Carrie Gracie: 12 hours of Hong Kong protests

Protesters gather around the Golden Bauhinia Square before an official flag raising ceremony to commemorate the Chinese National Day in Hong Kong, on 1 October, 2014 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The largely peaceful protests continued on into Wednesday, the start of China's National Day celebrations

Twelve hours in the life of the BBC China Editor: National Day, the Hong Kong perspective.

02:00 Fall into bed after editing an overnight news film.

06:00 Up again. At least I had a bed and it was dry, unlike many of the "umbrella movement" facing a downpour on the streets. In fact, I almost trip over one of them stretched out on the tarmac with his umbrella across his chest when I arrive for the flag-raising ceremony at Wanchai.

Image copyright @BBCCARRIE

07:00 Queuing for security on the way into the ceremony. There are more police here than I've seen since the tear gas episodes of early Monday morning.

Quick photo of the BBC team. We've been joined at the hip since Sunday.

I now call producer Maria Byrne "Maria Poppins" as we are reporting the "umbrella movement" after all and Maria is indefatigably cheerful and has every single thing you could possibly need in her bag: water, rehydration tablets, tangerines, chocolate bars, safety pins, umbrellas, change for the subway…. spoonful of sugar…. actually I don't think there's anything she doesn't have in her bag.

If you don't believe me and you're in Hong Kong, flag her down on the street and ask her for something! BBC producers…. a special breed.

Image copyright @BBCCARRIE

08:00 Flag-raising under a lemony sun.

Backdrop - Hong Kong's exhilarating skyline of mountains and glass towers.

Foreground - two red flags flutter up the flagpoles while a police band playing the Chinese national anthem.

Embattled Hong Kong leader CY Leung and dignitaries stand to attention.

A mostly elderly crowd of onlookers dressed in red T-shirts and baseball caps wave plastic flags.

One of them tells me afterwards that the protestors "have ulterior motives and are marginal anyway".

Image copyright AP
Image caption Where will CY Leung's future lie once the protests are over?

09:00 Back outside the police cordon and the democracy protestors describe how they turned their backs as the flags were being raised to express their disgust at a Hong Kong leader they see as Beijing's man. One girl, with a steady gaze: "I am a Hong Kong citizen and Chinese as well. I do love my country. I belong to China but not the government."

Minutes later out march the elderly patriots straight into the tangle of young protesters, and things start getting emotional.

One old man shouts that his grandchildren can't go to school because their teachers have been on strike and another accuses the protestors of being immoral and lawless.

The latter remind each other to stay calm. Their organisers, insofar as there are any, seem anxious.

Image copyright @BBCCarrie

10:00 A quick subway ride back to Admiralty and the heart of the demonstration.

The main thoroughfare in front of government headquarters looks like a nomad encampment now, with gazebos, plastic sheeting and flags. They're calling it "democracy square".

I can't see the national flag of China anywhere.

It's only the fourth day of this occupation, but already there's a rhythm to the day … as I arrive volunteers are bagging up rubbish and sorting recycling before the big crowds they expect to arrive later.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Protest banners hung over many buildings in Hong Kong's Admiralty district
Image caption China Editor Carrie Gracie takes a break from covering the protests

11:00 Back to the hotel for breakfast and wifi.

I write up the morning's doings and check what's happening in all the places where I'm not… National Day ceremonies in Beijing, detentions in various Chinese cities of those expressing solidarity with Hong Kong's protests, statements of concern from around the world.

13:00 Maria Poppins says we are going to be up all night and must get some sleep.

I lie down but my mind is full. Full of what you ask? Well since you ask….

Image copyright AP
Image caption Will Beijing be buoyed by Hong Kong's message?

This is what I'm thinking:

Sixty-five years ago today, Chairman Mao told the world "the people of China have stood up". But these Hong Kong protestors are people of China too and Mao's successors are telling them to sit down and shut up.

The Communist Party has so clearly turned into a party of reaction not revolution. It is the establishment and it knows it and is afraid of people with convictions.

Mao also said "power comes from the barrel of a gun" and I think his successors would agree. On the mainland it still does. Sixty-five years and counting. They didn't come this far by backing down at the first squeak of protest.

But this is not a squeak, it's a mighty roar. How long can Beijing go on claiming these are extremists stirred up by hostile foreign forces?

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionCarrie Gracie later produced this piece reflecting the mood on National Day

Is the democracy movement now too big to fail?

Students, bankers, shop assistants, billionaires... I'm constantly amazed by the strength of conviction here and the depth of support from the general public.

I hope someone is telling Xi Jinping the truth about what he's up against.

How will this end?

Many say they won't back down until CY Leung resigns and Beijing retracts its election rules, but others feel they've already made their point by turning up. They've sent an unmistakable message to Beijing that Hong Kong is not just another Chinese city.

14:00 With all of this racing through my head, I am clearly not going to sleep, so I sit up and write the above.

Now time to set off again to witness history in the making….don't think I'll ever forget 1 October 2014 in Hong Kong.

Related Topics