APRIL 29 — Tagged “Hong Kong 3.0 Edition”, the Bersih rally here was an exercise in contrasts.
I would not have dared to venture anywhere near Dataran Merdeka had I been home. But there I was with my four-month-old in her baby carrier in the heart of Causeway Bay, Hong Kong’s busy shopping district, an area I would usually avoid because of its thronging crowds.
Why did I decide to go? Because I needed to be a part of the movement that might see my Malaysia come to a turning point. I wanted to experience a civil protest, one where I would not have to fear for my life.
There must have been about 500 supporters gathered in front of the Sogo department store in Causeway Bay at 2pm. Banners and placards calling for clean and fair elections drew the attention of tourists who took the opportunity to have photos taken with the yellow-shirted supporters.
The atmosphere was friendly, like a neighbourhood party as the group of mostly young professionals exchanged hellos and took photos.
For some it was a family affair as families took to the streets with strollers and baby slings.
A mother of two boys aged eight and 10 decided to stop by en route to a tournament as her elder son had been following the Bersih updates from Kuala Lumpur. He had watched some of it on the telly last year and Wikipedia-ed for more information.
Shukri Omar, 56, and his family were in the city for a five-day holiday when they learned of the rally. Their 23-year-old son Ahmad Syauqi was tasked with mapping out the route to Sogo and procuring the Bersih 3.0 T-shirts which they all wore.
Shukri was happy to make it to the rally. “I am very proud to see so many young people here. It is a good sign. A good beginning,” said Shukri, who is from Shah Alam.
A group of 30 Malaysians residing in China made their way from Guangdong, Dongguan, Zhongshan and Shenzhen to show their support. “We might not be in Malaysia but our heart is still in Malaysia. We love Malaysia. We want our votes to count. We want a legitimate government,” said one supporter.
When the “NegaraKu” was sung, the crowd stood at attention and sang with pride. The national anthem was sung thrice, along with “Setia” and “Ubah”.
The true stars of the afternoon were the Hong Kong police who performed an excellent job keeping our group in order. Only five officers were seen at any one time but an officer I spoke to said about 50 policemen had been deployed.
Their main task was traffic control as we made our way on foot to the Malaysian Consulate in Wan Chai, which is a 15-minute journey. It seemed like they were protecting us from being run down more than anything else.
We marched to the consulate to the chants of “Bersih, bersih, bersih!” as well as “Stop Lynas! Save Kuantan! Save Malaysia!”
We managed to hand over a memorandum demanding free and fair elections to the vice consular general.
The turnout had exceeded expectations. The organising committee of today’s rally had expected 100 people when it applied for a police permit two weeks ago, said organising committee member Brendon Tam, 36. Last year, 80 people showed up.
We had the weather on our side. We had the police on our side. We had a strong show of solidarity. It was a good day for Malaysians in Hong Kong.
And in true Malaysian style, the rally ended with makan at the Cinta-J restaurant located behind the Consulate.
* The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.