Our team landed in Hong Kong before the sun rose on Friday morning. I immediately set out to see for myself what the so called “Umbrella Revolution” was all about. After covering the student protests in my own country, Venezuela, and the recent demonstrations following the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., my attention naturally veered to the students protesting for democratic ideals in communist China. They were giving me and the whole world a lesson in civil disobedience. I was finally here.
Friday was an important day to determine the livelihood of the movement, because after a two-day holiday in Hong Kong, people needed to get back to work. I got off the plane with the nagging question: Would the protests die or get stronger?
It just took a quick walk from my hotel in the Kowloon City District to stumble upon the stark contrast that has slowly become the norm here. Around me, dozens of middle-aged adults were carrying briefcases and walking the sidewalks with purpose. They want the protests to stop and get back to their lives. But the freeway around them was empty. No cars at rush hour? Not today. Instead, the streets were lined with students, umbrellas and an endless supply of water. What’s more, they were in no hurry to leave.
The streets were blocked off by dozens of young people clumped together in tents. Others were just sleeping on the pavement in the middle of the freeway. A small group was recycling bottles and picking up garbage from the night before. These are the kids I flew more than 8,000 miles to see.
There were signs everywhere with messages such as: “Can you hear the people sing?” “Hong Kong stands strong;” and “Our parents are crying for us, we are crying for our future.” The last one made it clear that there is undoubtedly a generational context to all this. Hong Kong has a long history of democratic impulse, but its never been executed like this.
Every single protester around me was on their phone at one point. They were either tweeting, texting, facebooking or updating a massive google doc with the supplies they need for the night’s protest.
Government offices were closed, because the chief executive demonstrators are demanding step down decided not to go to work this morning. A dozen kids stood watch outside the building. But the government supporters weren’t just standing by; I saw them distributing boxes with water and supplies to the police officers trapped inside.
The streets might have been empty, but it looked like both sides were gearing up for a confrontation later in the day.
And guess what…it just started to rain.