Class Antagonism and Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement

from ULTRA

NOTE: Thanks to all the friends in Hong Kong who provided first-hand information and photos for this article.

PART 1: The History

Global City
Itinerant shoppers pose for selfies as the skyline of the finance district across the bay bursts into a kaleidoscope of green and yellow lights. Below them, the waters of Victoria Harbor stir quietly, foreboding a typhoon. Despite the churning water, the nearby cruise ship hardly seems to move. It is docked to the pier at Tsim Sha Tsui, its gangplank descending into one of the most luxurious shopping malls in East Asia, a convenience allowing wealthy visitors from all across the world the ability to disembark from one climate-controlled environment to another without ever leaving the safety of AC and well-trained security. Once off the ship, they can spend money tax-free at the city’s most fashionable restaurants and retail outlets, eating Japanese BBQ and then gliding over polished floors to browse retro British outfits at a boutique marketing 20s-style colonial chic.

Outside on the dock, rain starts to splatter down on the selfie-takers’’outstretched iPhones. A young girl sings old Cantonese pop songs, even though everyone listens to K-pop now, accompanied by her boyfriend’s out-of-tune guitar. People drop a few serrated Hong Kong coins into their donation jar. The wind begins to pick up, washing away the Cantonese tones as it sweeps static across the microphone. Behind her, the cruise ship sits white and motionless.

This is the battle that is Hong Kong: Old Cantonese love songs hurled into the growing wind of a typhoon, torn apart before they reach the walls of lifeless cruise ships and shopping malls looming under the lights of the financial district. Here spectacle confronts stubborn humanity in the archetypal “global city,” designed to allow capital to filter through the port, banks and real estate markets, to plunder the Asian mainland without ever having to pass outside the safety of climate control and security cordon.

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