Noraebang 2014: An Insomniac in Occupy Central

Seoul looked pretty fun but from what I remember, you’re just getting started correct?

You know it. From Seoul, I was suppose to catch a HK Express flight to Hong Kong but the flight got canceled and I had to buy an emergency flight via Korean Air.

Nevertheless, I made it to Hong Kong to visit my long-time friend from university and spend ~half a night in the city before my next flight to Singapore.

Wow, you are on the go. How was Hong Kong?

Last time I was there, the British were still in power. Everything was taller and busier now. Definitely changed for the better since the last time I was there haha:

Hong Kong is skyscraper country! Did you get lost?

Of course! Thankfully, my phone had an offline map so I was able to somewhat navigate my way through. Thankfully, my friend works for HSBC and is located at the main HSBC building so all I had to ask was where the HSBC building was and got clear directions. Eventually, I did see my friend and he took me around the building.

He hasn’t been back in Canada in months and I was glad to see him and catch up on what he’s been up to. We chatted on the observation deck where they serve alcohol at the bar! Bankers sure know how to party:


So what’s life like in Hong Kong?

Compared to Canada, it’s completely different. Since moving from Calgary, he has been given more responsibilities, more opportunities, but it comes at a price. Everything is expensive there in HK: he rents because owning his own condo would make him broke; he doesn’t cook because mathematically, it’s cheaper to eat out than to buy your own supplies, and he can’t drive anymore because the transit system in Hong Kong is that good and owning a car is expensive. This trip was an eye-opener because even though Calgary is called a ‘city’, we’re a small town in comparison to others.

We Canadians really do have it lucky with the clean air, mountainous views all over, and experiencing a lifestyle that others envy. In fact, we do take our freedoms for granted while others strive to fight for it. When I was there, Occupy Central was still happening.

I heard about the news. What’s that about?

Well, the Occupy movement stems primarily from the British to Chinese handover under the “One Country, Two Systems” principle. Meaning that even though Hong Kong is part of China, they would have their own governmental system. Despite having the independence of voting your own leaders, the candidates have to be approved by the Chinese government, which has left a bad taste for the Hong Kong people, especially students.

Students started protesting and forming blockades around major roadways and districts in Hong Kong. With that, the opposed is hitting it where it hurts: through people’s pockets. By disrupting government buildings and main financial hubs, Hong Kong has experienced major disruptions on how to run the country. It’s costing them time and money.

A more detailed string of events is available here from the BBC.

My friend said that this magnitude of civil unrest has never happened in Hong Kong’s modern history and probably, will never happen again,

“Do you want to check it out and see?”

You didn’t.

Maybe it was the lack of sleep or the beer talking, but with my backpack in tow we set forth in Occupy Central. Frankly I was a bit worried going into a big protest site, especially as a foreigner, but this was a moment in history that you had to experience and I may never get another chance to do it, so why not?

What was it like? Was it crazy and hectic?

Well, when I first saw the barricades I was a bit hesitant:


But we hopped over the clutter, and started walking the ‘occupied’ streets of Central Hong Kong.

It felt weird walking on a major road without any worries of cars and buses. It was deserted, quiet and then I saw what was waiting for me at the other side:


There must be hundreds of people over there!

It was thousands to say the least! There I was, at the heart of the beast and I went this far so I soldiered on to see what would happen.

So what was it like being in the middle?

It was… Peaceful. It wasn’t crazy, hostile, or anything. I felt welcomed and these people just want what’s right for them. All they did was gather, chant to keep going and stick together for democracy. They handed out free mineral water and milk tea for supporting their cause. Since they’re students, they also had to study so they did. In the middle of the street:

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They also kept chanting, gaa jau, which apparently means ‘add oil’ in Cantonese.

Why would they chant that? How was the tension?

Oh when they were pumped up, they were pumped up. Apparently, ‘add oil’ is a Chinese way to keep going or ‘add effort’ to the plight. To keep going and never give up!

It was definitely an experience of a lifetime and I didn’t regret going,

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So what did you learn about the protests?

Well, there are two sides to every coin. While Hong Kong is fighting for their independence, China is dealing with a first-time dilemma which, depending on the outcome, can set a precedence that could catch on with the rest of China. Without dealing too much on the politics because I don’t know it first-hand, I just don’t understand why the resentment is just showing now? When the British were in power, they did the same thing and no one really disputed anything. If someone can explain this to me, I’d love to know more about it. All I can say is that here’s to hoping everything will be resolved as soon as possible.

Alas, I had to say goodbye to my buddy and head back to the airport and catch my flight to Singapore. I will return for longer next time!:



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