i’m living in the literal middle of the Umbrella Revolution here in Hong Kong and, strange as it may sound, i’ve never been more proud to call Mongkok my neighbourhood.
so it’s one of the world’s most densely populated places, but it’s also an area where political messages and protests are strewn. the market is a tourist haven, as is the weirdly-constructed Langham Place mall. local businesses tend to stay around longer than a lot of other places in HK. many of the tiny local restaurants get their ingredients from the wet market across the street (and some places even make their own soy milk). the soup noodles i get from one of my canteens is always a little different based on what’s at the market that day.
i’m known as the neighbourhood white girl. i have a few places i return to eat and they usually give me free tea. i make sure to walk through the market every so often to say hello to my neighbours who own the booths (i don’t have to bargain much anymore!). mongkok has its own subculture; many people perceive the residents here to be unfriendly as they tend to bark at everyone harsher than other districts, but that’s actually just how it is – even though it’s a small area in a small country, each district has its own culture. in fact, there’s even a slang term-of-unsure-endearment: ‘MK.’ it’s that distinct. i can’t explain what the term means. if you came here it would make more sense.
so in the midst of this umbrella revolution, i’ve wandered out to see what’s going on (with some other photographer companions) and managed to talk to a few people. the locals are quite upset at how tourists are taking advantage of this time and not paying attention to the reason behind the whole protest. Nathan Road, a 6 lane highway that is a route for over 100 buses, has been completely blocked off for 3 weeks now, the frontline being at the intersection of it and another central road called Argyle Street. police standoffs are commonplace now, but that’s all they are – standoffs, except for the couple of incidences publicized internationally. the tension in the air is tangible, however.
a couple of nights ago i was walking to Langham and got to witness the taking back of Nathan after the police managed to open it back up (for only a few hours). imagine this blonde white girl standing on top of a fire hydrant filming the double-decker buses slowly coming a stop. the hundreds of people standing within my range of sight erupt into an enormous cheer and make way just enough for the buses to floor it and get out of there as fast as possible. just before, one older man looked at me and we had an awkward stare-down for a few moments before he asked, ‘Do you know what is happening?’ I told him I live here and I’m glad to be with them, cheering alongside. he was astonished, as were the other locals I talked to. i have personally encountered no hostility, no disrespect. some people probably think i’m from the press like most of the other (few) ‘gwailos’ (white people). some people are used to seeing me around the neighbourhood. some people offered my roommate Dana food and water from their short supply. i wish i could bake all of them cookies.
here’s a good video on VICE i found, and before i conclude this post, i just want to clarify that there is no intention for this protest to be a violent one like i’m sure it would have long already been in other places. instead of setting things on fire and tearing things apart (besides relocating bus stops to the middle of the road), people are taping art and quotes to building walls and MTR station exits. they’ve brought their folding chairs and eat street food and help pass out water and umbrellas to everyone. they’ve set up desks and tents and are working on their laptops and watching TV on their phones. this isn’t a fight, they’re simply occupying. it’s done my heart good to see people coming together peacefully and chatting although they’ve never met.
i just looked out my window to see Nathan Road and there’s not too many people out. there’s some construction work a street over; i hear a jackhammer and that’s it. there’s no noise from buses, maybe the occasional taxi going the back way through my street since it’s one of the only ones easily accessible. people are going about their business as usual. sometimes i catch snippets of conversations from the street 11 floors down. it’s a beautiful day here in HK – fall is officially here. the sun is shining. the breeze is blowing in through all my open windows. i am glad to be here.
more footage of the protests coming soon – these pictures were during the week with little action.