Jake's View
PUBLISHED : Sunday, 06 July, 2014, 3:47am
UPDATED : Sunday, 06 July, 2014, 3:47am

My seven hours on July 1 march was worth it for Hong Kong


Jake van der Kamp is a native of the Netherlands, a Canadian citizen, and a longtime Hong Kong resident. He started as a South China Morning Post business reporter in 1978, soon made a career change to investment analyst and returned to the newspaper in 1998 as a financial columnist.

I went on the democracy march on Tuesday, start to finish, from Holding Pen No. 1 in Victoria Park to the corner of Pedder Street and Des Voeux Road in Central, where one of the marshals said that was enough.

Was it worth it? Did I accomplish anything? The trainer at the gym would certainly say I did.

Seven hours of standing or shuffling slowly along a 7km route, carrying two litres of water in my backpack, no chance to sit down for a rest, soaking wet the whole time because I was caught out by a rain shower in Victoria Park - beat that for endurance training.

But, yes, I do think it was worthwhile. I do think the authorities pay attention to the numbers on the march and I do believe that democracy is essential to Hong Kong's continued prosperity.

I think it is essential to China's, too, but that's another matter. Hong Kong is my home. I have lived here for 35 years and it is for democracy in Hong Kong that I marched. I am a classic Liberal. I stand for free choice.

Several things struck me on the march. First, it was a Hong Kong crowd through and through.

I heard no Putonghua spoken around me - which is unusual these days on the route of that march - and I saw few other expatriates.

I thought I might encounter some glances or comments along the line of: "What are you doing here, gweilo?" There was none. Everyone around me welcomed me if they took any notice at all of the fact that I am Caucasian. Few took any notice. "Join us and you're one of us," was the attitude.

It was also a well-behaved crowd. Other commentators have made mention of how the police have become adept at handling crowds.

I would phrase it differently. The crowd was adept at handling the police. No offence was given. The most I heard were shouts of: "Open the way."

But not all participants were regarded equally.

Those who were thought to be advancing separate agendas did not have the full sympathy of other marchers.

Most notable in this regard was Falun Gong, beautifully turned out in uniform and with professional banners, all led by a sizeable brass band.

Already in Victoria Park there were one or two disparaging remarks from the organisers on the stand along the lines of: "Very pretty, Falun Gong. Now move along, will you."

I think the Falun Gong marchers knew they were treated somewhat as outsiders and I actually feel a little sorry for them. They put a great deal of effort into their show.

Others were also largely ignored, for instance Hong Kong Autonomy with its Union Jack banners. Strange choice, that. Do you people truly prefer being colonised?

The general attitude of the marchers seemed to be one of: "Okay, guys, you've annoyed Beijing. That was your objective. Mission accomplished. But we're here for democracy."

The banners for which I actually heard the loudest cheers from the marchers were simple placards held up by two women on a balcony along the route, bearing the words: "Go for it!"

But I particularly liked a fellow standing on a ladder by the tramway railing, shouting political messages into a loudhailer that had run out of battery or was otherwise malfunctioning.

Bless you. My ears were already aching from all the political cheerleading. An interlude at last.

And among my more memorable accomplishments was proceeding several times through a red light with 20 or more policemen watching, none of whom did a thing. What delight.

Oh, yes, July 1 was Canada Day, too.

Why was a former Vancouverite not quaffing a Labatt's Blue and talking up the BC Lions' chances this year?

Easy answer: he was anticipating the wishes of the Canadian consulate, which has declared itself "strongly supportive of democratic development in Hong Kong" and which has ticked off the Canadian Chamber of Commerce for "regrettably" not giving notice of signing an anti-Occupy advertisement.

If government does not rule with the consent of the governed, by what authority does it rule at all?


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