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Saturday, October 4, 2014

Strolling Through Occupy Central (Admiralty & Causeway Bay)

The Umbrella Revolution namesakes

Living in Hong Kong, there was no escaping the fact that Occupy Central was finally up and going as of last Sunday, 28 September 2014.  Even if I had managed to avoid the incessant local and international news coverage of the mass protests, I couldn't miss the fact that this historic occasion was underway as my office is sandwiched just a few blocks from two of the three targets of the movement: Central/Admiralty - the financial downtown core of the city - and Causeway Bay - an area popular with locals and tourists for its shopping and restaurants, and has the dubious recognition for commanding the highest commercial rents in the world.  In addition, my apartment is only a kilometre away from the third protest site - by far the most raucous and volatile - in Mongkok, Kowloon.

As it was a public holiday on 1 October (China National Day,) I took a stroll from Central to Causeway Bay (via Gloucester Road and a nearly deserted Hennessy Road in Wanchai) and later in the evening, to Mongkok, to see the protest sites for myself.  The scenes I witnessed were something not to be missed for to see the usually hectic, traffic-snarled streets of Hong Kong and Kowloon resembling a street festival filled with very young, idealistic protesters sitting on the asphalt, was certainly one for the history annals.

Here are some of the snaps I took on my stroll that day in Central, Admiralty,Wanchai and Causeway Bay:

This was the sight that greeted me when I came out of my Central MTR exit and started walking eastward along Gloucester Road.

This is the reverse view of the photo above.  Facing westward on Gloucester Road with the IFC building in the background.

There's no fear of going hungry or thirsty during the protests.  Here, cheerful kids (which is what they are, kids) man one of the many supply tents in Central.

Grabbing a perch wherever one can.

Want a towel? How about bottled water? Granola bars? Cream crackers? Salted peanuts? Sanitary napkins? At times, the scene was like a street market with locals hawking their wares, except these were all free.
Gloucester Road was not only filled with protesters but also curious locals, expats and tourists.  It was quite the convivial atmosphere (amazing how pleasant it was to be out there without the pesky pepper spray and tear gas.)

Just so we're reminded that Occupy Central is not all fun and games.

On the flyover near the Civic Square and the Central Government Offices - the hotbed of protest activity.

Picnic or protest? Sometimes it's hard to tell.

I took a peek inside - there were three generations of family members sitting in this tent on the flyover pass  with little portable fans to fend of the waning summer heat.

Like a scene from a zombie movie: Gloucester Road in Wanchai.  My office building is just to the right of this photo.

With most of the roads blocked, buses and trams stopped have stopped operating in Wanchai.

Occupy Central has so far been a pictorial study of contrasts.  On one hand, there's extreme chaos and stifling masses of people occupying every inch of an eight-lane highway; on the other, I also saw nearly abandoned streets devoid of vehicles and traffic noise just a few blocks away from the protest sites. 

All that relative quiet ended when I crossed from Wanchai to Causeway Bay.  These are the barricades at the intersection of Hennessy Road and Lee Garden Road.
One of the several "speaking corners" in Causeway Bay - this one was in front of the landmark Sogo department store
An earnest sign seen at Causeway Bay.
Protesters on the street making signs, doing homework, chatting, texting and surfing the web.
Close to the end of the "other side" of the barricaded area.  This one is on Hennessy Road and Pennington Street.

One of the last signs I saw for the evening before I left Causeway Bay and headed across the harbour to the third "occupied" protest site in Mongkok.


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