Hong Kong (1967 and 2014) / Whether The Occupied Street was a Blessing or a Curse
Comparing the 1967 riots and the umbrella movement in 2014, it seemed that the way of using the space were much wiser in the umbrella movement. As both were mainly using street as the space for protest, the umbrella movement has a conscious occupying gesture on the street, while the 1967 riots was rather an unconscious choice of street space.
Though the umbrella movement was consciously occupying the street, its consequence did not affect the street life much and even enriching and bringing more social life on the street. With the “street life” here it means the social and cultural implications took place on the street, brought by the traditional Chinese culture as mentioned in the other narrative. The area chosen by the people were more focused on the streets near commercial area in Wan Chai, Admiralty and Central with less street life due to the commercialize and privatization of street space(explained in the entry of “privatization of public space”). Even in the later period, the protest expanded the occupied space to the streets at Mong Kok and Causeway Bay which had higher proximity to the residential areas, the street life culture was still not be eliminated during the protest. The umbrella movement in fact has brought the street life back to urban and expanded its scale from pedestrians to the roads where vehicles ride. It enriched the streets with the most ever peaceful protest which was like daily social activities there. The occupation of the roads and infrastructure also implied the problem of domination of roads for vehicles introduced by the urban planning of Hong Kong during the colonial period. It claimed the street space back to the city during the protest. Even after the protest, the city was no longer the same in the eye of the Hong Kong people. The reprogramming of car space into space for street life has become collective memory. This marked the success of the occupying movement which was supported and loved by the people in the city.
Photograph of The Streets in Admiralty in the Umbrella Movement © 2014, Cozy Photo Hub
Photograph of The Streets in Mong Kok in the Umbrella Movement © 2014, Dayan
In the 1967 riots, the rather unconscious occupy of street has threatened the entire city. When the first bomb exploded in Tai Po, there were then thousands of fake and real bombs occupying the street. The police has to block the roads to examine the suspected bombs. The streets being blocked were empty but only with bombs and police, which were a great contrast compared to that in the umbrella movement where rich social life was found behind the barricades. After the 1967 riots has ended, “Fireworks were classified as “illicit objects” and sale and possession was banned.” ( Cheung K.W., 2009, p.92) One of the important social activities contributed to street life was banned since 1967. Social and cultural life on street was threaten during and after the riots.
Screenshot of “Hong Kong History Decode – fake and real bombs” © 2007, ATV Asia Television Limited
In conclusion, the success of usage of street in the umbrella movement was considered to be higher than that in the 1967 riots. The space of protest in the umbrella movement was blessed as it brought the street life to the city in a creative way on the infrastructure, while the space of 1967 protest was cursed by explosion bombs with little street life.
CHEUNG, K.W. (2009) Hong Kong’s Watershed: The 1967 Riots. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press.