Occupy Hong Kong

Occupy Hong Kong September 2014, images by Anna Bowkis Photography

29 Sep 2014 — By Anna Bowkis / Essential HK
Occupy Hong Kong September 2014

Snapshots of The Occupy Hong Kong Movement

I am a 40 something photographer and mum of two teen girls, living with my husband and two girls in Sai Kung since 2012.

Yesterday, like many of you I watched the events of Occupy Hong Kong unravel via social media and the BBC World News. I was appalled by the scenes of tear gas thrown into the crowds and pepper gas shot in the eyes of innocent young men and women. Although I now typically spend my days photographing children and families, I felt the need to pick up my camera and see for myself as these young students bravely stand peacefully for what they believe in.

This morning I had an appointment in Central and I watched with interest on social media other mums questioning the safety of traveling into Central. I decided to make the journey in with my husband who works in Kowloon. Traveling at 8.30am on the MTR from Kowloon Station was like any other morning. The usual rush hour traffic, people head down, starring at their mobile phones. I got off at Hong Kong and made the walk to Central Station and exited at Des Veoux Road.

It was quieter than normal, but the newspaper stands were opening up and going about their normal working day.

After my appointment, I decided to head down to Connaught Road and Admiralty with my camera.  As I started to walk towards Admiralty, roads had been shut off and pedestrians were being diverted. The further I walked the fewer people I came across and there continued to be more closed roads. It was like a ghost town, not like the usual traffic filled streets that we Hong Kongers are so used to. Those that were out and about were walking in roads normally reserved for our Hong Kong taxis, trams, buses and commuters.

It wasn’t long before I came across my first group of peaceful protestors. About 80 students camped out in the road, many of whom had been there all night. One woman told me she wouldn’t leave until someone took her place. “The public have been really supportive, bringing food and water to us. The Police have tried to block the roads to stop the public bringing supplies, but the HK people are very clever and they have dropped supplies down from the walkways,” she told me.

Most of the students wore masks and protective goggles to protect their eyes from the tear gas and pepper spray. Plastic raincoats and umbrellas were also in abundance at the scene.  Not long after I arrived there was a cheer from the crowds as a young lad with a trolley of supplies for the students arrived.

I met three girls age between 14-15 who had taken the day of school to show their support. Two of the girl’s parents were unaware of their actions.

Over at Admiralty the scene was very different and really bought a tear to my eye. There was no noise to greet what I saw. Thousands of mainly university students were already gathered in the roads. Pavements were lined with supplies of water, face cloths, food and temperature controlled forehead pads, makeshift first aid stations run by volunteers, and drop off food tents. The streets were lined with bin bags of rubbish and protestors flattening boxes and plastic bottles, sorting through the rubbish into recyclables.

Occupy Hong Kong September 2014

Concrete bollards held makeshift ladders as the public climbed up and over to take part in the protest.  Yellow ribbons tied on railings everywhere the eye could see representing Democracy for Hong Kong.

I made my way to the overhead walkway where journalists and camera crews were stationed. As I made my way round, riot police were chilled out on the floor and happy to smile for a picture – probably relieved to have some time where they were not needed on the ground.

Occupy Hong Kong September 2014

I came across a fleet of Police vans sprayed with blue “A” in what looked like a star. On one van a cardboard sign had been left by who I believe to be a policeman. It read “ Sorry I don’t know who did this, we are not Anarchists we want democracy”

Last nights events sadden me, as it was clear that this is a peaceful protest/demonstration/rally – its intentions are not violent. A huge percentage of the protestors are students and I imagine some are sons and daughters of the policeman that have been given orders to stop the demonstrations.  The huge support for each other is overwhelming.

I was slightly apprehensive at first to go down after reading the forums on social media, but I am so glad I did. There is nothing to be afraid off whatsoever. The weirdest thing for me is the silence, the void of the hustle and bustle that we all love and know so well about Hong Kong. It really is like a ghost town in places.

Let’s see what this evening brings, but I will definitely be going down again as from talking to many students today, this is far from over.

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