31 October 2014

Tense days in Hong Kong

HONG KONG INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT—It cannot have escaped any reader’s notice that Hong Kong has been volatile lately. My introduction to the “Umbrella Movement” was pictures of tear gas and riot police on BBC news reports. I instantly recognised Hong Kong’s administrative district, known as Central, thus the #OccupyCentral hashtag on Twitter.

Having been in Hong Kong for a week, I made sure I visited the site of the protesters, now relocated slightly to the district of Admiralty. It was a moving occasion. I was moved because I was here with my wife in 2003 when protesters first took to the streets—peacefully—and a million people marched through Admiralty and Central. I was impressed by the fact that the protesters made room for the bus we were on. We were traveling in the opposite direction, and they simply parted and let us through.

Protesters occupy Admiralty district of Hong Kong.
Umbrella Movement banner at the university.
Night view above Umbrella Movement protesters.
This time round, things have been brought to a standstill. Pictures that accompany this entry show some of the scenes I photographed. My government has been quiet about all this, except to express that Mainland China—to whom sovereignty was transferred in 1997—is showing restraint. Ironically, citizens of Hong Kong now have more democracy—albeit limited—then under British colonial rule. We did not allow them to vote at all.

Why we are here
As usual for this time of year, I have been teaching, together with Mark Hayter, PhD, RN, FAAN, my University of Hull colleague, at Hong Kong Polytechnic University (HKPU). It was a delight to be accompanied by Theofanis Fotis, PhD, senior lecturer, School of Health Sciences, from the University of Brighton. I first met Theo in Singapore (blog passim), and it was good fun to show him our version of Hong Kong.

Mark and I taught first-year students in HKPU’s Master of Nursing programme, dividing qualitative methods (Mark) and quantitative methods (me) between us. We also consulted with second-year students about their research projects.

I made a point of asking each group about the Umbrella Movement, and the reactions and responses were interesting. In typical Hong Kong fashion—modest, quiet, and unobtrusive, especially with “seniors”—they were reluctant to talk, but when I said I had visited the protesters, they opened up. Most had joined in at some point. Uncertain about the future, they were hopeful that nothing violent would take place. It is not my “fight,” but I am not hopeful. I cannot envisage China bending at all, and I worry, if it continues, how it will end.

Frequent flyers
Mark and I entertained Linda Sim, the head of Cathay Pacific’s frequent flyer Marco Polo Club—to dinner. We make this a regular feature of our visits to Hong Kong, to thank her and her team for excellent individualised service and to raise any concerns and questions we have. Frequent flying is serious business. We went to another of Hong Kong’s high-rise restaurants, Wooloomooloo Prime in Tsim Tsa Tsui. The view was stunning.

Buildings in Hong Kong are, for the most part, confusing to navigate—even after many years. Mark and I both had the experience of leaving our offices to attend a meeting, with a destination office number written on a slip of paper, only to realise after wandering about for a while that the meetings were being held in our own offices. If I told you Mark knocked on his own door, you would not believe me, but he did.

For Reflections on Nursing Leadership (RNL), published by the Honor Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau International. Comments are moderated. Those that promote products or services will not be posted.

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