CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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The indelible marks of Occupy Central

HONG KONG (SE): The 79-day sit-in, which was declared open by Benny Tai Yiu-ting after police tear gassed the throngs in the streets of Admiralty and Wan Chai on September 28 last year, occupied the main traffic arteries of Admiralty and Causeway Bay, causing disruption in the Central Business District.

Another group also occupied the intersection of Argyle Street and Nathan Road in Mong Kok, severely upsetting daily activities in the surrounding areas.

Although peaceful by nature, the thousands of mostly young people, who sat the streets in a demand for universal suffrage, were under constant strain and, when the sit-in ended with a whimper as the final resistance was cleared on December 15, rather than the bang with which it began, many were left somewhat disillusioned, depressed and with many unanswered questions.

Difficulty in sleeping was reported as a common ailment, anger, frustration and an inability to muster enthusiasm for the everyday drudgeries of life were part of the aftermath.

However, with the pain there eventually comes the gain and a video released by the Diocesan Audio-Visual Centre, My Lord, My City: Faith and hope under the umbrella, documents the spiritual growth of some of those who participated.

Places of prayer were quickly seen as a necessity by many who participated and shrines featuring the symbols of various religions were set up in Admiralty and Mong Kok.

The nearby Wan Chai parish church remained open 24-seven as a house of respite, where demonstrators could spend some time in prayer and refresh their spirits, while parishioners set up an around-the-clock roster to provide a listening ear to anyone in need.

Although those who participated have no way of returning to the past, the Audio-Visual Centre sought to discover the indelible marks that remain in their consciousness.

Lawrence An, a secondary school ethics and religion teacher, who took part the Occupy Movement as well as the student class boycott that preceded the sit-in, said at the two-month mark that he believed that it only represented the beginning of a long fight.

However, he pointed out that he believed that what was important was not so much that they had occupied the streets, but they had also occupied people’s hearts.

“Hong Kong people, including us Catholics, have been brought to a new scene or a new mode along the path of the fight for democracy, freedom and human rights, as well as issues related to people’s livelihoods,” An said.

For some, the battle began with getting there, as students particularly met opposition from concerned parents and family.

Clarence Lo Cheuk-fung said that from the time of the class boycott he faced opposition at home, as his parents thought it was dangerous.

“They also questioned me saying, what’s the point of protesting. No matter what, you will not be able to change the decision of the Chinese Central government,” he related.

He added that his mother literally physically tried to stop him from joining the gathering crowd on September 28, but in the end he went anyway.

But afterwards he invited her to come to the site and walk around with him. “I told her about the experience I had gone through there and gradually she changed her views,” he said.

A religious education primary teacher, Monica Cheung, joined the class boycott and visited the Occupy site every night. She said that although others poured cold water on them, she learned that we should not wait to find a sign of hope before we act, but we must stand up on our own two feet and look, so that we can see the hope.

Esther Tam, a pastoral worker in a Catholic school, spoke of the importance of standing side by side with the students. She said that she found the willingness of so many people to exert their own power to help determine the destiny of others inspiring.

“That’s why I came to this site every day,” she said.

Doris Law, a reporter for Cable TV, said that there were lots of mixed emotions to deal with. Working as a reporter demanded the professionalism of detachment, but as a born and bred Hong Kong person it was also a time of strong feelings sparking internal conflict.

“For more than 70 days I toiled in a state of internal conflict,” she said. “Lots of ups and downs, exciting moments versus angry times. Times of being a Doubting Thomas. Now I am weary in body and mind, but I can feel aspirations growing strong inside me.”


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