Hongkong is on everyone’s lips these days. The mass protests which occur since summer are permanently in the media, showing the civil warlike scenes in the streets of the city.
It did not stop me from going there. But mostly it was for a timing reason, it just fitted too good into my plans.
My main reason to go to Hongkong was not the city itself, rather than the surroundings of it. The landscape and nature around the town are something like a hidden gem and the mountains and trails on the different islands makes it a hikers paradise. And germans are hikers! (…at least someone told that to me, LOL) I read about that beauty a couple of years ago in a magazine, and since that time i included Hongkong in my imaginary travel-to-do-list.
But more on that later.
The first couple of days i just made my, more or less planned, programme, not noticing much of the protests. By chance, one day i walked along the HKU – Hongkong University – where there must have been riots a couple of days ago. I just saw the remains of that – brickstones on the streets, demolished facades and barricades of umbrellas and bamboo. It was interesting in a way to see this, but it didn’t worry me much. Several times during my stay people apologized to me for the unconveniences and unsafe situation in town. To be honest, i never felt unsafe or any special atmosphere in the city (on the other hand, i dont know how life goes on there elsewise).
But then came monday evening.
I just spent a lovely day on Lantau Island, visiting the Big Buddha and surroundings. In the evening i went to the district of Kowloon, opposite of Hongkong Island, to see this silly show called ‘Symphony of Lights’, where they illuminate the skyline of Hongkong with spotlights and laser beams.
Somehow i noticed battle calls from the street nearby and suddenly i saw all these people, marching in one direction. Mostly students, i guess not much older then 20, who covered their faces with masks. I know it sounds weird, but i just followed them, cause i wanted to see what was happening there with my own eyes and show some kind of support.
There was a girl – Jaqueline, if i understand the name correctly – who explained to me, what was going on and what the crowd is going to do. They were heading to the Polytechnical University, where still hundreds of students are beleaguered by the police. If they would surrender, they probably have to go to jail for 10 years. So the protesters tried to find a way inside the sealed university to support their fellow students and combatants with food and other things and at its best to liberate them. And the crowd was extremly organised in doing that. They shout commandos from the front line to the back. They line up to pass-through various things, like water and food, scissors, cable ties, umbrellas and much more. It felt like one big community and everyone literally pulled together.
I dont want to keep quit about the fact that they also destroyed or damaged a lot of the cities infrastructure, like digging cobblestones from the footpaths or moving public benches to use it as barricades. But, as the saying goes, the end justifies the means! And i truly believe that, after what i have seen. Cause maybe for those young people of Hongkong it is the last chance to defend oneself against China. And i adore them for their courage and determination and fearlessness against that overpowering opponent.
Eventually the march stopped and people stand vis-à-vis with the police. Which on the other hand pointed with their spotlights into the masses and waited for commandos. There were helicopters in the air and sirens and the haze of tear gas streamed over. I really felt like in a warzone. And yeah, i was scared. For the first time in my life i felt the effect of tear gas, which the police uses to push back the masses. My eyes started to water and it became difficult to breath. Luckily i had my headband, which i could use as a mask.
Meanwhile, just a hundred meters away, tourists were posing in front of the skyline. Watching that light show, not realizing or not caring about the things which happened in their back. Just interested in their pics and new inputs for their instagram. It felt really surreal and absurd in that very moment. I mean, i dont want to say that i am better than anyone, posting my senseless selfies and stuff there as well. But at least i’m aware of the fact, that the real life happens out there.