Road from "Hong Kong Pigs" to frontline protesters

Road from "Hong Kong Pigs" to frontline protesters

Frontline Protesters

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From “Hong Kong Pigs” to building roadblocks and throwing bricks: For the generation born after 1980, the 70% income decrease is met without complaints 

*Hong Kong Pigs refers to those who only know how to eat, drink, and be merry

After announcing the new anti-mask law, the Hong Kong government’s first course of action was to send letters to primary and secondary schools, pushing schools to let students know that covering their faces may be illegal. Chief Executive Carrie Lam supplemented: the intention of this law is to protect minors.

This anti-extradition movement has given the world an impression that only “students” and “young people” participated, but this is far from reality. Average everyday workers are quietly involved and are currently suffering heavy economic losses as a result of this movement. For some of them, on the one hand they endure these losses while on the other hand, their dedication to this movement is as strong as ever. 

On October 4th. the day the government announced the “Prohibition on Face Covering Regulation” [officially in effect Oct. 5]. Like a tidal wave, office workers in the city’s financial district Central (中環) flooded out onto the roads during their lunch time. Wearing their suits, under the blazing sun, they objected to the decision.

Protest held by office workers in Central

In the evening, the time everyone gets off work, the roads in Central were packed again like rivers of people. Women in off-the-shoulder dresses and two-inch heels, men in dress shirts and trousers with leather shoes. Someone cut a few holes in an office courier envelope, using it to both cover their head and make a satire of the anti-mask law.

The office workers spoke frankly. They had not originally planned/prepared to protest that day, but upon hearing about the new anti-mask law, they were too furious. Usually they would wear comfortable clothes to take to the streets, but today there was no time to [go home and] change clothes. Moreover, they were not prepared with any protective equipment. The office workers passed by the government headquarters, usually a fierce battleground, and formed an indentation/avoided the area to prevent any conflicts. They continued to walk towards Causeway Bay.

Photos provided by writer

At another interview I met Eric and Andrew, both in their 30s, both wearing dress shirts and trouser. They had just finished work. They admitted they worked in one of the top commercial buildings in Hong Kong, an industry that was currently hit the hardest.

As the HK government announced the newest retail sales performance in October, the largest decline in its history was reported. Among them, the sale of jewellery and accessories, watches, and other luxury goods fell by almost 50%, becoming the area most affected.

Frontline Protester

Eric and Anthony work in this industry - luxury retail. During the good times, they had received a monthly bonus of up to 100K HKD around Lunar New Year. “Earning 40K-50K every month is normal, but in the past few months, it’s fallen to under 10K.” The goods they sell range from a few hundred thousand to over one million HKD.

The bizarre thing is, although their income plummeted, there was not much dissatisfaction in the way they spoke. They further confessed, most of their clients were from mainland China and could afford [their goods]: “Our clients said, too, that the atmosphere in HK society was so poor, just seeing it was depressing, which is why they didn’t feel like buying things.” When working in hospitality, they try not to discuss politics but do occasionally hear the complaints of the clients “accusing the protesters of receiving money, bringing chaos to the city. But, some of the rich mainland Chinese are clear-hearted [do realize the truth].”

Despite their income plummeting, the two men had no complaints. Anthony said, “for these couple decades, I’ve only been a Hong Kong Pig (港豬). I would just play videogames, read the newspaper and watch some entertainment. When on vacation I would watch movies; I didn’t care about our society at all.” Eric also said, even though he went to Mong Kok to see the Occupy Central movement, he didn’t feel much then.

Their income decreases by tens of thousands of HKD every month, which is not a small amount. These two honourable men in their prime, still living with their families, who have not yet started their own families, generously expressed that what they are going through isn’t much: “We’re not doing anything particularly great [heroic], we’re just extras [as in movies]. Compared to those who sacrificed themselves (using the term岳義士) so that the other demonstrators could escape, they are the true heroes!” The man they are spoke about, who wore a T-shirt with the brand “岳”, sacrificed himself [by blocking police who continuously beat him] in order to let other demonstrators escape. He was charged with hitting police with a stick and assaulting the police.

“We’re just earning a couple less chickens! (我們只是搵少幾雞嘢!)” In Cantonese, “chicken” refers to ten thousand dollars. They said, since their income has decreased, they’ll just give their parents less money.

Eric and Anthony admitted, they had been involved with the anti-extradition movement these couple months and could be considered the last row of the active demonstrators “勇武” [who engage in skirmishes with police, as opposed to the strictly peaceful protesters]. They would help block roads, dig up bricks, and admitted to having thrown a brick before. While guarding a Lennon Wall, they had also had a physical confrontation with someone with an opposing political view.

They further revealed, some younger colleagues in their office have more forceful attitudes than them. In the office, when there are no clients, everybody is united. Occasionally when there are no clients, they would leave the office for a short period of time to go out onto the streets. They would look out for each other then as well.

After returning to the office, seeing the luxury goods worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, all the clients living in Mid-Levels (半山, an affluent area) with net worth in the hundreds of millions: “Our view of money is that it isn’t that big of a deal. Rich people are still people, rich people have their issues too. Seeing wealthy parents giving their children (not-yet adults) presents worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, this kind of childhood is also its own kind of ‘distorted’ isn’t it.”

The two men revealed as well, this movement has showed them Hong Kongers’ human side [kindness]. One time during a protest in Wan Chai, they came across an elderly woman. They were both masked, and the granny couldn’t see clearly that they were strong, fully-grown adults. She stuffed a bag and gave it to them saying, “Help me hold this for now.” But the granny never returned, so they looked into the bag. They discovered that she had placed four or five fast-food restaurant meal vouchers in it.

On that rainy day, the granny used a beautiful deception to make sure they couldn’t refuse the meal vouchers. The two macho men could neither cry nor laugh, the granny had thought they were student demonstrators who had no money to eat [giving out meal vouchers had become a common practice to support the students, whose savings were dwindling]. Therefore, they went to find other protestors, some teenagers, and gave away the vouchers. 

I asked, how has this movement changed your life? The two men suddenly became serious. They said that during this time they earned a lot less money but gained self-worth. Eric said, “This period has been the most radiant in all my life. I’ve made an effort for Hong Kong. In the future I’ll be able to say [Cantonese meaning an obligation owed] to my children and grandchildren, ‘Your father, your grandfather, took part in shaping history.’” Anthony said, “These couple months have been a significant turning point in my life. I will never be a Hong Kong Pig again.”