Sunday, October 19, 2014

Hong Kong Protest part 4

The Hong Kong police finally started to clear the barricades in the streets and force some of the protesters to let traffic through. Not so much at Central. The street that the police cleared was Nathan Road in Kowloon. It was actually very close to my old tiny apartment in Mong Kok. If I still lived there, I might see the protests as an inconvenience – or I would have gone out to join them every night. As it is, they are not close to my current apartment.

The main bulk of the protesters are at Central, and that is the area that’s getting all the media attention, but there are also smaller satellite protests going on in other parts of the city. The one on Nathan Road was a surprise to me. Not only because I used to live right there, but also because Nathan Road is easily the busiest street in Kowloon. On any given day, there are about a million tourist buses going up and down that street. I don’t know where they all went when the street was blocked off.

Staging a protest outside the Central Government office is a good idea. That is where the people you are protesting against go to work. That’s also where a lot of other people go to work. Shut that area down and you essentially shut down the government, more or less.

Nathan Road seems like a strange place to block traffic. It hurts tourism, which in turn hurts the economy, but it does nothing against the government. The leaders of this city probably don’t even know that Mong Kok exists. Hurting the economy will only hurt the protesters. Instead of forcing the government to listen to their demands, it will drive the opinion polls away from the protests. Most people in Hong Kong would agree that the protest should have been allowed to happen, but as soon as it affects the economy, most will say that the protesters have made their point and now it’s time to go home. Chinese people have been living under emperors and dictators for 5,000 years. Democracy is not a high priority.

By Friday, there were a few hundred people camped out on Nathan Road. This particular protest site was clearly dying down. In a week, or less, it would have emptied out on its own. Then the police came in and cleared the road with the subtlety of a Chinese driver trying to parallel park. Images of police officers in riot gear beating an unarmed 18-year-old protester were all over TV news stations. By Saturday morning, there were about 9,000 protesters on Nathan Road.

If the Chinese authorities want this to end, they should leave it alone and let it die out as people lose interest. The more they charge in like a dragon in a China shop, the larger the protests will grow. Antagonizing people on the weekend is especially stupid. Many of the protesters are students. They have an inherent need to get rowdy on weekends.

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