Skip to main content

Hong Kong's "Umbrella City"

When I left Hong Kong back in September, Occupy Central had just begun. I went to Admiralty and Central on the first day of the protests, which was the 28th. The following morning I flew to Taipei. 

I was very sad, not only because I was leaving a city which I love more and more each time I return there, but also because I had seen history unfolding before my eyes and yet I was suddenly cut off from those events. While I was sitting on the express train to the airport, I had already made up my mind that I would go back to Hong Kong as soon as possible. 

And I was right. What I have seen in Hong Kong over the past few days is amazing, and I feel glad and privileged that I could be part of this historic moment. At least I'll be able to tell my grandchildren that I was here. 


The "Umbrella City"



After nearly two months, the "Umbrella Revolution" has lost much of its momentum. The pro-democracy camp seems unable to convince Beijing to revise its reform of the electoral system and grant the former British colony genuine universal suffrage. 

Meanwhile, the protesters have settled down permanently in an area of the city centre which is much larger than I had thought. They have created a fascinating city within the city (see this map in which I have drawn the approximate location of the occupied zones). The first time I went there I was amazed. 



The "Umbrella City" is a proof of what great things human spontaneity and creativity can produce. The settlement is built like a normal city: it has houses and streets, it has its own hospitals, power plants, infrastructure, public spaces; it has its own politics, its own public monuments, and even its own schools and libraries. It's just that all these things have been made by common citizens in a completely spontaneous manner, in a spirit of communal self-rule. 

The "Umbrella City" is a triumph of civic self-organisation, ingenuity and artistic inventiveness. The houses are simple tents scattered all over roads that were once dominated by the noise of incessant traffic. The hospitals are improvised first aid shacks. There is a small windmill power station that generates energy; there are large tents with tables, shelves and books for young people to continue studying even during the occupation. Painters, sculptors and common citizens have given free rein to their creativity and transformed the area into a colourful place of art and self-expression, which blends in a distinctive way with the surrounding skyscrapers, banks, and government buildings. The "Umbrella City" is the product of Hong Kong's uniqueness.

Whether this uniqueness will be crushed - as I argued in a previous post about post-1997 Hong Kong - under the pressure of state-promoted Chinese nationalism and loyalty to the Communist Party, remains an open question. 
  




I tried to write a long post with a lot of pictures, but blogspot doesn't show them, so I will write a few small posts introducing some of the photos I took.

The protesters have made PRC President Xi Jinping
a symbol of their movement, turning him from an enemy into a supporter.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Living in Taiwan: Seven Reasons Why It's Good to Be Here

Chinese New Year can be a pretty boring time for a foreigner. All of my friends were celebrating with their families, and since I have no family here, nor have I a girlfriend whose family I could join, I had nothing special to do. Shops and cafes were closed - apart from big chains like McDonald's or Starbucks, which were overcrowded anyway. So I had a lot of time to think.
On Saturday evening I went out to buy my dinner. While I was walking around, I heard the voices of the people inside their homes, the sounds of their New Year celebrations. Then I suddenly asked myself: "What on earth are you doing here? Why are you still in Taiwan?" 
Before I came to Taiwan, some Taiwanese friends of mine had recommended me their country, highly prasing it and going so far as to say that Taiwan is a "paradise for foreigners" (bear in mind that when I say foreigners I mean 'Westerners'). 
"It's easy for foreigners to find a job," they argued. "Taiwane…

How Conservative Is Taiwan? - 5 Cases of Sexuality in Business, Marketing and Media

Is Taiwan a conservative society? Are Taiwanese people prude, family-oriented, and faithful to their partner?
Before going to Taiwan, basing my opinion on what Taiwanese had told me, I would have answered all these questions with yes. But after living there for some time, I began questioning my assumptions. 
In many of my posts I have tried to explain some features of the Chinese/Taiwanese family which make it clear that every Western perspective on East Asia should take into consideration the different values and social structures that the Chinese-speaking world has developed over the centuries.
In this post, I would just like to mention a few interesting cases of liberal sexual conduct and the objectification of the female body, which challenge the image of Taiwan as a prude society. 
One day I was walking around the German city of Potsdam, near Berlin, with a Taiwanese. She often told me that Taiwanese people were conservative, Taiwanese girls naive and innocent. But on the other hand,…

How Is Customer Service In Taiwan? - My Thoughts Before And After Living In Taiwan

Before I went to Taiwan I had a lot of expectations regarding customer service there, mainly for two reasons.
First of all, I hated customer service in Europe. Having lived in Italy and Germany for several years and having spent time in Greece, the UK and other European countries, I noticed that across the continent a lot of shop assistants are indifferent or rude to customers. Of course, that is based on my experience and on that of my friends, and it refers only to episodes I witnessed or heard about. 
Let me tell you just a few examples. Once my internet provider in Germany changed my contract without my consent. When I went to their shop, I was yelled at and threatened with a lawsuit right away. Later I quit that company, but the point is, whether I made a mistake or not (and I think I did not), they should have cleared up the matter in a nice way instead of being so aggressive. 
One day I was in my university cafeteria, and I saw a student leave his trey with food on a table and go …