“Divergent Views on the Hong Kong Protests” by Michael O’Sullivan


Divergent Views on the Hong Kong Protests

by Michael O’Sullivan

I
COLIN
The Protests Make for Good TV

The protests make for good TV
I’ve let my hair and Netflix go
There’s bombs and guns and tear gas rounds
Better than any other show

I protest surf, discredit content threads
Telegram, LIHKG, even check out TVB,
The violence, feeds, and content drops are thrilling
I feel alive, like I’ve found direction, where I wanna be

Join the campaign, send out feeds, liberate HK
Leave the streams only when the protesters break for a meal
What’s that smell, like acid or burning petrol
Looking out, the flames downstairs tell me this is real

II
KWOK-YING
Wishing for the Tanks

I’m wishing for the tanks to roll in
Cold, steel machines
Resolute, directed, active
So they will rid me of the pain
Of waiting and the mirror
Reflecting our collective weakness
That is our CE when she steps to the microphone.

I’m waiting for the boots to move in
Hard steel-capped boots
Black leather boots marching down
The concrete
To rid me of this waiting, this uncertainty
Where I post and comment
Loiter and lounge on MTR platforms,
Surfing comments, scanning telegrams
From nobody.

I’m yearning for the fires to rage,
Burning bright in the forests of the night,
Forests of traffic cones, hard hats, orange bins,
Burning right down to the blackened concrete
So it’s all burnt away,
The waiting and the expectation
That a voice will speak to give us an inch,
That will now never be enough.

III
LOK MAN 
Modern Protests

Michael O Sullivan_Modern Protests

Scores of us sitting idly
Staring at our phones
Shoulder to shoulder
Sitting out our protest
On the MTR
Disrupting traffic.

Updates flash on our progress
On our phones
We comment and forward
Further updates to the news feed
Being compiled by the RTHK reporter
Sitting beside me on my
Immovable carriage

I’m the guy on the platform
In black of course
It’s my ninth black t-shirt this month
Okay it’s off-black
I sit here alone, staring at my phone
But protesting

I sometimes wish I had someone
To share this protest high with
My summer of 68
And I don’t mean by posting
Or liking
I mean someone to talk to
About this protest.

The girls sitting down the platform
Are hot
They might see me as the isolated protester
Strong-willed, singled-minded, alone
Well, not alone really,
But independent
Working my own virtual protest stream.

Yes, I get it,
You think change can only come
If we work together
And we are working together
But all the chat is done online
Before we come together as a physical group.
When we are in the group
We work without words
Since we have already worked out what
To do by telegram.

I never thought I’d stare for hours at Gloucester Road
At home on my couch
As my form of protest
Checking to see how the barriers go up
And come down
And how the flashmob tactics
Relate to game theory
And guerrilla tactics in Palestine.

Michael O Sullivan_Modern Protests 2

IV
A PARENT 
Farewell My City

For years I held you in my arms
My little one
In the sultry Hong Kong summers
Do you remember the carefree days of the 80s?
When an umbrella was a status symbol
And black was worn at funerals
When tears fell only when we were sad
And the waters of the harbour were a dream crossing?

Those days are gone now like the rain
And the mists that rise up the mountains
After a thunderstorm
Never to return,
It’s the never that catches in my throat like the tear gas;
Three months now I’ve haunted the streets in black
My face never sees the light of day behind the goggles,
Face mask, gas mask and bandana,
I glide from meal to meal like a spectre living on the food of anger
The water of sorrow,
Unable to find Bruce Lee’s ecstasy in being water.

I felt this city I love like no other—
Where my parents raised me in the cramped spaces
Of Mong Kok and Tin Shui Wai,
Where I ran to school on Hennessy Road,
Grabbing a bun on the way,
And felt the wind in my face like hope itself—
Was breathing on me,
It’s final breath,
But wait—
We’re a rock and the end of a promontory
But our mountains rise higher than in any coast
And our streets run longer than in any city.

(Photographs supplied by Michael O’Sullivan.)

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Michael O Sullivan.png

Originally from Ireland, Michael O’Sullivan is a Hong Kong-based academic, teacher and writer. He is also an editor of Hong Kong Studies, the first peer-reviewd academic journal devoted entirely to Hong Kong. Michael has published 10 books, one of the more recent one being Academic Barbarism, Universities and Inequality.  His new works are mainly written in an academic style on philosophy, literary studies and education studies. He has also published poems in Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, Desde Hong Kong: Poets in Conversation with Octavio Paz, Voice & Verse Poetry Magazine 聲韻詩刊, Quixotica: Poets East of La Mancha, Asian Signature and a personal essay in Hong Kong 20/20: Reflections on a Borrowed Place (Blacksmith Books, 2017). His new work tries to combine creative writing and archival research in looking at collective memory.

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