Occupy Central Hong Kong

Occupy Central Hong Kong

This is just a personal insight in to the Occupy Central Hong Kong (OCHK) camp. Hopefully it gives a bit more of an idea of what is going on there.

I think the first thing I should say is that I don't have the greatest knowledge of what has been happening in Occupy around the world. I haven't kept up to date with all the goings on around the world but I have a rough idea of what some of the other Occupy camps have been like.

The next thing I want to say is that some of my insight in to what is going on at OCHK is blinkered because of language differences. Even though occupiers most speak English, Cantonese is the main language used at the camp.

Something that strikes you about OCHK straight away is that it's position could not of been chosen better. It is directly under the HSBC HQ building, which is basically used more or less as a public space and gets a lot of people passing through it. It gives the occupiers a roof over their heads but still keeping it in a very public place, which is also quite symbolic at the same time.

Most of the passers-by seem used to seeing the camp on their way to work or their way home. It has been there about 3 and a half months now and is showing no signs of being moved at the moment. HSBC seem content with it being there and I was told that they have even said something along the lines of them being “sympathetic to young idealists in Occupy”. This is obviously some PR to make HSBC look like a 'friendly' and 'caring' bank, which is obviously bollocks. That said there is constant private security monitoring of the camp, with them using video cameras to document the camp.

There are many people who drop by at the camp, curious to what is going on. They see the camp, surrounded by banners in Chinese and English and want to know more about the reason behind it. It's also used a lot by backpackers for a free place to stay, some more curious than others about the politics behind the camp. If you asked different occupiers what the camp is about, you would get different answers but there is a definite anti-capitalist message that unites them.

(I have encountered a conspiracy theorist type, but none of the occupiers seemed to know who he was and was just a visitor trying to spread his batshit insane ideas about manufactured kiwifruit or sumet and left a bunch of David Icke books behind.)

I think there does need to be a clearer message coming from the camp and I know there has been some work on doing this but has taken longer than it should of. The occupiers seem pretty aware of it, so hopefully this can develop soon.

One of the developments to come out of the camp is a Free School. The emphasis is more on practical subjects, which can be taught for use in everyday life or just as a leisure activity. Examples include yoga, English literature, guitar playing, hacking etc. This is still getting off the ground but has potential for the camp to interact with the surrounding community more if it is done in the right way.

It does seem that there are some lost opportunities to have more political discussion within the camp. The meetings from my experience have been dealing with practical things (obviously this is needed to keep the camp going). But on top of this there should be more space for theoretical discussions to happen for those within and outside of the camp. I have talked politics with members of the camp, but only really on an informal basis.

When talking to the occupiers about what the camp has achieved, a lot of it seems to be about the personal experience of the camp, showing them that alternative ways of living are possible. They are trying to live using a gift economy and decide what happens in the camp on a consensus basis. This is obviously not an easy thing to do and has caused some friction.

Overall my perception of the camp is positive, mainly because it has given me a way to network with other anarchists and Marxists. This would have been harder for me without the camp because it is hard to find much information about what is happening in HK apart from the CWI group and another socialist group called Left21. It has given an open invitation for people to drop by and talk about politics for those who want to as well as create curiosity in those who otherwise wouldn't 'be into politics'.

Hopefully it can develop and find more direction to help it be more effective.

Comments

Steven.
Feb 7 2012 20:46

Cheers for this account, I hadn't heard about this before!

MonsieurPlume
Feb 11 2012 17:15

Mr Chinaski, it's Messr Chan here. thanks for the write-up, comrade. I'll add a supplement of sorts tomorrow, maybe, but this is rather accurate as far as things go. I very much agree that we are lacking somewhat in political and theoretical discussions, but the fact of the matter is that each of the assemblies, however inconsequential the debates seem, are rich with theoretical significance.

Our problem is that we do not often take the time to reflect upon our experiences and put them down on paper in a transmissible form. Thankfully there are folks like you who come down and prompt us to think about what we have done. This has been incredibly helpful to us in a number of ways.

One of the things that foreign readers should probably note is that the 'anarchist scene' in Hong Kong is a tiny group of young men and women, and that a considerable cleavage separates us from the older generation (the famous '70s front, which Ken Knabb took to task many years ago). Thus, there is no real 'anarchist heritage' or legacy to be passed on, and anarchism here is more of an inclination, built upon disaffection with the scholastic, dogmatic Left and all other forms of formal political organization, rather than a conscious political identification. Lots of people in Occupy Central are folks who have shied away from the spectacle of the social movement scene and drifted into the space purely based on affinity and attraction. They have stayed ever since, and have shown an intense and visceral interest in anarchist and libertarian communist principles.

This in itself is promising, and shows us a way out of the impasse that social movements have reached over the last few years (the typical stuff, the scene has been turning out a whole slew of wannabe celebrities and aspiring lawmakers/managers of capital, po-faced militants and bureaucrats of all stripes). 8th Floor, which has been around for about 10 years, has been very visible in struggling for migrant rights and has put out a good amount of interesting literature, but it is becoming rather apparent that we have to work a lot harder in building a 'culture of resistance', open up more autonomous spaces (info shops in particular, which will distribute elementary literature with a libertarian communist orientation, etc.)
if anarchism is to appeal to disaffected folks across the city, many of which gravitate towards an ossified and highly academic brand of Leninism.

So, interested onlookers should take note of how demoralizing it is for us sometimes as we look on upon our brothers and sisters in Barcelona, in Greece, in Egypt, in Oakland, in Portland, Chicago, North Carolina. We can't move at the same rhythm, we don't have the same momentum. Sometimes it feels like a gulf divides ourselves and our comrades in the international Occupy movement. It is doubly dispiriting when you think about the fact that Hong Kong was built upon the backs of refugees from the 1949 Chinese Revolution and its mad adjunct, the Cultural Revolution. Left wing ideas are placed under a severe and violent taboo, and the battle is hard and steep. It has to be said, though, that the rural regions of Hong Kong are much more open to autonomous experimentation than the immiserated populace of the city.

Right now, as we face a renascence of rightist populism in Hong Kong, one that proscribes any sort of class analysis in the name of a hyper-reactionary liberalism that heroizes the colonial achievements of the British (the rule of law, freedom of speech etc.) and raises the specter of CCP terror, we're entangled in all sorts of questions about how this occupation relates to the broader social movement milieu, a scene that we have had a rather embattled relationship with of late.

But I'll say more about this later, maybe tomorrow.
Thanks again for the article, friend.

Un Monsieur Plume

Ernestine
Feb 11 2012 23:43

Sanon!

bulmer
Feb 12 2012 10:59

Thanks for the feedback. I like to keep things short and sweet generally, so to get a bit more in depth from the people involved is very helpful for those wanting more details.

NotVerySpecial
Jun 21 2012 00:40

Just spent some time at Occupy Hong Kong and I think it is sound!

plasmatelly
Jun 21 2012 17:50

Yeah!

NotVerySpecial
Aug 3 2012 23:55

What do you mean by "yeah"?