One of my students turned in a paper earlier this week and provided the first photo above as an addition. It shows the area in Admiralty where the protesting students have set up a study area. It is here that people are catching up with their classes and writing up coursework.
For those who are not in Hong Kong, the protests have been remarkable not because of the political atmosphere, but because of the reclamation of the city and of public space.
The really radical thing about the last few weeks has been the co-operative ethos instilled and enacted by the students. In reclaiming a part of the city they have also introduced a new measure of civility in the city. People are enjoying walking around their city and actually talking and communicating with each other. Strangers are helping one another and working for collective goals. Despite being a `safe city, Hong Kong is so ordered by other forces (think of Sassen’s global business elite) that people have little say in the city. In recent years Hong Kong people have felt the city slip away from them. There is a real rich argument here from the closure of Queen’s Pier in Central in 2007 and its eventual demolition in 2008, to the reclamation of land for the Central Wanchai Bypass. With reference to the new road, a good chunk of Victoria Park has now been removed. There are too many other examples that also cut right into issues of public and social division. Little ownership of the city has resulted in a mass occupation and a renaissance of city decorum.
Democracy itself is an ambiguous goal. This however is a participatory democracy, an engaged public forum. Something that even democratic countries have trouble in pursuing, cultivating, or supporting. If people actually have a say in their lives, what remarkable things they can achieve.
These new spaces of civic engagement are also full of emotional ties. The fact that they will soon be gone is saddening to many, but there is such pride and joy that they have existed.
The other picture I include comes from a colleague who posted the photo and the comment on Facebook. I’ve kept her anonymous, but she posts a great point. It just goes to show what the city can really be like when people co-operate and share. This is after all ‘our’ city.
- Reblogged from everydayhybridity