02 July 2014

We Have Spoken 我們發聲了

I have taken part in every July 1 march since I moved back to Hong Kong in 2005. That makes yesterday’s march my ninth. I have the routine down pat: I will put on a black T-shirt, eat a hearty lunch and agree on a time to meet my friends in Causeway Bay. I will bring both sunscreen and a small umbrella because the Hong Kong summer, like its politics, is never predictable. Take this year for instance. Who would have thought that Beijing would release the bluntly-worded White Paper – an assertion of total control over the city and a bonanza for protest organizers – less than a month before the most politically sensitive day on our calendar?  

A crowd like no other

At the Central MTR station, I was about the only man in black. I must have missed the call on social media to wear white to mock the White Paper. But it didn’t matter, because our minds were somewhere else when the train reached Causeway Bay. We were awed by the sheer number of people inching away from the platform. It was like a Chinese New Year flower market except this crowd was bigger and more orderly. There is a lot on our minds these days and we wanted to say it with our feet. And the people have spoken.

I met up with a friend in front of Sogo. Matthew, a Shanghai native, is a law professor at Hong Kong University. This is his fifth year in the city but his first time joining a march. I told Matt that people came out not only because of the White Paper but also to vent our anger over a laundry list of issues: the northeastern NT redevelopment bill, Beijing’s stance on the 2017 chief executive election and its outright dismissal of the unofficial referendum on election methods in which nearly 800,000 Hong Kongers had participated. I also told Matt that we must enter Victoria Park to be counted by the police, and that authorities routinely under-report the headcount to downplay the level of public frustration. But it didn’t matter, because I was there and I saw it with my own eyes. The size of the crowd this year was not like anything I had seen the other eight times. I knew the people have spoken.

Causeway MTR station

Over the course of the march, I took pains to visit as many as sidewalk booths as I could. I waved at Lee Cheuk Yan (李卓人), union leader and chairman of the Democratic Alliance. I shook the hands of all three Occupy Central organizers – Benny Tai (戴耀廷), Chu Yiu-ming (朱耀明) and Chan Kin-man (陳健民) – and told them how thankful I was for all that they have done and still to do. I also chatted with Erica Yuen (袁彌明), chairlady of People Power. She offered to meet me at her party booth near Wanchai’s Southorn Playground if I wanted to talk more and ask her a few questions. I said “sure,” although I knew I probably wouldn’t see her again for the rest of the day. I had to move with the crowds and stay with my friend. But it didn’t matter, because I had no questions and she need not give me any answers. The turnout yesterday was more powerful than any statement a politician could make. For the people have spoken.

People Power's Erica Yuen

By the time we reached Admiralty and the office towers in Central came into view, the sun had begun to set. The sky suddenly dimmed and the rain started to come down in sheets. Colorful umbrellas pop-opened like daisies. I couldn’t tell whether the untimely downpour was angel tears or a divine intervention to disperse the crowds. But it didn’t matter, because someone somewhere started playing “Under a Vast Sky” (《海闊天空》) through a megaphone. The song, written by a beloved 80s Cantopop band, speaks of ideals and defiance and is the closest thing to a national anthem we have. The marchers instantly broke into song, and the words sent goose bumps all over my soaked body. Rain? What rain? The people have spoken!

Rain? What rain?

We left the rally near Pedder Street. At a café, I went through the photos on my phone and posted some of them on Facebook and Instagram. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then these images would amount to a history book. The pictures of citizens streaming down Hennessy Road, of old people and young people and people in wheelchairs, didn’t just record history, they reclaimed it. After I said goodbye to Matthew, I bowed my head and said a prayer for the students who would remain on Chater Road for an overnight sit-in and who would almost certainly be removed by riot police. I also prayed for the upcoming Occupy Central showdown, a battle that we can’t win but still must fight. Perhaps that, too, doesn’t matter, because the people have already spoken.

They need all the support they can get


This article appears on SCMP.com under the title "Hong Kong has spoken."

As posted on SCMP.com


  1. I was at the booth of People Power near Southern Playground all afternoon.The moving crowds blocked my view. What a shame I missed the chance to meet you. Jason I always love to meet you. If I had seen you, I woud have been over the moon.
    Ms Lee

  2. Amazing write up, Jason. I left the rally early too, feeling amazed by the power of the people. It has been an incredible first march for me.


  3. Lovely and heartfelt. Well done.


  4. Brave piece of essay, Jason. Now in West Africa, we are all tuned in to the updates on the march. I am very glad that people have come out to have their voice spoken. Only losers say this is a lost cause. When we sat on the campuses and sang "Give Peace A Chance", we never thought Nixon would pull the US troops out of Vietnam. Hope is very powerful.


  5. I'm sure your sentiments echo many others.


  6. Yes indeed, we have spoken out and loud.

  7. I was one of the marchers that got stuck in Jardine Bazaar for over 3 hours, initially under the scorching heat, then mild rain and to heavy downpour.

    Along the route, there were police vans parked in a row. One of them even had his engine on despite being parked. It was only with a prompt from a parent with two young kids who knocked at his van door did he switch off the ignition key. Wish I had captured this and post the pic here.

    What a day. The headcount was underestimated by all.


  8. To: Jason

    From waving at Lee Cheuk-Yan, shaking hands with Benny Tai, Chu Yiu-Ming, and Chan Kin-Man to praying to mighty God Himself, Whymak will call you a "name dropper".

    Have you seen your groupies, Christine and Regina, there at the march?

    If you keep on writing the way you have been lately, they will deserve you in no time.

    Nevertheless, I must say this is a great article. You surprised me once again; I've always thought that you are a "closeted banana" and a carpetbagger.

    Now try to have it posted in your newspaper, SCMP.

    Posting the poster for Occupy Central here is a nice gesture.

    I agree with you that "this battle must fight", but not the part that "we can't win". All through history, any movement for significant, meaningful change need idealists, dreamers, and romanticist, not only pragmatic lawyers like you.

    You heard what the people has spoken.

    But can you feel the passion?

    From: Mo Ming See

  9. Get your math right. 500K is surely a lot of people, but it's still just 7% of the HK population. Can't speak for HK.


    1. Sure beat 689, don't you think?


  10. Is about time people stand up for themselves. Those 1% tycoons and crusty CCP members in Beijing can't speak for HK.


  11. It is sad to watch so many young people participate in a movement which may well be instigated by foreign powers, as evidenced by visit to the White House some weeks before by Anson Chan and Lee Chu Ming and disclosure of recent secret meeting between Wolfowitz and Lai Chi Ying in Hong Kong.


    1. Wow, you connected the dots. Damn, I always thought it was Xi and Obama. They did meet in March, didn't they?



    2. To: Tony

      You have the best post, so far, on this thread.

      I must say you have a great sense of humor.


      This conspiracy crowd is now coming out of the woodwork. I expect they will provide you more materials for some good laughs.

      From: Mo Ming See

  12. Hong Kong has spoken? Hardly. It took 'democracy' advocates more than a week to persuade 10% of British passport holders to cast unverified 'votes' in favor of one or another of strictly controlled alternatives – none of which included embracing CCP leadership, which is the choice of 80% of Chinese and, we may expect, of Hong Kong citizens.

    Altogether, this looks like another American-funded color revolution aimed at discrediting a competitive nation.


  13. Have any of you guys bother to look up the statistics for Chinese visitiors arriving in Hong Kong in the past 12 months? You will be surprise to discover that the number of visitors have dropped significantly. They have move on to Taiwan and many other countries. If you are curious enough, try to figure out what Taiwan could offer as a tourist destination to these visitors as compare to Hong Kong which is mainly shopping. Should people of Hong Kong wake up and take care of its own economy for a better tomorrow?



    1. To: Qi

      Your type of thinking is at least 30 years behind time.

      Apparently, you do not know much about Hong Kong.

      Most of us these days are pretty much fed up with mainland tourists crowding our streets, eateries, and shopping centers. We are left with having less and less space for ourselves.

      Hong Kong is no longer an "Asian Disneyland", an exotic playground, for the foreigners.

      By far, neither our future nor our economy is depending on tourism.

      From: Mo Ming See

    2. Mr. Mo, I agree with you. It also explains why Hutchinson has been disposing its retailing business lately. A lower number of tourists arrival from mainland China will have significant impact on Hong Kong's economy. I am sure mom-and-pop businesses would be affected as well. I believe the people of Hong Kong must approach the government to push for an economic solution to this matter rather than to voice their discontent by way of a popular protest march, on the inherent inflation and rising cost of living.


    3. Rich people are getting richer and poor people are getting poorer. And the middle-class people like the mom-and-pop small business operators you mentioned are now disappearing right before our eyes.

      "The inherent inflation and rising cost of living" we are experiencing is not the only reason but one of the main reasons why people are out marching on the streets these days in large number.

      Of all people, the communists should know that. After all, they've had the "Long-March" and revolution merely a generation ago for more or less the same reasons--albeit in a much larger scale.

      "...the people of Hong Kong must approach the government to push for an economic solution to this matter rather than to voice their discontent by way of a popular protest march, on the inherent inflation and rising cost of living."

      In terms of your above quote, let me simply say this:

      Marching on the streets is our last resort, not that we have not tried to work things out. We are tired of asking and begging and waiting and more waiting. To say it bluntly, these wealthy people perpetuating this lopsided system want to take more and more and are not going give you anything unless they have to.

      Freedom is not free, my friend.

      No one is going to hand it to you without you lifting a finger.

      From: Mo Ming See

    4. Well said Mo Ming See. Think the more fitting wordings in your last sentence to read: lifting the middle finger. Whatever...., no meant to be vulgar.


    5. Vulgar I think not.

      I would have specified the finger if I have thought of it.

      Your adjective strengthens the sentence.


      From: Mo Ming See


    6. Continue...

      No doubt that with a lower number of mainland tourists coming to HK will have a negative impact on our economy.

      Maybe the silver lining is it will stop the rent prices from going up and up. And those well-connected property tycoons will not be able to demand outrageous rents and prices for their properties anymore.

      There will be less "locusts" and less aggravations, and more space for us all.

      From: Mo Ming See

  14. While we we have spoken, one of the noticeable changes from previous July 1 march was the presence of an abnormal large contingent of police force - all out from different fields and disciplines like plainclothes to anti-terrorists etc., to counter the marchers as if they were against enemies at war and not peaceful common HongKongers, whom they are also one of them.

    In many respects from crowd management and people control, it was evident that these cops, once the pride of Hong Kong people for their utmost talented skills and people-friendly 'enduring' nature, have turned out to become the people's foes. They seemed to have lost that natural self and mutual respect of being one from the medling crowd to become wind-up robots that execute on strict orders.

    Sadly, our elite police force, no longer took heed to listening to the marchers' organizers requests, for any give and take, but stood steadfastly fortified behind multi layers of barricades of iron dividers and human chains, they were on full alert like in a battlefield mode ready to " Charge of Life Brigade" to pick up anyone in the peaceful march of violations.

    As a result, the police forces had caused undue delay to hundreds of thousands of stranded marchers by not opening the Eastward bound lanes, which clearly seen catered to only a handful of vehicles and buses plying by. The situation could have been improved with a win-win-win one for all parties should only a single lane of Eastward bound be left open for emergency use while diverted all Eastward bound traffic to Causeway Road in the waterfront.

    And now, a legal case was put forward on the marchers' lead van for driving too slowly disregarding any police warnings, stopping occasionally along the route and not switching off the van engine key when van was not in motion. Think all these allegations were unnecessary and uncalled for should the cops had acted swiftly and intelligently with intentions to proper crowd control and management.

    Come what may, it was a day to remember in history on the democratic reform process of Hong Kong. Heavens did open with hot scorching heat, light drizzles and sheets of heavy rain. Whether these were cries of anger or cool relief to those marchers from God were not known. The footprints of the marchers had set yet another record as a price paid to upfill struggle for a open, just and fair society in Hong Kong.

    We have spoken ! Let's pray and hope for a rainbow to appear in the horizon.


  15. Well put.

    With all due respect to you:

    "Here on earth, God’s work must truly be our own.”

                                    - John F. Kennedy

    From: Mo Ming See