Yesterday was a day of real drama in Hong Kong with protesters trying to make a final impact on the WTO negotiations going on there and on world opinion. After apparently losing control of the situation when sections of the protesters, led by the Korean farmers, broke police lines and almost made it to the convention centre, the police cracked down pretty hard. They kettled the protesters and then, according to Guy Taylor, as the night went on they decided to let only non-Koreans out of the kettle so that they could arrest all the Korean protesters! Quite astonishing really and if there was any justice this would cause serious diplomatic problems between South Korea and China. As it happens the Vice Foreign Minister is heading out to HK to try to get the approximately 600 detained Korean protestors released, so they obviously are taking it fairly seriously.
From the jmscwto photo collection on flickr.
Anyway, there have been some very good eyewitness accounts of yesterday’s events. No to WTO has two reports, one from the daytime when protesters were on the offensive and one from the middle of the night when they were surrounded by police, waiting to be arrested.
There is also a long account of events by Guy Taylor of Globalise Resistance which really gives a sense of the atmosphere of solidarity among the protesters and also the weakness and unpreparedness of the Hong Kong police (nothing like Genoa where the Italian police had obviously prepared well in advance to detain and brutalise hundreds of people in concentration camp-like conditions):
A lull, and a rethink in tactics. Hong Kong policing seem svery amateurish compared with most other places, these cops aren’t trained or cut out for mass protests and confrontations. I think the UK police would have been pretty stunned by the Korean methods. Sitting in ranks a singing, they then got to their feet and rushed the lines, taking pepper and blows, only to return for more. But this being unproductive, they tied three crowd control barriers together and used them as part battering ram, part shield to charge the police lines. Incredibly the police withstood three of four such charges. Further down the line, there was a breakthrough, around 100 people (again, that’s my guess) burst through to huge cheers. They had got to the centre.
Other groups who’d taken different approaches joined with us and we got onto Gloucester Road - the major traffic artery of Hong Kong Island. We started another rally, sat down in the street and occupied the place, again within sight of the entrance to the WTO ministerial. Speakers from across the planet took the microphone. La Via Campesina and Jose Bove were received with tremendous applause. The police instructed people to move, apparently, but no police announcement was made - not once. Riot cops moved in on all sides, narrowing our space gradually but continuously. For a while the area of confinement was a few blocks square, and there was toilets and even a couple of functioning cheap restaurants which did a roaring trade. Food appeared in abundance in the sit-in itself and was shared between students workers and peasants (and even some of the media).
Washing pepper spray from the eyes (Samson So, jmsc)
Another interesting account in the comments boxes at Lenin’s Tomb from Benjamin in Hong Kong. He echoes what others have said about the positive interaction between protesters (particularly the Koreans) and the local population - this seems to be one of the most positive aspects of this particular round of anti-WTO protests:
The police couldn’t handle it. I was in a taxi for one and a half hours, the roads were packed and Wan Chai and surrounding areas were completely sealed off.
I wanted to get down there, but couldn’t get in. So I watched it at a friend’s, and all the press conferences.
There was such an atmosphere in Hong Kong last night, really buzzing.
Everyone knows the WTO is sham. Wherever the WTO goes, the shit’s going to hit the fan until we get serious changes. I was willing those guys on. They certainly made their present felt.
Guy Taylor is right about there being increasing local sympathy for the protesters. This is what I detected.
The Koreans have been wonderful. I saw them at Causeway Bay near Times Square on Friday evenining. This is a major shopping area in Hong Kong. The Koreans were using one street for singing and dancing, speeches. Their enthusiasm was infectious and the locals were responding positively.
The Koreans have been doing that all week to great effect, and its really great to see. So by Saturday night, there was a lot of understanding and goodwill from ordinary folk in Hong Kong.
The apparently ubiquitous clingfilm/saranwrap (Andrew Lih, jmsc).
LATEST NEWS FROM HONG KONG:
Ch’am Sesang is reporting that 172 Korean women protesters are expected to be released from jail in Hong Kong in the near future. Apparently the Hong Kong police are currently holding a total of 1103 protesters. Let’s hope they’re all out of custody as soon as possible.