Part II of II
As the thousands gathered in Tsim Sha Tsui for the most extravagant Lunar New Year festivities world wide, of which Hong Kong’s parade and firework display are famous, there was an immensely less celebratory gathering brewing in the streets of Mong Kok. The uncharacteristically violent protests, engaging many of Hong Kong’s politically conscious young, ended in a bloodied mess of impassioned locals and baton-wielding police unable to control the situation.
The plans to eradicate street vendors from the iconic Mong Kok streets were leaked and social media took its modern day vigilante role to organise what became dubbed as the Fish Ball Protests. Without spending time in the city it’s hard to see how culturally ingrained street food is. It is without doubt part of the history of Hong Kong, China even, a marker of cultural heritage.
Mong Kok: 街頭小販 (Street Hawkers)
But more importantly, it’s non-discriminatory, unlike the influx of gentrified restaurants and ‘food concepts’ that have flooded the alleyways of the Island. And therein lies another issue, a country stuck between wanting western style freedom but perhaps not everything that western brings.
Politically, it is an interesting time to be living in Hong Kong; there is insecurity for the future of the country. The one country two systems ideal is threatening the freedom that its citizens have enjoyed. A Pseudo-democracy essentially being threatened from both sides: A tightening grip from Beijing, and a louder calling for autonomy from the Localist movement.
There are conflicting views throughout the population, some claiming that the Localism argument is defunct because China is the only way forward – even if they get dragged kicking or screaming, others – especially the young political activists- are claiming their stake for Hong Kong’s identity and concerns for a China led future. Student involvement in politics, now termed Scholarism ( 學民思潮 ), has become a forerunner in political discussion since the Umbrella Protests in 2014. So much so that the growing support for the movement, and for student age campaign hopefuls is causing a stir.
So despite the slightly comical name, the Fish Ball Protests represent a lot more than a local delicacy -but the current fragility of Hong Kong’s social problems. This cluster of politically intertwining issues was described as coming to a head in the New Year Fish Ball Protests, witnessing the attitudes that are circulating in the city however, could suggest it’s only just started.
If you’re interested…
The Guardian Protest Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bm3DwLBlaOc