A September of sweat and tears in “Civil Square”

Tina Chow - Reporter, Ming Pao

[Oct 2012 - The Journalist] Scholarism, the protest group formed by secondary school students against national education, organised an "Occupy Central Government Offices" to promote their cause and turned the out-of-bounds CGO into a "Civil Square" where 120,000 people could stand, sit, sing and speak – and even to hold an inauguration of their academic year there.

Frankly, when Scholarism informed the media about the occupation, it reminded me and my fellow journalists that we had been asked by security people not to sit next to the plant when we visited GCO. So I never thought the students' occupation could succeed (I believe some reporters shared the same thought.). My surprise is hard to put in words when I saw students move their tents into the GCO grounds without any difficulty.

The occupation itself was out of all expectations too. During the 10 days 9 nights, reporters met with many surprises. The weather was so unstable in the initial stage of the occupation. A thunderstorm broke out during the first night. The next day I went to interview the three students who were on a hunger strike. When I got to the tent, someone touched it without realising it gathered the rainwater which now poured down on me (the students who stayed overnight laughed happily when they saw my discomfiture).

The noon heat of summer was also intolerable. The automatic door at the East Wing where the air conditioning leaked out became the favourite haunt of reporters. Later it became the press area, just next to the hunger strike area. So taking advantage of this we, too, occupied the area near the automatic door when there was a lull in the protest.

Reporters were on standby all time after CGO became "Civil Square". There were many visitors from different sections of the community every day. Unlike citizens who supported the movement, some visitors scolded the volunteers of Scholarism, some protested in outlandish clothings and some ran to the stage and snatched away the microphone. No matter what happened there, reporters would follow the sound and left immediately when they found out nothing really was happening. Reporters kept searching for interesting stories and people day after day.

As an education news journalist, the issue of national education and the occupation itself were meaningful to me: "Civil Square" put all of my friends, such as old and new friends, friends I had not seen for a long time, friends who meet up with me a lot or were seldom in contact, now we were together day and night. Some were hard to meet with in normal circumstances but here in the square we would nod out heads together and sometimes chatted. For those I did not meet in the square, I still could know if he or she had been there from facebook and sms.

After the occupation, the plants at the CGO became, once more, untouchable, and not to mention singing and giving speech, even attempting to stand on flagpole could lead to your arrest. But I believe, every single one of people who came to Civil Square will not forget the hot September of 2012, when 120,000 Hong Kongers who were so united and lover the values they shared.