Jet lag in the summer of 'white terror'

August 26, 2019 12:04
Protesters take cover from tear gas during clashes with police in Tsuen Wan on Sunday. Photo: Reuters

I hate having jet lag. Once I had it, I couldn't sleep properly for nearly a month. But I hate even more what is happening in Hong Kong now because I and a lot of other people, I believe, are not getting a good night's rest over the past two months or so.

I haven't joined protests for more than a month now. That would have given me a better-than-average score in China's social credit system, and I would have been allowed to pass the border checkpoint with a respectful smile from customs officers if they stopped me to inspect my phone and social media accounts.

In fact, over the past few weeks, I stayed mostly at home where I don't have access to the internet and even the telly.

Peace and quiet, but not for long. I really can't escape what's happening in the city for on my phone I watched a live broadcast of yesterday's clashes in Tsuen Wan, where police fired live rounds in the air, pointed their guns at protesters and deployed water cannon trucks for the first time.

I had thought I could see such scenes only in the movies, and not in a city where I have lived for more than 40 years. What's worse is that we seem to be getting used to all this violence since the anti-extradition law movement began on June 9th.

By comparison, the Occupy protests five years ago were generally peaceful. At the time, Hong Kong was a model of sorts of how a peaceful civil disobedience movement should be conducted. Tear gas was a big deal back then.

Now, you can expect to catch it even if you're just riding on the MTR, walking on the street or even inside your own home if there's another cat-and-mouse encounter between police and protesters in your neighborhood. And it's now happening every weekend even on weekdays.

If the Occupy protests were inconvenient for commuters and pedestrians in the affected areas, triple that this summer. I was trapped a couple of times in Sha Tin, where I had to find an alternative route to get home after MTR Corp. decided to close seven stations in Kowloon East.

No wonder netizens now call MTRC "MTR Communist" because it seems to be yielding to pressure from Beijing to get tough in dealing with anti-government protests. 

The problem is, the MTR is a chief means of transport in the city, providing service to at least half of the city's daily commuters, and a vital link to the airport.

And talking about the airport, it's sad to see that our city's flag carrier, Cathay Pacific, has also bowed to pressure from Beijing by laying off "troublemakers" who support anti-government protests in the city.

Among those affected was a pilot of an incoming Cathay flight who, explaining the protest at the airport to his passengers, ended his intercom message with the words, "Hong Kong, add oil!" 

Another was Rebecca Sy On-na, chair of the Hong Kong Dragon Airlines Flight Attendants' Association, who was fired after she was questioned about posts she had made on her social media account about the protests.

And so we are having all these instances of "white terror" happening right before our very eyes, even before the enactment of Article 23.

How can one not have jetlag?

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EJ Insight writer