S'porean in HK: I have seen nothing like this

S'porean in HK: I have seen nothing like this
FIGHTING FOR FREEDOM: Protesters sitting with signs on their back as they block the main street to the financial Central district outside of the government headquarters building in Hong Kong.

SINGAPORE - Imagine a countdown party, but 10 times bigger.

That was how a Singaporean living in Hong Kong, who wanted to be known as Francis, described the Occupy Central protest in Hong Kong.

The movement, kick-started by activists on Sept 26 to call for free elections, swelled after weekend clashes with riot police, who used tear gas to disperse crowds.

In a phone interview with The New Paper on Wednesday, Francis, who has been working in financial services in Hong Kong for a year, said he unknowingly joined the protest while trying to figure out the way home.

Said the 26-year-old: "When you come down from the building, (the people) are all there. You don't know which roads are closed and which way to go home.

"My fear then was that if a fire broke out, I would be trapped there."

He received worried calls from friends and family and had to assure them that he was safe and that the protest was "peaceful", he added.

Because of the protest, messages and contingency plans were circulated among employees in companies in the affected areas over the weekend.

Working from home

A Singaporean in her 30s, whose office is next to the government headquarters in the Admiralty district, has been working from home since the protest.

The woman, who wanted to be known only as Mabel, has been keeping up with the protest through the news.

She said: "I saw the pepper spray and tear gas bomb attacks at the crowd on TV live as they happened. That scared me a little.

"The pepper spray happened right by my office."

Those like Miss Janelle Cheong, who saw the protest, were surprised by how organised it was.

The undergraduate in her 20s went to the protest area on Tuesday evening with a friend to "take a look and experience the atmosphere".

Calling the protest "lively", she said: "It was probably more organised than I had expected. They even had their own first-aid points and rubbish was nicely chucked aside in garbage bags by the side of the road."

Francis agreed.

"Coming from Singapore, I have seen nothing like this. There is a lot of pride and community spirit. What they are fighting for here is something they have very strong sentiments about," he said.

His only grouse is the disrupted public transport system.

He said: "I live quite near the office, but getting in was very painful. The usual buses no longer run due to the protest and the cabs don't know which roads to take.

"A cab right home usually costs about HK$40 (S$6.50), but it came up to HK$100 on Tuesday night."


This article was first published on October 2, 2014.
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