The Asian reporter. (Portland, Or.) 1991-current, October 20, 2014, Page Page 5, Image 5

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    October 20, 2014
Hong Kong protests see weird, wonderful scenes
respect to a mini shrine set up on the spot for the Chi-
nese folk hero and deity Guan Yu near barricades that
protesters set up to block off main roads in the Mong
Kok district of Hong Kong. The shrine was a clever re-
sponse after several nights of brawling and violent
clashes between protesters, police, and angry mobs.
Mong Kok is a haven for Hong Kong’s triads, or orga-
nized crime gangs, but neither mobsters nor police
would want to offend Guan Yu, a figure adopted by
both sides as their guardian deity. The Chinese words
read: “The power of loyalty and justice protect us”
(left) and “Righteousness abounds.” (AP Photo/
Vincent Yu)
By Sylvia Hui
The Associated Press
ONG KONG — It’s a protest for
political reform — so why are
people at the scene worshipping
deities, playing ping-pong, and singing
“Happy Birthday”?
As Hong Kong’s pro-democracy street
protests entered another week, the civil
disobedience movement gave rise to some
increasingly bizarre scenes, especially in
Mong Kok, a boisterous, seedy district
where a haphazard protest camp has
attracted a motley cast of characters. Here
are just a few of them:
Deities at barricades
At one of the barricades blocking off the
Mong Kok protest zone, a bemused crowd
is gathering around — not to support the
demonstrators, but to gawk at a mini
shrine set up for the Chinese folk hero and
deity Guan Yu.
The makeshift worship station acquired
a roof overnight, and is now complete with
fruit and incense offerings.
“If you don’t worship him, you may go to
the other end of the protest zone. Someone
has set up an altar to Jesus there,” a
demonstrator explained to an agitated
woman who was clearly unhappy about
the protests taking over her neighborhood.
The shrine was a clever response after
several nights of brawling and violent
clashes between protesters, police, and
angry mobs. Mong Kok is a haven for Hong
Kong’s triads, or organized crime gangs,
but neither mobsters nor police would
want to offend Guan Yu, a figure adopted
by both sides as their guardian deity.
“Someone dreamed this up, built it in a
short time, and now look — it’s evolved
into a temple,” said Terry Li, a 27-year-old
civil servant marvelling at the shrine. “I
know Hong Kong people are creative, but I
never expected it to be applied to protests
like this.”
The “Birthday Song” tactic
Who knew singing “Happy Birthday”
could be a defense tactic?
Faced with angry residents and local
shopkeepers who stop by every once in a
while to hurl insults at the camp, the
students sometimes break into song to
drown out their opponents. Their song of
choice: a ridiculously cheerful rendering of
“Happy Birthday,” which works remarka-
bly well at turning away troublemakers.
The story goes that when a protester
inadvertently played the tune on his phone
during one vicious shouting match, the
Japan volcano victims leave
photos of last moments
By Mari Yamaguchi
The Associated Press
OKYO — The victims include
hiking enthusiasts from a major
insurance company. Members of a
group of nature lovers studying wild
plants. A construction manager who
snapped about 100 photos — found on his
scratched and dented camera — to show
his wife what she was missing because she
had to work that day.
More than 50 people died when Mount
Ontake, a popular hiking destination in
central Japan, erupted without warning
on September 27 in the country’s deadliest
volcanic eruption since World War II.
Together, they paint a typical picture of
weekend recreational hikers in Japan. A
few children and senior citizens, but
mostly middle-aged working people
enjoying the first Saturday of the fall
foliage season.
Most were between 30 and 59 years old,
and lived within a few hours drive or train
ride from the mountain. Three were
children, and only five were 60 or older.
“The best season for the leaves just
started, the weather was beautiful, it was
the weekend, and it was lunchtime,” said
Masahito Ono, a Nagano prefecture
tourism official.
Hiking has become one of Japan’s most
popular outdoor activities. The core fans
are middle-aged climbers with some
experience, but there are a growing
number of beginners: health-conscious
senior citizens and fashionable women
who sport a casual “mountain girl” look.
The number of hikers in Nagano surged to
730,000 last year, a 30 percent increase
from five years ago.
With modest slopes and a ropeway that
takes visitors part way up, 10,062-foot
Mount Ontake is one of the easier climbs in
the region, recommended as a day trip for
beginners. Several hundred people are
believed to have been on the mountain
when it erupted at 11:52am.
Rescuers have found 51 bodies, and at
least a dozen other people are still missing.
Most of the bodies were found at the
summit, with others on a trail a short way
Hideomi Takahashi, 41, was among nine
climbers from a major Japanese insurance
company, Sompo Japan Nipponkoa
Holdings Inc. They worked at two
branches near Tokyo. Only three survived.
At Takahashi’s funeral, his family
showed a close friend an iPhone with at
least six photos from what would be the
last few minutes of his life: a cotton
candy-like cloud floating next to the
mountain in a clear blue sky, a sacred gate
to a mountaintop shrine, some of his
colleagues making their way up. The last
photo, apparently shot by a colleague,
shows Takahashi standing next to the
“Mount Ontake summit” sign, giving a
“When I saw the iPhone still worked, I
thought it’s like a miracle,” said the friend,
Hiroyuki, who asked that only his first
name be used after he was criticized online
for posting some of the photos on Twitter.
He has since taken the tweets down.
Takahashi seems happy in the final
photo, but he’s not quite smiling. “Maybe
he saw signs of the eruption,” Hiroyuki
said, adding he has trouble accepting that
his best friend died, leaving behind his
wife and two children.
Construction company employee Izumi
Noguchi, 59, was climbing alone, as his
usual hiking companion, his wife Hiromi,
had to work, she told Japanese broad-
caster NHK and other TV stations. His
compact camera was banged up, but the
memory chip inside was undamaged. She
printed all 100 shots. The last one is of an
enormous plume billowing from the crater
behind a mountaintop lodge.
Continued on page 7
crowd spontaneously decided to sing
along. That was enough to leave those who
had started the ruckus speechless.
The Ikea furniture man
Protesters have come out on the streets
night after night, sleeping on mats and
cardboard or setting up tents to make sure
authorities do not retake the streets over-
One man has decided to take it further,
bringing a wooden bed complete with
sheets and a neatly rolled up duvet. Next
to it are tiny Buddha figurines and a small
matching bookcase, adorned with a
Chinese paperback on economics and the
“Lord of the Rings” trilogy, among other
A protester told reporters he had bought
the furniture from Ikea to make the
protest zone homier.
‘Leftist’ ping-pong tables?
One of the strangest scenes in Mong Kok
was the appearance one night of ping-pong
and mahjong tables on the occupied
streets. Videos and photos showed people
entertaining themselves at the games,
while others laid out food for a hearty
outdoor hotpot dinner. Most of the evi-
dence vanished the next day — apparently
after protesters complained that the
frivolity showed the pro-democracy
movement in a bad light.
Police were quick to seize on the episode
to condemn the protesters, and a pro-
Beijing newspaper put the photos on its
front page. “Illegal occupiers are occupying
the roads as their living space and
playground,” said Kong Man-keung, a
police spokesman. “These acts are
seriously damaging interests of the
residents nearby, and are absolutely
unacceptable to the general public.”
Many in Mong Kok say they have no idea
who brought in the furniture, but pro-
testers suspect it was a smear campaign by
Numerous posters at the scene now
warn demonstrators to beware of “leftist”
— shorthand for Communist — tactics.
“I want true universal suffrage, not a
carnival,” one sign read.
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