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Public space


This is the commentary for the gallery for 30 September 2014 on Umbrella Diaries.

A sign that read “It’s NOT for sightseeing” greeted those entering the barricaded Admiralty protest site from Central MTR station. It confused me quite a bit, so I stood around taking more photographs, half hoping that someone would come by to stop me from acting like a tourist just so that I could ask what the sign was intended for.

Hadn’t the scaling of Civic Square earlier on the 28th been a spectacle? The occupation of Connaught Road Central and Harcourt Road had been nothing but spectacular. Had they wanted people to stop taking selfies just to prove that they had been there? Was it even possible to stop people from sightseeing in a place that had become a sight to behold?

Discussion online made it clear what this was all about: The protests were serious protests, not a gathering of ne’er-do-wells. The sign had just been a sign of things to come. On 9 October, some people set up ping pong tables and sat around to have hot pot on Nathan Road, within the barricaded Mongkok protest site.

Many people also gathered in the area where the hotpot had been set up. Some yelled for the crowd to disperse and prevented them from engaging in discussion. The main reasons they proposed were “military discipline” and “public imagine [sic],” arguing that this was a martial conflict with no place for fun or recreation. When asked who was the “general” demanding such discipline, they simply yelled for people to shut up and disperse… (Hotpot, Gods, and “Leftist Pricks”: Political Tensions in the Mong Kok Occupation)

In other words, the ping pong playing, hot pot eating participants had been made to stop because the Umbrella Movement was a serious movement and they had been having fun.

The idea that the protest sites were only for serious protestors and onlookers has remained with me since.



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