Hong Kong (and Beijing)

15 Nov
November 15, 2014

Sooner or later, every conversation here in Hong Kong turns to the Occupy movement.  During my five days here, I’ve quickly found that reactions to the movement are much more complicated than I imagined before I came.  The movement is a protest against a change in the process for selecting the leading official in Hong Kong that was touted by Beijing as enhancing democracy.   As I understand it, the 1200 person election committee, which consists of representatives from various Hong Kong constituencies will select two or three nominees.  Hong Kong’s citizens will then vote for their preferred candidate among the nominees.  Supporters of the movement have set up tents in three different parts of Hong Kong, blocking roads in the heart of the city.  Even within the church, views of the civil disobedience are sharply divided.  Some feel it that it is inappropriate to undercut secular authority, while others view the protests as a justified challenge, often by analogy to the Civil Rights movement and other civil disobedience campaigns.

Whatever one’s views of Occupy, it has become a major tourist attraction.  Yesterday, when I walked through the tents—and umbrellas, a symbol of the movement—of the main site in downtown Hong Kong, there were dozens of tourists taking pictures with their phones.  More on the movement in the coming days.

In a few hours, I fly to Beijing for the last three days of this trip.  Last week, Beijing’s skies were uncharacteristically clear and blue, as a result of restrictions put in place for President Obama’s visit.  (The blue skies are described as APEC Blue in the press– a reference to the meetings that brought Obama and other leaders to Beijing).  Apparently, the smog is now rolling back in, just in time for my arrival.