With no end in sight and the world losing interest, the Hong Kong protesters need a new script



Over the last 100 days, the violence between the police and students has escalated in Hong Kong.
Jerome Favre/EPA

Amanda Tattersall, University of Sydney

Today is the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, and protesters in Hong Kong intend to upstage Beijing’s celebrations. They will build on the global solidarity protests from the past weekend, staged in 60 cities across the world, including in Australia.

On Sunday in Hong Kong, tens of thousands took to the streets even though no protest permits were granted by the police. Riot control weapons were deployed against the protesters and those near the protests were subject to random searches.

While it might look like these are the same kind of protests that have dominated global headlines for months, Hong Kong is changing. It is moving closer towards crisis. The local government’s previous strategy of “wait them out” is failing, and advised by mainland Chinese officials, the government is exploring legal tools – like the state of emergency provisions – as a response.

Over the past 100 days, the violence between police and students has escalated. Always an asymmetric war, students initially responded in self-defence – using umbrellas, helmets and masks to hold their position on the streets.

As the police’s weapons have become more excessive – tear gas fired in train stations, rubber bullets shot into faces, sponge grenades, water cannons – the students’ responses have become increasingly indignant. They have engaged in targeted actions like street fires, petrol bombs and vandalism to public infrastructure and government sites, like the city’s mass transit system.

Two weeks ago, police representatives argued that live ammunition was justified in response to Molotov cocktails. About the same time, the protesters collectively decided to fight back against police, and not just use self-defence.

It is spiralling. So, where does this end?




Read more:
Hong Kong is one of the most unequal cities in the world. So why aren’t the protesters angry at the rich and powerful?


Maintaining local support

The Hong Kong police have tried to turn off the tap of mass support to the young protesters, who are called the Braves. Initially they used images of property damage or acts of aggression on television and social media to try to sway public opinion against the younger members of the movement.

More recently, they’ve shut down the right to mass protest. The police have been increasingly denying permits to protest, limiting the space where people can protest, or revoking permission within hours of a march starting.

None of these tactics has worked. Most Hong Kongers continue to support the “five demands” and the protest movement, while disapproving of Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s handling of the situation. (Her approval rating now sits at just 24.9%).

Most older residents feel they have let the young generation down. They not only support the Braves, many are also part of growing support networks providing them with assistance. For example, drivers pick up stranded protesters around the city and volunteers set up makeshift underground hospitals for students afraid to use state-run services.

The perils of self-righteousness

But there is a problem. The rest of the world is turning away from the weekly battles. The thing that made the protests initially so captivating was their novelty and bravery. But what began as original is now predictable. And this brings danger.

The first danger is increasing violence. The need to hold the world’s attention brings the risk of spiralling into greater violence. There is also a dark recognition that if lethal violence was to occur during a protest – if a protester was shot by live ammunition, for instance, or a brick killed a police officer – it would utterly change the dynamics.




Read more:
New research shows vast majority of Hong Kong protesters support more radical tactics


The second, less obvious danger lies in self-righteousness. For most protest movements, there is an inherent tension between the ideals and commitment to the ambitious goals that brought people to the streets en masse and the capacity to negotiate with the powerful to achieve them.

This tension is a universal frustration. Protesters are loathe to be considered “sell outs,” but not making a deal risks not winning anything.

The social movement led by Martin Luther King Jr. in the US, for instance, didn’t achieve civil rights in a single boycott. Waves of different movements over decades, using varied protest tactics, and the art of compromise, brought change incrementally. Push, negotiate, make a deal – repeated as a pattern for victory.

Every night, Hong Kong protesters shout their motto, “Five demands, not one less”, referring to the five concessions they are demanding from the government.

The five demands include universal suffrage and an inquiry into the heavy-handed police response to protesters.
Jerome Favre/EPA

But this righteous ritual conceals a growing fear. Hong Kongers, including leaders I interviewed, worry that all they could win from this movement is the permanent withdrawal of the controversial extradition bill that sparked the unrest, which they’ve already achieved.

With the end of “one country, two systems” model in sight in 2047, the stakes are high. Locals are terrified they might not get closer to universal suffrage and that Beijing will continue to encroach on their political freedoms.

That said, this isn’t a simple battle – and winning a “deal” that doesn’t provide a pathway to democracy won’t be good enough. It’s all well and good for distant observers to casually comment that Hong Kongers need to do a deal, but the “five demands” are not an ambit. This was a “joint consensus.”




Read more:
Trust Me, I’m An Expert: Why the Hong Kong protesters feel they have nothing to lose


In contrast to the authoritarianism in China (not to mention elsewhere), Hong Kongers hope they can be a beacon for democracy and enlightenment. Taiwan, for one, is certainly seeing Hong Kong as a source of inspiration in their its battle against Beijing’s push for reunification.

The Braves see it as nothing short of a life or death battle for their identity, and unless they believe they are moving towards a more independent future, they plan to keep fighting.

Tens of thousands of people in Taiwan demonstrated in support of Hong Kongers on Sunday.
Ritchie B. Tongo/EPA

What Hong Kongers can learn from the French Revolution

So how do you push and negotiate in this context?

Perhaps history can provide some inspiration. In the battle to win democracy in the French Revolution, for example, two important strategies were prosecuted simultaneously.

In Paris, the protesters fought street battles and built barricades, but the leaders also built for themselves the kind of state they envisioned living in. They constructed their own National Assembly, which advanced the idea of universal male suffrage.

This idea of crafting what is known as a “pre-figurative form” might be useful for Hong Kong. Imagine if Hong Kongers, crippled with an undemocratic Legislative Council, created their own Legislative Assembly – a model for their goal of a parliament elected by everyone. The idea has been tried in Hong Kong before; the Occupy Trio who helped lead the Umbrella movement held a people’s referendum calling for universal suffrage in 2014.

The natural inertia of any movement means that a continuation of street battles is likely, which ultimately leads to an escalation of violence. However, if the protesters can channel their energy in a more lasting, organised way, they may be able to achieve even more than the “five demands”.

As well as singing their protest anthem, “Do you hear the people sing?”, the protesters should borrow more ideas from successful democracy movements of the past. This may provide new energy to surprise Beijing and sustain the momentum of frustrated Hong Kongers.


Author Amanda Tattersall hosts the ChangeMakers podcast series which explores the long history of Hong Kong and its protests. The first episode is available here:The Conversation

Amanda Tattersall, Postdoc in Urban Geography and Research Lead at Sydney Policy Lab. Host of ChangeMakers Podcast., University of Sydney

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

When Trump comes to Australia, let’s hope protesters get more creative than the baby blimp



File 20180801 136652 ut39wu.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Trump Baby flies over Parliament Square in July during President Trump’s visit to the UK.
Andy Rain/EPA

Felicity Fenner, UNSW

Trump Baby is President Donald Trump’s highest-profile troll. During his recent UK visit, the airborne infant protested alongside tens of thousands of marchers against current US policies. While Trump’s itinerary was carefully choreographed to avoid protesters, his nappy-clad inflatable caricature was embraced by crowds on the streets and watching from afar. Now there is speculation that the baby blimp will come to Australia for Trump’s expected visit here later this year.

Trump Baby critiques the president not from a political or moral standpoint, but at the level of ego. It is designed to embarrass and humiliate him. Baby’s makers believe such an insult has a better chance of hitting its target than political arguments, which Trump is seemingly impervious to. Indeed Trump complained that the balloon made him feel “unwelcome”. Bullseye!

Trump Baby quickly went viral, demonstrating that while art cannot necessarily change the world, it can harness to great effect the zeitgeist of cultural sentiment. Yet in these times of political uncertainty, creative people need to step up to the challenge of not simply mirroring the issues and concerns of the day, but of providing new ways of thinking about the world and its problems. This opportunity was largely missed with the Trump blimp.

While grotesque, giant inflatables have a place in social protest – the trade union movement has deployed them to great effect – there is an opportunity here to elevate creative responses beyond the well-trodden path of cheap shot street theatre.

The long history of visual protest

Picasso’s Guernica protested the violence arising from the Spanish civil war.
Artribune/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA

Social change and uprisings have been marked by image-led protests throughout history. Picasso’s Guernica (1937) was made in response to the suffering and violence inflicted by the Spanish civil war, and 80 years later remains a universal symbol of anti-war protest.

Artists responded with murals and multiple-edition prints to the 1968 uprisings in Europe, the beginning of the end of the Soviet empire in 1989, and as part of the global Occupy movement from 2011 onward. In the last two years, the preponderance of Trump protest art has almost become a genre of its own.




Read more:
May 1968: the posters that inspired a movement


Trump Baby was welcomed by London Mayor Sadiq Khan.
CrowdSpark

The process of staging any interventionist art project is fraught with obstacles. These range from prohibitive public safety regulations and sceptical bureaucrats to cost blowouts and unpredictable weather. Yet in Britain last month the protest gods (and indeed, Mayor Sadiq Khan) were on the side of Trump Baby, eagerly rolling out the red carpet in a spirit of geniality that was not extended by the public to Trump the man.

In the Don’s home country, the state has assumed a more cautious, sometimes censorial approach. Last year, a proposal for another balloon artwork opposing Trump was scuttled by Chicago authorities. The plan was to fly four, nine-metre wide, pig-shaped helium balloons from a section of the Chicago River that fronts Trump Tower. The bloated, golden swine would obscure the giant letters that spell out the proprietor’s name.

Designed to protest falsehoods in the current political environment, the project invoked a range of cultural references. The pigs referred variously to the four central pig characters of George Orwell’s Animal Farm, Trump’s controversial “Miss Piggy” comments about a former Miss Universe, and the garish gold interiors of the Trump penthouse. In a blow to the creators, Chicago authorities blamed the potential for river traffic congestion in ruling that, for now, the pigs can’t fly.




Read more:
Going for gold: Trump, Louis XIV and interior design


Don the Chicken makes an appearance at the Tax March in San Francisco in 2017.
Pax Ahimsa Gethen/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA

Trump Baby, like much Trump protest art, provides some much needed levity in the depressing news cycle of world politics. It was preceded in 2017 by Don the Chicken, an inflatable fowl that temporarily landed on the lawn behind the White House. Don’s grotesque features also mocked Trump’s inflated ego and narcissistic preoccupation with appearance.

The motivation behind these inflatables and other Trump protest art is mostly uniform and blatantly obvious. The UK designers of Baby Trump have stated on numerous occasions that the current US administration is not representative of the kind of politics that people in the UK believe in. The creators behind the Chicago proposal have similarly explained that they are not activists. Instead they are proud Americans creating visual commentary on the current political environment.

Speaking to the converted

The visual aspect of the commentary is key to the concept of Trump Baby, Don the Chicken and the (currently grounded) flying pigs. Historically, visual imagery in the public sphere was mainly found in places of worship. Renaissance scholar Leon Battista Alberti wrote in the 15th century that images were essential to help people understand the message being conveyed.

Inside the churches and cathedrals of Europe, artists’ murals, paintings and sculptures reinforced the word spoken from the pulpit. Like Baby Trump, in its day religious imagery was speaking to the converted. However unlike art of the Renaissance, the baby blimp eschews the possibility of subtle inference and nuanced interpretation in favour of delivering a bland message designed for mass appeal.

This is the crucial difference between art and caricature: Baby Trump is a towering gasbag that sucks up all the intellectual oxygen in the room.

A Michelin Man poster from 1898.
Wikimedia Commons

Religious art of the Renaissance was also commissioned as eye candy with an essentially didactic purpose. However, that imagery is imbued with a narrative-based layering that continues to command interest and acclaim from historians and tourists of all faiths 500 years later. The baby blimp, in contrast, is the brainchild of graphic designers who excel in creating witty one-liners.

This is not to say that serious art cannot play a role in protest movements. However, because inflatables have been commandeered by advertising since the 19th century birth of the Michelin Man, artist-led balloon projects need to disassociate themselves from the visual vocabulary of the marketing industry.

Australian artists have proven this is possible: in Brook Andrew’s Jumping Castle War Memorial created for the 2010 Biennale of Sydney and Patricia Piccinini’s Skywhale commissioned for the 2013 centenary of Canberra, each artist drew on their own unique repositories of image and form to present unexpected and engagingly complex juxtapositions of politics, history and fun.

Brook Andrew discusses his Jumping Castle War Memorial, displayed on the forecourt on Cockatoo Island during the 17th Biennale of Sydney. The Castle acted as a memorial for forgotten peoples who have been the victims of genocide internationally.

The crude rendering of Trump Baby, in contrast, reflects its simplistic concept: Trump is like a baby – immature, noisy and self-centred. In an image-driven 21st century threatened by divisive politics, this blimp exemplifies the brash and infantile folly that it purports to critique.

The ConversationIf Trump’s troll travels here later this year, it throws open a challenge for Australian artists to greet the man and his Baby with thoughtful, artistically sophisticated responses that provoke considered debate rather than superficially regurgitating popular opinion.

Felicity Fenner, Associate Professor at UNSW Art & Design, UNSW

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Islamic Mob Burns Down Church in Egypt


‘Kill all the Christians,’ local imam tells villagers.

CAIRO, March 8 (CDN) — A Muslim mob in a village south of Cairo last weekend attacked a church building and burned it down, almost killing the parish priest after an imam issued a call to “Kill all the Christians,”  according to local sources.

The attack started on Friday evening (March 4) in the village of Sool, located in the city of Helwan 35 kilometers (22 miles) from Cairo, and lasted through most of Saturday. A local imam, Sheik Ahmed Abu Al-Dahab, issued the call during Friday afternoon prayers, telling area Muslims to kill the Christians because they had “no right” to live in the village. The attack started several hours later.

The Rev. Hoshea Abd Al-Missieh, a parish priest who narrowly escaped death in the fire, said the clamor of the church being torn apart sounded like “hatred.”

“I was in the attack, but I can’t describe it,” he said. “The sound of the church being destroyed that I heard – I can’t describe it, how horrible it was.”

According to villagers, the mob broke into the Church of the Two Martyrs St. George and St. Mina, and as they chanted “Allahu Akbar [God is greater],” looted it, demolished the walls with sledgehammers and set a fire that burned itself out the next morning. Looters removed anything valuable, including several containers holding the remains of venerated Copts – most of whom were killed in other waves of persecution – then stomped and kicked the containers like soccer balls, witnesses said.

After the fire went out, the mob tore down what little remained of the church structure. The group of Muslims then held prayers at the site and began collecting money to build a mosque where the church building once stood, said the assistant bishop of Giza the Rev. Balamoun Youaqeem.

“They destroyed the church completely,” he said. “All that was left is a few columns and things like that. As a building, it’s all gone.”

During the fire, Al-Missieh was trapped in a house near the church building that was filling up with smoke. He faced a difficult dilemma – choke or burn to death in the house, or face an angry mob of thousands screaming for blood.

“When the smoke was too much, I told myself, ‘I am dying anyway,’ so I decided I would go out and whatever happened, happened,” Al-Missieh said.

When he went outside, a man with a rifle told the priest to follow him. At first Al-Missieh was reluctant, he said, but the man fired off two rounds from the rifle and told the crowd to step away.

“No one will touch this man, he is with me,” the priest remembered the man yelling at the mob. Al-Missieh was taken to a house where he met three other workers who were at the church when it was attacked. The men all relayed stories similar to the priest’s.

Friday’s attack was another in a long list of disproportionate responses in Egypt to a rumor of an affair between a Muslim and a Copt. Earlier this month, Sool villagers accused a Muslim woman in her 30s and a Coptic man in his 40s, both of them married, of being involved with each other. On Wednesday (March 2) a village council of Coptic and Muslim leaders convened and agreed that the man should leave the village in order to avoid sectarian violence.

The next day, the woman’s cousin killed the woman’s father in a fight about the honor of the family. The same day, the cousin died of wounds he sustained in the fight. By Friday, Al-Dahab, the local imam, had blamed the entire incident on Christians in the village and called on all Muslims in Sool to kill them.

Because of the attack, Copts in Sool fled to adjacent villages. The women who remained in the village are now being sexually assaulted, according to Youaqeem, who added that he is receiving phone calls from women in the village begging for help. Those reports have not yet been independently confirmed.

“Everybody tried to find a way to get out,” Youaqeem said.

Groups of Muslims have set up blockades around Sool, declaring they intend to turn it into an “Islamic village,” Youaqeem said.

On Sunday (March 6), roughly 2,000 people gathered outside the Radio and Television Building in Cairo to protest the attack and what Copts see as a long-standing government refusal to address or even acknowledge the persecution of Christians in Egypt. Protestors also accused the government of not sending enough troops to the village to control the situation. Holding up crosses and signs, the protestors shouted the name of Jesus and chanted, “We need our church.”

Soldiers armed with AK-47s with fixed-sheathed bayonets held the crowd back from the building as several priests took turns addressing the crowd. When the Giza parish priest, Bishop Anba Theodosius, said the army had pledged to rebuild the church but would not give a written guarantee of the promise, the crowd became enraged and pushed through the line of soldiers.

No one was injured in the push. More protests about the attack continued Tuesday in Cairo.

Youaqeem said the attack has devastated and enraged the Coptic community, but he sees hope.

“As they say – ‘All things work to the good of those who love the Lord,’” he said.

Report from Compass Direct News

RISING TIDE PROTEST IN NEWCASTLE: COAL INDUSTRY THE TARGET


Climate change activists under the ‘Rising Tide’ banner conducted what was called on the day the ‘People’s Protest’ in Newcastle yesterday. The protest was an attempt to shut down the Port of Newcastle in Australia, which is the largest exporter of coal in the world.

Despite the protesters claim that they had successfully blockaded the harbour, the authorities had previously arranged for there to be no shipping movements on the day in the interests of safety. The protesters used kayaks and various home-made ‘boats’ to form the blockade near Horseshoe Beach. About 500 people took part in the protest.

A police presence was very active during the protest to ensure safety and to prevent any form of crime.

Rising Tide is preaching a message of anti-coal and pro-renewable energy for our future.

NSW Greens MP Lee Rhiannon took part in the protest.

The protesters block the harbour entrance

The protesters block the harbour entrance

 

The police maintained an active presence

The police maintained an active presence

The police maintained an active presence

The police maintained an active presence