Following the clearance of occupied roads at 3 protest sites in Hong Kong and Kowloon, hundreds of pro-democracy protesters adopt flash mob tactics over the holiday period.
Silent Night was hardly silent as hundreds of pro-democracy activists appeared on the streets of Mongkok on Christmas Eve to “go shopping”.
Following the clearance of the protest site in Mongkok in late November, the Chief Executive called on the people of Hong Kong to go shopping in the working class district to help out business owners that had suffered alleged financial setbacks because of the protests.
The shopping expeditions – which have attracted from a few dozen to several hundred pro-democracy activists each night – were a sarcastic response to the appeal.
Basically a crowd forms and begins to saunter slowly down the sidewalk. People sometimes bend down to pick up money or tie their shoes. They occasionally try to block intersections or surround buses. Sometimes they start chanting slogans.
A few members of the crowd hold yellow umbrellas – even when it’s not raining. Others wear yellow articles of clothing or carry yellow objects – such as yellow shopping bags.
It is often difficult to distinguish protesters from genuine shoppers and other pedestrians. Police officers tag along behind – ready to pounce should someone do something that would give them an excuse to act.
The crowd on Christmas Eve, which was estimated to number about 500 at 9 pm, grew to almost 1,000 by midnight.
Skirmishes broke out at about 1 am, when cordons that prevented pedestrians and pro-democracy protesters from crossing the street were set up by the police, who chased and wrestled to the ground people trying to rush the cordons.
Protesters were also assaulted with batons and pepper spray. Some arrestees claim they were roughed up in police vans on their ways to the police station.
A total of 10 males and 2 females were arrested on Christmas Eve, the youngest being 13 years old. A couple of injuries were reported.
The arrestees were charged with everything from criminal damage and disorderly conduct to failing to produce an ID and obstructing police, a statement issued by the government says.
A new tactic was tried on Christmas Day. Modelled after flash mobs, some singers and other cultural workers organized a sort of roving concert, making stops in 6 districts, including the locations of the 3 original occupied protest sites in Admiralty, Causeway Bay, and Mongkok.
Pro-democracy activists spent about an hour at each site singing Christmas carols, protest songs, and pop song before moving on the next stop by either the MTR or the Star Ferry.
Aboard transport vehicles, the demonstrators entertained – or annoyed – other passengers by singing songs and playing musical instruments.
The final stop for the roving concert was at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, where between 1,000 and 2,000 people – including many families – braved the rain to attend the concert.
The government issued an appeal to the people of Hong Kong not to cause a nuisance.
“Police will boost patrols in various districts to deter ‘mobile occupation’ outbreaks during the festive season,” says the government of Hong Kong in a warning issued on mobile occupations.
“Some protestors continue to gather and linger in Mong Kok, Tsim Sha Tsui and Causeway Bay, obstructing roads and hindering businesses.
“Some people are making online calls for assemblies or processions during the holiday period.
“Police appealed to people not to cause such a nuisance, saying they face charges of unauthorised assembly, disorderly conduct, and loitering.”
In a related development, police and about 300 pro-democracy activists engaged in a 5 hour confrontation in the streets of Mongkok, which began on the evening of Christmas Day and continued into the wee hours. Another 25 arrests were made, bringing the total of arrests to 37 for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
“The 26 men and 11 women, aged 13 and 76, were arrested after protesters kept gathering on Sai Yeung Choi Street South, Nathan Road and Tung Choi Street last night,” the government of Hong Kong says in a statement..
“They blocked roads and caused chaos and nuisance to nearby residents.
“Police made repeated announcements, displayed warning banners and recorded the protesters’ personal details but some of them still refused to comply with officers’ instructions, so action was taken to disperse the crowds and make arrests.
“Police condemned the protesters for disregarding safety and hurting public order. It said resolute enforcement action will be taken against ‘mobile occupations’.”
Former Chief Secretary Speaks Out
Anson Chan was the last Chief Secretary of Hong Kong under British rule. She was kept on as the first Chief Secretary of Hong Kong under Chinese rule.
An outspoken advocate of democracy, she believes that the Umbrella Movement has achieved ‘a great deal of goodwill among the community’.
“I have no doubt the Umbrella Movement will be seen as a watershed moment in Hong Kong’s political development,” Anson says in an interview published by The Daily Signal.
“This generation of young people used to be regarded as politically apathetic and only focused on themselves and their careers. This movement has demonstrated more clearly that they appreciate the values and strengths of Hong Kong.”
New Year’s Eve
Smaller protests have continued in the days following Christmas, with dozens of ‘shoppers’ continuing to stroll down the sidewalks of Mongkok after dark.
The next flashpoint is likely to be on New Year’s Eve, when large crowds tend to fill the streets of several parts of the city to celebrate the arrival of the New Year.
Causeway Bay, Lan Kwai Fong, SoHo, Tsim Sha Tsui, Wanchai, and – perhaps most importantly – Mongkok are among the most popular spots to celebrate.
It will be interesting to see how this year’s New Year’s Eve celebrations pan out.