HK protests draw mixed reactions from S'poreans

HK protests draw mixed reactions from S'poreans

Visiting the protest site in Admiralty where tens of thousands of Hong Kongers were gathered, Singaporean lawyer Khoo Li Lian, 40, lingered on a banner hanging from an overhead bridge.

It said "Ziji xianggang, ziji jiu", which roughly translates into "Hong Kong is ours, so we must save it ourselves".

Here was a difference between her adopted home of six years and her homeland, similar in most other aspects, she thought.

"I am not used to taking ownership of the future of my city in such an active way," she said.

The massive scale of the protests has drawn mixed reactions from Singaporeans living in Hong Kong, of whom there are an estimated 12,000 to 15,000.

Among Singaporeans The Straits Times spoke to, those in their 20s and 30s were generally admiring of the movement's spirit and verve, while those in their 50s and 60s tended to be taken aback by the chaos and disruption.

The former group says the protesters' largely peaceful and dignified manner has impressed them. Many have visited the protest sites and brought supplies for local friends in the movement.

Even former foreign minister George Yeo has taken a look-see. He posted a picture on Facebook of himself at the Admiralty site on Sunday, but declined comment for this story.

"I have always thought highly of Hong Kongers, but the protest really upped the ante," said Mr Goz Lee, a 34-year-old lawyer who has lived here for two years.

"I really didn't expect to see that level of devotion, dedication and passion in a cause. It was remarkable," he added.

He visited the Admiralty site last week in part to assure his friends and family outside of Hong Kong that it was "quite the opposite of violent riots".

Comparing it with the 2011 riots in London, which he also saw, he said "the difference is stark".

Other Singaporeans, especially those whose have lived here for over a decade, disapprove of the movement's disruptive methods.

Primary and secondary schools were closed for a week, and major thoroughfares in the Central, Admiralty and Mongkok areas have been sealed off for 12 days now.

"Occupying public places, creating havoc and obstructing traffic flows is illegal and wrong," said shipping firm managing director Tony Teo, 61, who has lived here for 25 years.

Said Ms Jennifer Tan, 55, who works at a Swiss multinational: "On the third or fourth day, they should have backed down because they have made their point."

Restaurants and shops in the affected areas are facing huge losses, she added. "It is not the rich people who are affected by what the students are doing, but the poor, like the restaurant workers.

Since it is democracy they want, they should ask the people being affected how they feel about this."

The protesters can be insouciant about the impact on Hong Kong's economy because of its advantage as part of China, said Ms Caroline Kwauk, 51, who runs an events management company.

"Singapore does not have the luxury of being backed up by a larger country," she said.

For Ms Khoo, who was moved by the spirit of self-determination she saw in Admiralty, that Singaporeans have not needed to take such political action is arguably "a luxury".

"But should that need ever arise, I hope to be able to stand alongside Singaporeans who feel about our home with the strength of conviction that Hong Kongers feel about theirs."

This article was first published on Oct 10, 2014.
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