998 riot? The improbability itself is neither too low nor too high, but that does not indicate it is entirely impossible at all. Even after the tumultuous period in 1998 had slipped by more than a decade, relationship between the bulk of ethnic Chinese with so-called pribumi, or indigenous Indonesians, remains largely brittle. Social gap remains indisputably large, though not as high as that triggered during Soeharto’s rule. Even if it is cognizant that approximately 100 million Indonesians have themselves elevated into the middle-class status, it hasn’t exhibited a considerable improvement of inter-ethnic relationship in Indonesia. But the probability itself is majoringly diminished by the en masse democracy majority of us relish. Besides, unlike in the past, when most of the time people were not granted rights to monitor their own surroundings, now they grab the bigger chances to observe the societies, largely thanks to the fluorishing appearance of mass media industry, enabling more people to speak out and assess the current events taking place in societies, even though oftentimes, what they speak out is not necessarily linked to the topic discussed. Lastly, the economic situation in 1998, compared to that in 2012, is a matter of 180-degree reverse. 1998 was a catchphrase for economic malaise most of the Asian countries, when tens of millions of people were out of job, but on the contrary, 2012 refers to the momentum for Asian emerging markets. In general, most of the emerging markets do face the similar situation: unconducive environment as a consequence of high insecurity and uneasy legal protection. But, the miraculous axiom is their over-the-acme economic revival.  Leastwise, the good news is that majority of Muslim Indonesians, after further survey conducted by multitudinous television stations and social institutes, oppose the existence of such hard-line organizations, albeit not all of them do have positive attitude towards ethnic Chinese.

It never takes a day to heal all the wounds imprinted for many decades. At times, the conjunction between the two communities are often at unease. I myself realize that such stigma would prevail for a long time, and flipping over it is like building a castle in the air. The hard-liners are planning to turn back, preparing what they claim ‘a larger demonstration than ever’. What will happen after, I ain’t a prophet at all.

But I know they may (probably) have to think twice, in minimum, before they really wish to scorch all the thousand Chinese houses. I envisage the ones who will fight back would be the servants and the drivers.