They outlasted just about everyone. Zuccotti Park protesters scattered on November 15, and London Occupiers near St. Paul’s Cathedral held out until February 28 before authorities evicted them. But as of Sunday, August 12, Occupy Hong Kong had survived for nearly 10 months and was one of the only movements still encamped, even if its presence in the bowels of Central’s HSBC building had tapered off from its early peak.
Then on Monday, the big bad bank won a court order to clear those still in the open atrium on the ground floor of its Asia headquarters. They have two weeks to leave, but had already vowed to stay regardless of today’s ruling. What’s left of them, at least.
There’s not much that will be said about the inhabitants of 1 Queen’s Road Central, just a stone’s throw away from The Far Far East’s Hong Kong bureau. Nothing too newsworthy. They didn’t clash with police, heckle or throw eggs at suit-wearing passersby, or even yell all that much. By the summer, a swell of 100-200 activists had dwindled down to about a dozen, give or take a handful of visiting backpackers and homeless residents eager to take a free shelter from Hong Kong’s oppressive heat, filthy air and the Abercrombie & Fitch bus (more on that soon). More people waited in line at HSBC’s ATMs on a weekday afternoon than squatted among the cluster of sofas and tents that fortified Occupy Hong Kong’s last stand.
But they made a lot of signs, and managed to stick around for almost a whole year while most camps elsewhere in the world had dispersed. And they must have done something right, because the mainland’s state-run China Daily called out the scene as “appalling” and urged HSBC to cease its “gentlemanly tolerance” of the occupiers, their megaphones and their signs.
Hong Kong has the most excessive convergence of wealth and power out of any of the cities to have drawn the ire of the 99%, which perhaps makes their longevity more impressive. The New York Times’ Neil Gough puts it well:
If ever there was a city where pure or considerably unfettered capitalism has approached its logical end, surely Hong Kong is it. The city is home to more billionaires than popularly elected legislators. It has more Cartier, Gucci, Hermès and Louis Vuitton boutiques than Hong Kong Island has hospitals or post offices. Buddhism and Taoism are the main religions here, but bank branches outnumber temples by more than two to one.
We’ll see how long the tents stay up before nudge comes to push, but another occupation fist-pumps onward in the meantime. This group poses a greater threat than the HSBC crew too, because they’re mobile. They showed up two weeks ago, from all over – London, Madrid, Paris, Singapore, Tokyo, even Düsseldorf – and they brought their loud music but forgot their shirts. More than a hundred of them. They dropped anchor at Kowloon’s W Hotel, hijacked a bus and have used it to taunt the good people of Hong Kong in the days since. They warned us, but the courts were too busy with Occupy Hong Kong to notice.
We’re talking about the boy army of Abercrombie & Fitch, which has terrorized the streets of Central in the days leading up to the opening of A&F’s flagship store in the iconic Pedder Building space formerly occupied by Shanghai Tang. Word on the pavement is that they’ll stick around for the first couple of weeks to help promote the new store, which means two more weeks of looking over our shoulders to make sure the bus isn’t trailing us. So far we’ve found it hard to avoid. They’re everywhere.