Why are they calling the Umbrella Revolution (Occupy Central) a riot? + Pictures from the movement

The events of the past week in Hong Kong have made headlines worldwide. What started out as a class boycott by high school and a small sit-in at the government HQ quickly escalated into the full blown Occupy Central movement. The occupy movement itself has been under planning for up to 2 years and its purpose has been to call for direct elections in Hong Kong. Hong Kong was promised universal suffrage as part of the 1997 handover agreement to China, yet its implementation has been delayed up to now. Finally this August, the Standing Committee of the Twelfth National People’s Congress agreed on universal suffrage for Hong Kong in 2017 under the condition that it gets to screen out the candidates through an election committee nominated by them. That in effect would make it a faux-democracy.

Most people didn’t expect the Occupy movement to take off at all. Hong Kong’ers are a law abiding and hard working bunch after all. Perhaps, we can thank persistent use of force by the police for how quickly the movement escalated. What began as a small sit-in at the government HQ last Friday led by the student activist group Scholarism, a movement separate from Occupy Central, began to attract an increasing number of protesters of all age groups over the weekend as the police began deploying pepper spray and tear gas, tactics typically used in riots. Currently, the term Umbrella Revolution is the preferred term for the resulting movement, in reference to the use of umbrellas by the protesters to shield themselves from police pepper spray.

What I find amusing is how much the pro-China camp has been trying to paint this as a “violent” movement or riot funded by foreign governments. They have also pointed out how how police response to protests elsewhere including the US have been just as or even more virulent. But I need to point out that so far, no shops have been looted, no one has been assaulted, no Molotov cocktails thrown, nothing set on fire, even graffiti left by some protesters were swiftly removed by others. Instead what has characterized this movement are students helping keep the streets free of litter, recycling garbage, handing out donations of water/food/cooling pads, and just generally being civil. Probably the most “violence” there has been was when a small group of students decided to climb over the fence in front of the Government HQ building.

In fact most media outlets outside of China, including the BBC have been calling this out as one of most polite acts of civil disobedience in the world. Myself, knowing Hong Kong people and past pro-democracy protests, it’ll probably stay that way. In contrast, last month’s anti-occupy and pro-China rally by the ironically worded Alliance for Peace and Democracy was marred by egg throwing and assaults on those disagreeing with them.

Pro-China folks, here are examples of what real riots look like:

1967 Pro-Communist Red Guard Riots in Hong Kong

I agree when people start setting off bombs and murdering others, then it is probably a good time for the police to use force.

1992 LA Riots, Reaction to the police beating of Rodney King

2012 Anti-Japanese Riots in China

2014 World Cup eviction Riots in Rio de Janeiro

2000 Arson Attack at Immigration Tower HK by Shi Junlong

Who could forget him! The guy that set fire to the Immigration Tower, killed 2 people including an immigration officer. Yet he’s not a free man with Hong Kong residency! And he still has the audacity to call Hong Kong people dogs.

Now here are some photos from the past 4 days:

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Hakka Walled Villages Part 2 – Dashanxia Village, Huizhou

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Last week, I visited a few Hakka villages in Shenzhen’s Longgang District. Further up the highway heading east, you cross into western Huizhou. One walled village here is particularly notable, not only for its size but its significance in World War II. In the township of Zhenlong is the walled village of Dashanxia.

Following the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong on Christmas day of 1941, a group of 68 British and Chinese soldiers led by Admiral Chan Chek, embarked on an incredible mission to escape from Hong Kong. They initially fled by sea, landing in what is now the Dapeng peninsula in Shenzhen, before making a trek overland where they  penetrated Japanese encirclement to reach free Chinese territory in Waichow (Huizhou).  Dashaxia was where the party camped out on the night of the 28th.


Built in 1798 by the Yup family,  the village is 14,000 square meters in area and encompasses 9 alleys and built in the pattern of “9 halls, 18 wells”. Like other Hakka walled villages, the main entrance leads to the village temple.

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Unfortunately, apart from the walls and the main entrance/temple, the rest of the village appears to be weathering away quickly. There appear to be only a few residents still remaining there.

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The town of Zhenlong is not particularly easy to get to despite close proximity to Hong Kong. Transport options are limited to an express bus to Huizhou from Lo Wu Station and a slow backtrack to Zhenlong by local bus or taking a local bus from Shuanglong Metro station in Shenzhen.

Nikon DSLR problem: “Error. Press shutter release button again”

Last weekend, I encountered this error with my Nikon D5100. A glance at the manual recommends a trip to the shop to fix. In my case it was a simple case of a jammed mirror, preventing the shutter from moving while taking shots. If you have a Nikon camera and want to avoid a trip to the shop, you can try the following steps:

1. Remove the lens out


2. Turn the camera on and press the shutter button to see if there is a mirror jam. Normally, the mirror should move upward. If one side doesn’t move, then there’s a jam.


3. Using a skinny phillips screw driver or another think object, gently pry the mirror away from the jammed side.


Hakka Walled Villages in Shenzhen Part I


The Hakka are a large subgroup of Han Chinese living mainly in Guangdong and Fujian provinces. Originating from the northern provinces, the Hakka immigrated south over the past thousand years.  As outsiders among the native Cantonese or puntis, there was increasing conflicts between the two groups as the populations of both grew. In response to attacks from the puntis, the Hakkas began building enclosed villages that were easily defensible from the 17th century onward.

Today, thousands of walled villages continue to exist in the eastern half of Guangdong province and parts of Fujian.  The most famous of these are the multi-story cylindrical earth tulous near Xiamen where they are appear as Qing Dynasty versions of today’s podium buildings.

While much more modest in size, many walled villages can be seen closer to home in Hong Kong and even in Hong Kong itself. Kat Hing Wai and Tsang Tai Uk in the New Territories come to mind. Across the border, there are several of these walled villages just within the borders of the city of Shenzhen itself! Mostly scattered throughout the eastern park of Shenzhen, a lot of them are surprisingly accessible by metro. The following are located in the township of Kengzi (坑梓) in Longgang District.

Longwan (龙湾世居)

Located in Tai Shui Wan Village, this walled structure was built in 1781 by the Wong family. It is currently listed as a preservation site, but much of the inside appears decayed and abandoned and almost all the original villagers have moved out.

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Xinqiao (新乔世居)

This is supposed to be the oldest Hakka walled village in Shenzhen, built in 1753 also by the Wong family. At 8265 square meters, it is quite substantial and probably housed hundreds of clan members at once time. Unlike the previous and many others in this area, it is characterized by a semi-circular layout. The complex includes 4 watchtowers and 3 halls. Appears to be half inhabited and half abandoned. It was designated a preservation site in 2001.

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Longtian (龙田世居)

Built in 1837, it has a typical rectangular layout with four guard towers on each corner and a moat. This was one of the earlier walled villages to be preserved and has supposedly been turned into a museum, but it was closed when I visited.

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I’m quite amazed how despite the build first, talk later attitude of development in China, especially Shenzhen, that many of these walled villages have been left untouched with most original structures standing. Contrast this with Kat Hing Wai in Hong Kong, where a majority of the original houses have been replaced with 3 story pink tile boxes, courtesy of the Small House policy.

Abandoned village on Ma Wan Island

Ma Wan Island connects the two bridges that link Hong Kong Island with Lantau all the way to Chek Lap Kok Airport. Before the bridge was built, up to 3,000 people lived in the old village of Ma Wan. Its population began to decline after the 80s with the development of Ma Wan New Village, built originally to rehouse villages in the old village to new housing as part of a plan by Sun Hung Kai and the government to develop the area. Yet as of today, remnants of the town are still clearly intact, it’s obvious that the area was once filled with seafood restaurants, shrimp paste making factors, and a fishing industry, not too different from Tai O. In fact the existence of abandoned stilt houses makes it appear as a mini Tai O!



Abandoned stilt houses

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VIllage Houses

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Former Businesses

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Traditional Qing Dynasty village houses

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June 4 Commemoration at Victoria Park

Photojournalist Jeff Widener
Photojournalist Jeff Widener, the man responsible for the infamous “tank man” photo is in Hong Kong this week. Due to word of mouth, I was fortunate enough hear him speak at the University of Hong Kong Art Museum last night.


Victoria Park on June 4, 2014 Source: Reuters

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown. As with every year since 1989, a mass candlelight vigil has been held at Victoria Park to remember the students that were killed by armed forces. Despite growing censorship and overall control over Hong Kong by the central government, this is one event that continues relatively free of interference. But also for that reason, the number of attendees to the vigil have grown in recent years and this year up to 180,000 showed up at Victoria Park, beating even the number at the 1st anniversary of the crackdown! Part of the growth, ironically may lie on the increasing number of mainlanders attending. It heartens me that despite absolute censorship of the events on the mainland and the risks that it entails that so many, including the young have come to Hong Kong to remember.

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Abandoned ATV studios at Ho Chung, Sai Kung










On the way to Sai Kung is the village of Ho Chung. Before it was abandoned as a TV studio for ATV in 2007, this building was an abandoned factory. The premises are believed to be haunted as reported by a number of media outlets including Eastweek. In the last few years, it’s been taken up by graffiti artists until the gates into the building were closed and chained up!

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Photoblogging urban change in Hong Kong and southern China


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