Occupy HK: Thoughts of a Filipino Third Culture Kid (Part 1)

***I have been meaning to post this earlier but I had so much (under contract) work with deadlines that I needed to publish first so I had to wait a couple of days. Hong Kong has a special place in my heart. I saw it as a safe haven that I could always escape to when things turn unbearable in Manila. It was really devastating to hear about the protests. I couldn't believe that a city so seemingly structured and stable would be the main setting of such an uprising that to me, knowing how headstrong China can be like, seemed a lost cause and one without an immediate obvious solution. I wanted to understand things better and I thought some of you would to. I enlisted the help of my cousin who resides in HK to write an article for me about what it's like to actually be in the middle of all the madness without the usual mainstream media whitewash....

Thank you Krissa, xoxo

So I was asked to share my thoughts on the Occupy HK (originally Occupy Central) movement happening in Hong Kong right now, primarily to shed some light on the situation from a local and insider's point of view.

A bit about me...

Before I can do that you're probably wondering what authority I have to voice my opinions. This is actually something I've had to ask myself also the last few days so let me try and explain where I come from first, and you can make up your own mind how much you want to take from that. First of all, my mother is Filipino. My step-dad who brought me up is Scottish. I was born in San Francisco but grew up in Manila until I was 11; Singapore for 2 years; Hong Kong for 7 years; London for 7 years; the Caribbean for 6 months and then recently back to Hong Kong last December. I've travelled to every continent but Antarctica, and visited well over 50 cities and 25 countries so far. I hold both American and Filipino citizenships, as well as Permanent Residency status in Hong Kong. Were it not for simple oversight and lack of forward-planning, I could have had my British nationality as well (but that's a different story!). In short, asking me where I'm from is one of the toughest questions to answer, but also one that makes me extremely proud. I like being a Global Citizen. I count myself lucky to have had such a diverse upbringing. And I have a tremendous amount of respect for each of the places I grew up in, and spent time travelling to. It's a big part of what makes me who I am today.

A different way of thinking about the world, and the people that govern it...

Having said that, what this global perspective also means is that feeling a sense of true belonging and affinity towards any one place, any one government and its politics, any one people is also rather impossible. When there are so many to choose from, they'd have to really earn it. Look up the nature of Third Culture Kids and you'll see what I mean. We're from everywhere, but belong nowhere. Politics (especially those related to visas and immigration, because we travel so much!) irritate us; geographical boundaries mean nothing to us (because we've come to realise those are all man-made to benefit the members who reside within that space); and tolerance of different cultures and ways of life is something we've become very good at (because we've been exposed to so many and have learned that the fundamental human similarities between people outweigh their differences). Ignorance, narrow-mindedness and prejudice are traits we really abhor, but at the same time try and counteract through the very many friendships we seek out and the cultural assimilation that comes through that naturally.

When I first heard about the situation in Central (Hong Kong's CBD and arguably: its heart), for a second I thought I must've been the most clueless person on earth. I have this thing where, for some reasons stated above, I purposefully limit my exposure to the news to at least once a week or once every two weeks. I don't mean I am completely switched off to the media (that's impossible these days, especially when I subscribe to all sorts of publications and news channels on Facebook so that Facebook to me is more like an educational newsfeed coupled with the usual and overwhelming amount of social chatter, to which I admit I contribute also). But what I mean by this is that I don't actively seek out current affairs because a lot of the time, "it's the same old story". Give me any conflict and I can assure you my response will be the same:

"Oh, so you're telling me another group of people is treating yet another group of people like shit because they're forgetting we're all human and failing to acknowledge that fundamental principle first and foremost? Right. Come back to me with something new. I'm going to go teach yoga now. At least that way I can try and help people from the ground up..."

A portrait of HK and where this protest came from...

Anyway, believe it or not but HK is not just the concrete jungle it's portrayed to be in movies. Much like the Philippines, it is actually comprised of clusters of islands, 263 to be exact, and some breathtaking landscapes that even my Dad admits is a lot like Scotland. So there I was: one minute I'm kayaking off the shores of Lantau Island where I live; water lapping up against my skin; the sun baking us from above; grateful for having the best of both worlds... both the city and the great outdoors right at my doorstep... and the next minute I'm all freshly showered at home getting bombarded with pings and tweets about a riot on Hong Kong Island.

“Thousands at Hong Kong protest as Occupy Central is launched”
"Police use pepper spray and tear gas on people"
"Support HK Student Boycott!"
"Violent protests in Hong Kong as tens of thousands flood the streets"

“Whaaaat?” When I saw some of the photos appearing on Facebook and TV, it was hard to believe everything seemed so peaceful that morning. I even remember thinking, "Gosh, I wish everyone had the chance to get out of town sometimes and get some of this perspective. Life would seem so much simpler, so much easier..."

Now, I had been to Mong Kok the day before, a district in Kowloon side, which is attached to the mainland and tends to be seen as the more "local" and "raw" Hong Kong. My Thai friend, married to a local Hong-Konger, was celebrating their daughter's sixth birthday. Most of the attendees were Chinese - family, colleagues, neighbours, I was told. But I also met some Thai and some Eurasian kids sat next to me. Standard. I remember on the way there and back there was the usual hustle and bustle of the market streets and people shouting and "protesting" about something. But they were all in Chinese words and Chinese characters and I didn't think much of it. There was always "something" to shout about in Hong Kong if you went to the right areas, but never more than say fifty people at a time. Hong Kong people are known for voicing their opinions and this really isn't out of place. I should have know really it was about the student rallies. Or I'm guessing at least it was that.

Student protestors gather in HK
Things getting out of control
Numbers are growing
Fight for democracy
Police throw tear gas at crowds

I tried to concentrate on work but my newsfeed running in the backround kept getting filled with an increasing and more frequent amount of photographs, shared posts from SCMP (South China Morning Post, the local newspaper), photos and status updates from my friends on the ground - lawyer friends, photographers, business folk, yogis, tv presenters, etc.

"Krissa, wanna go to the protests tonight? I'm trying to round up a few people."

It was past 11pm at night. This was a solicitor friend of mine, someone who usually didn't like to show much emotion.

What on earth is going on??


Krissa Curran is a HK Permanent Resident, Third Culture Kid/Global Citizen, Digital Marketing Consultant, Travel Entrepreneur and Yogi. She has called many places home but right now, she has never been more proud.