In the evening of New Year’s Eve, tens of thousands of people came out to the water front for the count down. There wasn’t actually much to see. People seemed to just want to come out onto the street and be among people. They were looking for a reason to be happy. Roads were closed. It was liberating to be able to walk on the streets where you couldn’t normally walk.
In the afternoon on New Year’s Day, tens of thousands of people came out to the street to protest against the government. Some of the streets were closed. But the police had very specific ideas where they wanted you to walk, and when. The mood was certainly not festive. Many people were angry about the lies, the illegal structures, the lack of progress in open elections, the lack of support for retirement, the control from the mainland, and a wide range of other things. The people were visibly angry.
We were standing on a foot bridge overlooking the marchers in Wanchai. The police set up barricades in parallel to the side rails on both sides of the bridge, narrowing the bridge by almost half. They didn’t want us to stay to watch, claiming that we were blocking other people from crossing the bridge, while we were doing no such thing. A young man got upset and started calling the police dogs, and a policeman challenged him. I was afraid, for a moment, that there might be a confrontation. Some of the by-standers tried to calm the young man down. The policeman probably also realized that it would not do him good to have a confrontation, and backed down.
Somehow the barricade in front of us got moved against the side rails of the bridge, and we were able to get a better view of the marchers and better pictures. When the policeman discovered this, he got quite upset. He went between the barricade and the side rails and pushed us back. He used polite words but the tone was testy. When I asked him why there had to be barricades, he said they were for our protection. He said people at the back might pushed us against the rails, someone, or something might fall over the bridge, and in fact, it had happened before. We did not really believe him. But I didn’t want to antagonise him further, so I did not press it.
Hong Kong people have proved again and again that we can express our opinion, and disaffection with the government, in a civil manner. We are as ready for democracy as any other civilized society.