05 October 2014

Darkest Before Dawn 黎明前的黑暗


Tear gas and pepper spray were so last week.

On Friday, Day 6 of the Umbrella Movement, masked thugs fanned out at all three protest sites across the city, starting with Mongkok and quickly spreading to Causeway Bay. By nightfall, angry mobs had moved into the movement's nerve center in Admiralty. They called themselves “pro-Hong Kong citizens” -- vigilantes who had self-organized to clear the streets and restore public order. They had taken matters into their own hands because they believed the cops had been too lenient toward the students.

Thug attack


I had arrived in Admiralty earlier the evening to offer protesters free help with homework. I was telling the stories of Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr. to two university freshmen, when my phone started to buzz with ominous text messages. “The Triads are heading your way. Stay Safe!” a reporter friend warned. “Leave Admiralty NOW, and remove any yellow ribbons on you,” said another. The yellow ribbon was a symbol of the occupy movement, as was the yellow umbrella that gave the movement its name. Pro-Beijing groups had taken notice and come up with a symbol of their own: a blue ribbon in support of police officers. Many of the thugs in Mongkok were seen wearing the blue ribbon.

I didn’t pay much attention to my friends’ warnings. They weren’t anything new – rumors about Beijing mobilizing Triad members to harass protesters had been circulating on social media for days. With so many false alarms going off this week, we had learned to take things with a heap of salt. That said, fighting crowds with crowds is nothing new. Rent-a-mobs are routinely deployed during political unrest in Thailand and the Philippines. They are a weapon of choice not only because links to a mastermind are hard to prove, but also because they give authorities a convenient excuse to use force. A scuffle between yellow and blue ribbons in Mongkok, for instance, would give police the legal and moral authority to clear the area. 

One of clashes in Mongkok


A few minutes later, my sidewalk classroom was interrupted yet again, this time by speeches broadcasted from a makeshift podium fifty yards away. The speaker was Joshua Wong (黃之鋒), founder of the activist group Scholarism (學民思潮) and one of the student leaders of the occupy movement. He was confirming reports that throngs of blue ribbons had overrun Mongkok and Causeway Bay. Wong's speech was followed by a series of emotional accounts from students who had been kicked and punched by mobsters earlier that day. One girl, still sobbing, recounted her experience of being molested in broad daylight. Another girl said a man tried to grab her and said: “You should expect some hanky-panky in a street protest!”

I told my “students” to go home and continued scrolling through the news feed on my phone. The situation had deteriorated rapidly in the last several hours. Amateur videos of physical and sexual assault abounded, many of them were too gruesome to watch. The assailants -- who should be called domestic terrorists -- were systematic in targeting protesters and journalists. Much of the public outrage was also directed at the police’s flagrant inaction. Some uniformed officers were seen standing idly by with their arms folded, while others took advantage of the mayhem to remove barricades commandeered by students. There were also video clips showing police officers guiding Triad members into the occupied areas, or faking an arrest only to release the suspect on a quiet street corer. 

I continued to sit on the sidewalk, overcome with disgust, frozen in disbelief. I had many unanswered questions. Were the blue ribbons gang members or disgruntled citizens? Were they hired by Beijing? Were they working in cahoots with police? The only thing I knew was that whoever was behind the coordinated attacks had run out of options and was desperate enough to make a deal with the devil. In Hong Kong, resorting to the underworld to handle tricky situations is an open secret and a time-honored tradition. Local mafias such as Wo Sing Wo and 14K are typically hired by moneylenders to collect unpaid debts or by property brokers to intimidate stubborn residents who hold up lucrative real estate projects.

Student protesters forming a human chain to keep the peace

I decided to heed my friends’ advice to leave the protest site before the mobs arrived. I spent the rest of the night at home watching the clashes in Admiralty play out on live television. Images of peaceful protesters being beaten and not fighting back broke my heart and sickened my stomach. The next morning, I woke up to more news reports of fracas happening all over the city, as some of the protesters attempted to reclaim Mongkok and Causeway Bay. At a news conference, Security Secretary Lai Tung-kwok (黎棟國) vehemently denied claims of collaboration between police and the Triads. On a radio show,  cabinet member Lam Woon-kwong (林焕光) dismissed the allegations as a “fairy tale.” I drifted in and out of sleep while footage of street violence interweaved with public statements by government officials. By 1:30pm, I was still in bed, staring unseeing at the television set. I was disgusted by the ochlocracy in our streets and the little that had been done to stop it. I was angry with some of my Facebook friends who applauded the blue ribbons for teaching student protesters a lesson. Above all, I was depressed by the hopelessness of the situation, for the mob attacks would only get worse in the days to come.  

I found myself right where our enemies wanted us to be: a state of dejection and defeat. “You are smarter than that,” I told myself. I then willed my body out of bed, took a cold shower and ate a hearty lunch, the first proper meal in the last 48 hours. As I emptied my bag, I found a piece of hard candy given to me by a student volunteer the night before. My eyes started to well up, for the gift reminded me of how much they had done for the city and the long way they had yet to go. It also gave me a much needed boost of energy. I started to focus on what lay ahead. At this critical juncture, we must regroup, reassess and re-strategize. If it meant retreating from other protest sites to fortify the stronghold in Admiralty, then that’s what we would do. Whatever our next move might be, we must stay a few steps ahead of our opponents. We must not lose faith in our cause and play into the hands of the mobs. We must remember, no matter how grim things may look at the moment, that the night is always darkest before dawn.

A boost of energy in more ways than one


This article appears on SCMP.com under the title "The dark before dawn."

As posted on SCMP.com


31 comments:





  1. To: Jason

    Another "tear-jerker" from Jason Y. Ng.

    You keep using the word, "we", but at the critical moment when we really need more people to hold the front line, you quit on us, retreating back to the comfort of your "apartment" with a lame excuse.

    I must say though, it is a good article. At least it is basically factual and mostly accurate as most of us saw it.

    You mentioned about helping some protestors with their homework. Reading your articles here, it sounds like you know almost every well-known names in this protest movement. What you really need to do is to teach some of those protest leaders on stage how to pronounce their English words they used properly and correctly. Most of the times, it is impossible to understand what they tried to say in English. Of course we all have a good excuse for that: Hongkongers normally don't see the English language in action by the native-speakers of the language. How often do we get a chance to have a conversation --- a real conversation --- with a native-speaker of English?

    One thing(among many) I like about 黃之鋒 is that the skinny guy only speak English when he absolutely has to. As it should be, he almost always speaks in our native Chinese dialect in public and in interviews.

    None of us have problem understanding him in Cantonese.

    Keep it up, Jason. I always give credit where credit is due. But please don't use the word, "we" --- you are stretching it.






    From: Mo Ming See




    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't normally comment on other people's comments but I can't help say something. You sound like you know Jason personally, but regardless this is something personal or not, I reckon your "allegations" are so unfair (note: I'm just a reader of Jason).

      I don't think anyone volunteering or supporting this movement is obliged to do ANYTHING in ANYWAY, "we" all try to support to the extent that we are comfortable with (or even uncomfortable with so long as we choose to do so). There's nothing like you should stay for how long or you should do this or do that.

      I read again Jason's articles and I don't think he was stretching the word "we". The use of WE looks perfectly fine to me - we as HKers, who cry for democracy, isn't that using "I" is even egoistic in such context? From what I see, Jason keeps commending the students for their persistence, and he also supports in many ways. Isn't that not enough as a HK citizen? Your comment is so onerous and unfair and this is why people begin to split in spirit.

      And your English is pretty good too, you yourself can teach the protest leaders how to speak too, that's a good idea actually.

      NaNa Yu

      Delete
  2. Yes we can't hand in our home town to the evil enemy without trying to fight against them to out limit. God bless HK!

    Kaheng

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  3. Jason, please keep to post the fact to us and the world....

    Dan Dan

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  4. I have never lost faith in the HK Government, thinking they would ultimately do the right thing, or at the very least, not do the wrong thing, until last night.
    The feeling of sadness and lost is overwhelming.

    I am in disbelief that I have to mourn the loss of HK so soon, just 17 years after the handover.

    Sigh~

    Grace

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  5. Take care Jason. Tomorrow I will going back to BKK but my heart still with you all in HK.

    Somchit

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  6. Tear gas followed by hired thugs, violence after violence to attack defenceless children. Our hearts are broken and our eyes tired from weeping over the dark side of human nature.

    Margaret

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    Replies
    1. I hope I'm right, that the night is darkest before dawn.

      Jason

      Delete
  7. We are support you to fight for right for democracy... pls take care.

    Maboon

    ReplyDelete
  8. So sad. Thanks for the update.

    Rockin

    ReplyDelete
  9. Thank you for sharing this news. I'm not in Hong Kong to witness what is going on first-hand. I'm shocked that the government has resorted to triads as a way to handle this situation. Very saddened by the turn of events.

    Norm

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  10. I couldn't stop my tears when I read about candy from a student volunteer. It's so moving! I hope the stone hearted authority will be moved too.

    Margaret

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    Replies
    1. It really did happen. I was unpacking when the piece of candy fell out. It just hit me and I started sobbing uncontrollably. Who knew such an insignificant token could mean so much?

      That anyone could unleash hired thugs to beat and sexually assault these students disgusted me so much I was literally sick to the stomach.

      Jason

      Delete
    2. The ugliest side of human nature. No, in fact a total lack of humanity!

      Margaret

      Delete
  11. If you are a really good teacher, please teach the kids not to hurt others, including us, mainland Chinese. All Chinese have been discriminated by Europeans like Greeks. Please if you want to be a dog of them because you think they are rich and powerful, go for it yourself and don't fool the poor students.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I quote JFK, " our Nation is founded on the principle that observance of the law is the eternal safeguard of liberty and defiance of the law is the surest road to tyranny. The law which we obey includes the final rulings of the courts, as well as the enactment's of our legislative bodies. Even among law-abiding men few laws are universally loved, but they are uniformly respected and not resisted".
    The students' idealism has turned into radicalism. They knowingly broke the law and challenged and taunted the police. The police with the benefit of hindsight should not have fired tear gas. But what gave the students the right to embark on a course that affects the livelihoods of over 7 million HK residents and most of whom disagree with them? This is tyranny of the minority and shows their lack of respect for the rule of law and misunderstanding of civil disobedience movements and jurisprudence.

    ReplyDelete
  13. comparing reading your updates versus the ones by the mainstream newspaper reports, your reporting gives a lot more intimate detail (from a first person's perspective), so thank you. It must be very tiring for the students to stay out for almost 2 weeks. Look forward to hear some news about a mediated solution- the protests would need to stop somewhere, at some point.

    HK

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  14. Quote, "By 1:30 pm, I was still in bed, staring [but?] unseeing at the television set."

    The pawns have had to sleep on the streets. How do the protesters manage personal hygiene?

    Pilgrims to the Ganges can take advantage of that humongous body of water (but, there's as much formidable obstacle to contain and conceal, since the buoyancy betrays the flotsam and jetsam thereof).

    ReplyDelete
  15. The OC thugs and the pan-democrats thugs should all be arrested as well as their supporters.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Jason, when your belief is in the crowd, you see only the crowd. The MOST biased article so far. Some people hijcking HK for their political ambitions. Have you seen how citizens roaring in the screen? Their tolerance is not unlimited.

    ReplyDelete
  17. I am only an ordinary citizen, born in Hong Kong, educated in Hong Kong, worked in Hong Kong, built up my family in Hong Kong. I did not have a choice of spending any bit of my life in Europe, the United States and Canada. I am stuck in my birthplace. The only lucky thing is I don't need to rediscover my root because I am deeply tied to it. The recent student "movement" (revolution?, uprising?...) is increasingly saddening me, baffling me and now traumatizing me. Facing a hard-line party, I don't see any good of advocating the "movement". Hong Kong people are hurting themselves, dividing themselves. While Hong Kong suffers, Shanghai and Shenzhen alike are more than happy for one of their major competitor has been losing. In Hong Kong, friends and even families are being spilt up. I don't know how long it will take to heal the wounds. I am also shockingly surprised by an argument put up by a protester in a confrontation with a local people at an area under blockage by the "movement". She argued that the "temporary loss or suffering of the local people" was for a greater good, and the local people should accept it. The argument sounds familiar, usually come from dictators. If this is democracy, how could it demonstrate it is good? This my humble views only ..... Hope Mr. Jason Y Ng could listen.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies





    1. To: The person above this post

      Since no one cares to respond to your post, I thought I would say a few things.

      We all know that most of us Hongkongers put the Westerners and people like Jason Y. Ng on a pedestal.

      You were born in Hong Kong. You live here all your life; you have been contributing to the prosperity of this city. You are a quintessential, bona fide Hongkonger, a genuine article.

      In essence, you are a host of your home city. So, please, stop talking like you are a guest. The real guests are the ones you seek sympathy and approval from, and put on a pedestal. In Hong Kong, your home, how often do we have any social contact with them? Our lives have as much to do with theirs as their lives have to do with ours.

      Their numbers and influence are now much smaller than you think. And we Hongkongers are no better or worse than they are.

      The young HK Chinese participating in those massive protests you wrote about in your post are not here reading and posting.

      Can you tell by the way the people here write?

      I do understand how you feel. By the same token, I hope you would look at the big picture and try to understand why our young people are doing what they have to do.

      I heard you. Your point is well taken.



      From: Mo Ming See





      Delete
  18. Sorry Jason, this is my reply to your reader Mo Ming See.

    To Mo Ming See,

    I don't normally comment on other people's comments but I can't help say something. You sound like you know Jason personally, but regardless this is something personal or not, I reckon your "allegations" are so unfair (note: I'm just a reader of Jason).

    I don't think anyone volunteering or supporting this movement is obliged to do ANYTHING in ANYWAY, "we" all try to support to the extent that we are comfortable with (or even uncomfortable with so long as we choose to do so). There's nothing like you should stay for how long or you should do this or do that.

    I read again Jason's articles and I don't think he was stretching the word "we". The use of WE looks perfectly fine to me - we as HKers, who cry for democracy, isn't that using "I" is even egoistic in such context? From what I see, Jason keeps commending the students for their persistence, and he also supports in many ways. Isn't that not enough as a HK citizen? Your comment is so onerous and unfair and this is why people begin to split in spirit.

    And your English is pretty good too, you yourself can teach the protest leaders how to speak too, that's a good idea actually.

    NaNa Yu

    ReplyDelete
  19. Can we please stop these wild and unsupported conspiracy theories (and that applies to both sides). While I do not in anyway condone the behavior of thugs,instead of wildly blaming Beijing or the government for inciting them, how about using a bit of common sense? If the protestors insist on wading deep into triad territory and interfering with their (and the local residents and shopkeepers) living, what do you expect? Please stop blaming everyone else and learn to shoulder some responsibility. If you insist to walk into the tiger's lair, don't blame others when it bites back.

    ReplyDelete
  20. I remember I was so amazed by the concept of "one country two system " when I first heard about and I refused to take the words that it was just a politician's game, I was naively willing to believe that Chinese government did try to sell itself to the entire world through this power switching process.Regardless the outcome of current nasty situation in Hong Kong, I think the biggest damage the Chinese government is doing to itself could best be called 'confirmation bias confirmation'.That is to say, much of the rest of the world already had strong suspicions about the nature and intent of the Chinese government toward its neighbors, as well as the rest of the world. We are already biased in that manner, and tend to look for the confirmation. What we see going on in Hong Kong is proof beyond any reasonable doubt that those suspicions and that bias are entirely correct...... Or does Chinese government really care???

    ReplyDelete
  21. This article is truly pathetic. Walk into the tiger's lair then blame everyone when you get hurt. Anyone with half a brain should know you are playing with fire bringing the protest into Mongkok. Please stop throwing around wild and unsupported conspiracy theories and learn a bit of common sense. If this is typical of the people who educate our youths, I despair of our future. It wont be the CCP who destroy HK.

    Observer

    ReplyDelete
  22. Really interesting perspective, thanks for sharing! The HK protests have made their way to Hong Kong House in Sydney with messages of solidarity around the world from Norway, Taiwan, Vietnam and Italy. I'm really interested to see the results of Sunday's poll asking demonstrators whether the government's offer to submit a report to the central government's Hong Kong and Macau affairs office on the protests would have any practical purpose. Would love to hear your thoughts on this too :)

    http://likingisnthelping.wordpress.com/page/2/

    ReplyDelete
  23. Jason, I sense something very wrong, and you have to trust a female's instinct on some of these things. We are a lot more sensitive than others on many issues.

    Christine

    ReplyDelete