10月6日聲明英文版: A Statement against the HSBC’s Privitization of Public Space and against the police which is only by the side of the rich

On The ‘Management’Of Space: A Story About Life In A City That Is Not Ours

~A Statement against the HSBC’s Privitization of Public Space and against the police which is only by the side of the rich

by the Organizing Committee of the 10th Hong Kong Social Movement Film Festival

To begin, allow us to introduce ourselves. We have been organizing the Hong Kong Social Movement Film Festival(HKSMFF), an annual series of screenings and seminars on the problems of capital globalization and the struggles of suppressed people, for ten years now. The purpose of this festival is not simply to show films, it is to open up a space in which different forms of thought, speech and relationship can take shape among and between the bodies and minds gathered in the audience.

Last night ( 6th of October 2012) was a historic night for the festival, as the movie we were screening, a film discussing the power that banks wield over our lives, was interrupted by a real life demonstration of that power. The separation between ‘real life’ and the images and the screen was closed with force. In the process, some of our equipment was permanently damaged, and, more importantly, a member of the audience had to make a trip to the hospital.


A Summary Of Events

At about 6pm, just as we were setting up our equipment on the sidewalk, a squadron of security guards (number at around 10 or so) marched up to us and demanded that we shift our equipment beyond the HSBC premises.  Another squadron of police (number at around 10 or so) just standby and watched. As we do not want to confront the grassroots, we requested that their superiors come down to give us an explanation for all of this. To this, the security guards gave us a well-rehearsed (non) response, by repeating that this is a space managed by the HSBC.

We paid no attention to their threats, spoken or unspoken, and started the film. Everything went well until- an hour into the movie- an army of security guards swarmed towards our screening equipments. Naturally, we rushed forth to protect our equipment and assert our right to be there. Their chief shouted some“warnings” on his loudspeaker but at the same time, the guards had already started seizing our equipment and pushing against us.  While we were trying  to protect our equipments, we tried to explain in both Chinese and English to Chinese and Nepalese security guards that it was not their responsibility to stop a public assembly and that they would have to pay for any injuries or equipment damage- theirs or ours.

We spent most of next twenty minutes being surrounded by security guards, as their superiors told a blatant lie to the press cameras, saying they had given us two clear warnings that had been ignored. Meanwhile, friends of ours were dragged across the ground for holding on to tables that HSBC were taking away.

Where were the police in all of this? Well, some of them were standing on the side, filming us as they always do. The entire time, the cameras were directed at us: clearly, the police are only interested in whatever ‘violence’ they catch us using, the violence of others doesn’t interest them at all. One of the audience was even shoved to the floor by one of the security guards’ superiors, who was desperate to escape members of the audience who were demanding an explanation for the use of force. The police did not arrest this superior for assualt. The police assigned to manage the situation did not jump into the fray until we managed to corner two high-ranking order-givers, whom they escorted back to their offices.

After all these, the public relation officer of the police were chating with the mainstream media reporters aside. We tried all we can to again explained to the security guards what happened, and fortunately the back up equipment was enough for us to finish the screening and discussion session.

When Life Breaks Into The Theater

The film that we had chosen to play last night, Money As Debt, is all about the ways in which the debt economy of today renders each of us into slaves, saddled with enormous amounts of debt (personal or national) that can never be paid off. It is also about the ways in which banks generate huge amounts of money from thin air, trading on the debt that they encourage us to take on and force us- at the price of a lifetime of slavery- to pay back. The film was about the mechanisms of power that keep this structure in place, the violence that is required to keep us in place. If all of this seems abstract, you would understand immediately if you were there last night. Just how law and police is standing by the corporations and the rich.

Say No the the Privitization of Public Space

As we wrote above, the HSBC basement falls under a very strange category. It is at one and the same time a public and a private space. That is, it is a public place that is privately managed. This privitization of public space has been growing in Hong Kong and we are against this idea.

A public space is a basic condition for civil society. Just as ordinary citizens do not have the resources to advertise in the mainstream media, we need this public space where information and messages can be desseminated. Protecting these public spaces is vital that citizens have chances to see alternative views.  Therefore, we think that giving HSBC this special right to have their own laws on a pavement besides their building is totally absurd.

Just How TVB News Creates “Reality”

For one thing, the fact that TVB News arrived shortly after we started the program was pretty odd. We didn’t send out any press statements. When asked, we made it very clear that this event is part of the 10th Hong Kong Social Movement Film Festival, and flyers were handed out to each journalist so that they had a clear idea of what was happening. When the events of last night made the news, however,  TVB announced that it was all orchestrated by Occupy Central, to re-occupy the HSBC basement! Is it a journalist to make up the identity of people and aim of activity as they wish?

The fact is when nothing happened and people were just sitting silently to watch movies, HSBC started up all the disputes. The reporters were there and they saw the whole process, yet TVB insinuated that we took the offensive in this mess, attacking security guards.

The news reported that HSBC closed the gates so that “nothing similar would happen again.”Yet, all the time we were on the pavement outside HSBC, it had nothing to do with the gates which only protected their covered area. The reporters were there and saw the whole thing.

The other well-orchestraed lie is about police participation. TVB news showed a police patting someone’s back and the narrator said that the police intervened to calm down people, then the following cut is about security guard reported being hurt and walked freely into the ambulance. Actually, the person the police tried to “calm down”was a scene when one of our audience being pushed on the ground by one HSBC superior, the police talked to him when he get up. Yet the police did not arrest that guy who assault people. And that this is the only one time the police try to “co-ordinate” anything in the whole night.

The other absurd report is about the power generator, HSBC claimed to the reporters that they were afraid that the power generator would be dangerous. The reporters were there the whole night, the HSBC superior never mentioned to the HKSMFF anything about the power generator; when they tried to evict us none of their security guards cared about the power generator; and after they had evicted us, again none of their staff cared about the power generator. This is so obviously a blatant lie yet the news reported it as if it was true!

How TVB made up another totally different stories with film editing technique is just too much. How can we depend on the mainstream media for any trace of truth if they only see what they want to see? Yet this is another  proof that we should really protect our public space for real liberty of citizens.

All Of This Hardly Scares Us

For ordinary citizens, the last redline of the freedom of speech depends on the availability and accessibility of public space, therefore,  we have always chosen to screen movies in public spaces because we want to demonstrate that these spaces can be transformed into meaningful public spaces.

If HSBC think that they can intimidate us with reckless and senseless displays of force, we would be pleased to show them, once more, that they are more wrong than they could possibly imagine.

We’ve been doing this for ten years, and we are not about to stop. Today we will be screening a film as planned in our leaflets. There will be two films tonight,  about the Kibbutzim experiment in Israel, and also the problem when an idealistic experiment was in fringe with the Palestinian right to live.  Consider this a formal invitation to you, dear readers, any of you interested in the film topic and any of you who want to join us as we stake our modest claim to this city, please join us at 7.30 this evening at the HSBC basement!

The organizing committee of the 10th HKSMFF

2012.10.7

(thanks for the help of translation by an audience of the 10th HKSMFF   Nin Chan )

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