The Umbrella Movement may be losing steam, but the spirit that it has evoked continues to inspire many youth. The democracy activists have also won sympathy from some of their brethren from the mainland, with a few visitors even making the effort to spend time at the protest sites.
A 25-year-old male from northeast China who traveled overseas for the first time late last month camped out with the protesters in Admiralty for three nights in a borrowed tent, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reported Tuesday.
“I feel fortunate indeed to have come to Hong Kong,” the person was quoted as saying, adding that he now feels that he has not wasted the year 2014.
“In Hong Kong, I was surrounded by like-minds,” said the youth, who was identified by his nickname Zhang Yong.
The oppressive constitution in the mainland has made people in China defensive, unfriendly and afraid to freely express themselves, he said.
“I want to learn about Hong Kong, but not through official [Chinese] media,” he said, adding that “many Hong Kong people also want to know what their mainland counterparts think”.
He said he has had lengthy conversations with several protesters in the occupied zone, and gained vital insights.
Zhang says he recognizes that what Hong Kong youth are fighting for are universal values such as human rights, freedom and justice which should be protected by democracy and rule of law.
Another person from Tianjin who set up a Facebook page calling for mainlander support to the Hong Kong movement, “even if means climbing walls”, said the central government is fooling people in Hong Kong the same way it fools the mainlanders.
“First I am a human, then I am a Chinese,” said the 22-year-old, identified as Xiaoqiao. “But not many people in mainland China have such thoughts.”
The rulers have been seeking to raise us like animals, said Xiaoqiao, who has been actively fighting for gender equity in the mainland.
She urged more like-minded people to join the reforms fight and spread the idea of democracy through education.
Chinese scholar Xia Yeliang, a visiting fellow at the Cato Institute’s Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity, said people like Xiaoqiao and Zhang are in a minority in the mainland, given Beijing’s tight oversight on the internet and the mainland’s party-dominated education system.
Zhang and Xiaoqiao fear Hong Kong freedoms could come under stress due to censorship on information and as local authorities could try to follow the practices in mainland China.
Zhang told reporters that he had contemplated suicide at least four times after he learnt the truth about the June 4, 1989 incident at Tiananmen Square, and the story of human rights activist Liu Xiaobo. He said he got around the mainland’s internet firewall to surf overseas websites during his undergraduate years.
“I realized then that I had been brainwashed for 20-plus years, and that everything I knew until then was not the truth,” said Zhang, noting that he can now never trust a word of the Chinese Communist Party.
People in the mainland are so used to the hypocrisy under the party’s rule that seeks to control their values, minds, thoughts and even taste and gestures, he said.
That said, there is a difference between being anti-party and anti-China, Zhang said.
Xiaoqiao said her personal experience of being eliminated from a competition in Hong Kong because of some doubts about her political correctness has awakened her.
A senior Hong Kong official was one of the judges in the competition, and the way of doing things was “so China”, Xiaoqiao noted.
The experience made her think that it may be better to live in Shanghai than in Hong Kong.
“Many of my friends also prefer to develop their careers in Shanghai if Hong Kong’s competitiveness in terms of its freedoms diminishes,” said Xiaoqiao.
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