New violence, unknown future: This is Hong Kong

As Hong Kong’s #OccupyCentral protests crept into a second week, activists in Mong Kok were confronted with violence from unknown anti-occupy activists.

As Hong Kong’s #OccupyCentral protests crept into a second week, demonstrators in Mong Kok were attacked by unknown anti-occupy activists. While the origins of the attackers remain unclear (rumor and allegations continue to circle) their penchant for violence surprised many of the protestors in attendance. To make matters worse, Hong Kong police seemed unable, or —according to some— unwilling to step in and protect the demonstrators.

These attacks drove leaders of the Hong Kong Federation of Students to reject Chief Secretary Carrie Lam’s offer to meet and discuss their demands. For now, Hong Kong residents (and the many who have their eyes fixed on this increasingly restive island) can only wait and see.

*Earlier this week, I reported on the generational differences between the protestors in Hong Kong’s streets. Read the full piece here (via Al Jazeera America.)

A new museum stirs tensions in Hong Kong

Last Saturday, the June 4 Memorial Museum opened in Hong Kong. In the fifth floor of an unassuming office building, the 800-square foot museum documents the 1989 protests in Tiananmen Square, and commemorates the hundreds of lives lost (and the thousands injured) after the Chinese government’s crackdown.

Supporters of the June 4 Museum clash with police and members of the opposition at the opening of the June 4 Museum in Hong Kong on April 26, 2014. (Photo: Adam McCauley)
Supporters of the June 4 Museum clash with police and members of the opposition at the opening of the June 4 Museum in Hong Kong on April 26, 2014. (Photo: Adam McCauley)

Last Saturday, the June 4 Memorial Museum opened in Hong Kong. In the fifth floor of an unassuming office building, the 800-square foot museum documents the 1989 protests in Tiananmen Square, and commemorates the hundreds of lives lost (and the thousands injured) after the Chinese government’s crackdown.

[Read my full article on Al Jazeera]

As one of my sources told me: “In a debate where Beijing is charged (rightly) with lying about the past, getting the details right can really matter.” These details, such as who was hurt or killed (not merely student protestors, but also civilians and citizens sympathetic to the protest’s message) and where those abuses were committed (the military drove people into the streets surrounding Tiananmen Square). These little details, if missed, provide some parties with ammunition to deny the “history” of an event; it gives semantic weight to assertions by the Communist Party of China that, no, there were no actual deaths in Tiananmen Square, even if there were many near Tiananmen Square.

Whether marveling at the power of belief and the unwillingness of museum supporters (not to mention the Hong Kong Alliance who created the museum) to stand behind their message, I was struck most by Saturday’s comment by Johnny Lau, a journeyman journalist who reported from Tiananmen in 1989.

When I asked about the pro-Communist protestors who had amassed outside the museum’s entrance, he said. “Regardless of their message, at least they have the right to protest here.”