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Report from the WTO Demonstrations in Hong Kong

The Sixth WTO Ministerial Conference was held in Hong Kong, 13-18 December 2005. Thousands of anti-globalization campaigners, especially South Korean farmers who has been opposing the opening of their rice market by an agreement South Korean government made with WTO, had protested across central Hong Kong, carrying huge banners, chanting, banging drums, and fighting with policemen of Hong Kong.

Most of the bloggers in Hong Kong who joined the demonstration against WTO personally were supporting the South Korean farmers’ appeals from the bottom of heart, which is similar to the demonstration for universal suffrage on Dec.4. HK bloggers played the role of not only civic reporters, but the practitioners of grass root power.

Majority of bloggers in the inmediahk (ZH) are strongly against WTO, and support South Korean farmers staunchly. They reported the daily demonstration using their first hand source. When the riot took place on Dec. 17, some of them were shot by water cannon, and nearly suffocated by tear gas and pepper spray. They condemned what HK police did against protesters, and described it was the shame of HK. Interestingly, if there was one person who expressed the different view with them, they besieged and censured him.

The Journalism and Media Studies Centre at the University of Hong Kong joined by HK’s reputable English newspaper, The Standard and the well-known EastSouthWestNorth blogger, Roland Soong established a dedicated blog style website for this WTO ministerial meeting named Curbside @ WTO .Curbside reported the daily meeting formally, and post personal feelings in the item of web log by its tens of master students in the journalism school. One of them, Jonathan Lee thinks Hong Kong Police's motto of “We serve with pride and care” is being exercised to the fullest, and he also believed that the unsung heroes of Hong Kong during the demonstrations are those street cleaners in HK.

The eloquent HK blogger, Glutter also joined the demonstration against WTO, and talked a lot about her observations and feelings in her rants during the meeting. She expressed deep disappointment to the protest in the WTO Diary: Genuine Concerns Turns First World Violent Entertainment. She said,

“the reason I left was I felt really disappointed by a lot of Hong Kong people who turned up were just standing around blocking the protesters and the police… The reason that really made me totally embarrassed and made me want to leave the whole thing was reading the “Declarations” of the Hong Kong hunger strikers. It was total bullshit, what they were demanding they wanted the negotiation on agriculture and fisheries removed from the WTO table meaning everything remains status quo and it doesn't help the cause at all”.

In her another post named Globalize Trade, Globalized Violence, Violence of poverty, and Having the Strength of Convictions to Deal with Consequences, she said,

“the police has my respect for being completely restraint. I have never seen such a lack of forward attack happen between police and protesters considering how violent it was. The South Korean farmers have my respect for having the strength of conviction with following up with what their threats were and dealing with the consequences with honor and respect. They put their bodies and lives at risk, they willingly put themselves out there because they feel they are being hurt by globalization and danced for hours and chanted for hours while surrounded by police in defiance and belief.”

Finally, she said, “all I can say is no matter what, how I feel is a complete failure of the Anti-WTO movement in being unable to express themselves in any logical way”.

Yahoo Hong Kong conducted a survey which 9594 people participate in as of Dec. 19. Responding to the question that if you agree with what anti-WTO protesters did, tremendously 68% of participants recognize, only 26% of them don’t. And yet 65% of the respondents think the action that HK police’s took against protesters are proper, even 14% of them consider it too tolerant. This is the public opinion of HK people. They love freedom and fairness, as well as rule of law.

50 comments

  • Charles Feng

    Wow, so many new comments. I have to respond to the criticism directed at me.
    Curbside is our classmates’ great project. Their professional spirit deserves anybody’s respect. Moreover, due to that, we can see there are diverse viewpoints from different angles. I did read all the articles Roland Soong posted at curbside before I wrote the report. And, I also admit that I didn’t want to cite the details on purpose, because their motifs are same, namely, anti-WTO. Therefore, I just summarized them. However, I should say I am absolutely neutral to WTO. The reason why I talked more about Glutter’s sayings is because I think she is an exemplar of rational, thoughtful, and objective civic reporter.
    In addition, Roland Soong seemed to be angry with that I called this incident a “riot”. Ok, that’s my judgment as an observer like you. You can say it’s not, why can’t I say it is? Is it ridiculous or not? My friend, Sam, also called it “riot” in his post named Wan Chai Riot at Curbside. Ok, in a word, we are civic reporters in a democratic society. Everybody can say anything rational and harmless based on their own judgments.

    The followings are the Roland Soong’s posts related to this WTO meeting. Is it prejudicial that a viewpoint is different from his? Our readers can judge who is biased.

    Simple and Naïve (the name used in his personal website)
    The Frustrations of a WTO Blogger
    My Mother Is A Terrorist (the name used in his personal website)
    The Television Reporter’s Helmet
    A Teacher’s Blog on WTO

  • Bob Faustus

    Jane Kelsey’s article is written, obviously, by someone who can’t even focus enough to write about one thing in her damn article. She swerves through several topics, another sign of the Kootnikoff Malady. Just write wildly about an ideological tiff and get attention.

    The report in The Standard hardly smacks of fear. And if the reactions by the locals in thefirst four days of the WTO are anything to go by, taking pictures with camera phones and joining in on the march are not the signs of fearful people.

    Besides that, in this article Kelsey even corroborates what The Standard wrote about by talkingabout the immigration hitlist.

    Do you like your journalism when it goes all over the place and doesn’t make sense?

  • David:

    Surely there’s a deeper question here. Can any journalist, citizen or otherwise, be considered objective? You clearly mark out The Standard as biased (I should note I also have contributed to The Standard), and it’s clear the SCMP, the Chinese press in Hong Kong, the New York Times and any other paper you care to mentioned is not purely objective. One of the beauties of citizen journalism is the very biases that people bring to their reports – it’s that diversity of reportage and viewpoint that poses such a challenge to mainstream media. What word would you use for Saturday night’s events in Wan Chai? Riot certainly fits the bill in terms of describing events.

    I’ve nothing but admiration for the Curbside expierment. Getting New Media students to actually create a new media site would seem to be a legitimate part of course work, just as taking a maths class will require maths exercises as home work. The site catered to various viewpoints and was not ideologically bound. I fail to see how the association with The Standard did anything but improve the offering. You can’t say The Standard’s “poor reporting” speaks for itself, because clearly to me and many others it does not – I’m a fan of their reporting of the WTO.

    I do note the original post here omits reference to the several blogs, mine included, that were strongly pro-WTO/free trade. As such, I also call it prejudicial!

  • Charles Feng

    David,
    It seems that curbside or JMSC did annoy you. How do you know my classmate lacked rational inquiry? Just because he didn’t report in the way you like?
    I should add that we are educated, and admonished to objectively report the truth inside the facts. I knew what you said about the abuse of detainees. As far as I learned from different sources, it’s not true. I can’t say that unless they are corroborated by more authoritative sources. I’m sorry, but have to ask you, are you one of the detainees who were maltreated by HK police?
    If you think you better represent HK in Global Voices, you can talk to GVO’s editor. I think GVO needs different voices, including yours.

  • A piece of technical notice:
    GVO has the automatic anti-spam setting. Therefore, if anybody’s post doesn’t show up here after you submitted successfully, plz let me know, or tell the editor directly.
    A post of David I ever read seems to be missing. I’ll ask the editor to see if it can be solved.

    My last post and Simon’s are missing! I’ll try to figure it out!

  • I, too, am a little puzzled, because there was a great comment here just a few minutes ago from Simon and now it’s gone.

    The spam catcher just kills spam. Other comments go through moderation, and once approved, it goes up on the site where (I think) it can be deleted by the author or editors (and I don’t delete comments).

    So this is a mystery: I’ve sent an email to our technology guys to see what happened.

  • Hello, I’m one of the “techguys”. Just a quick note to say we were doing some behind the scenes upgrades and moving. This should not have affected comments but apparently we have had some sort of mishap. We take missing comments very seriously and hopefully we can find the two (it’s two right?) missing comments. It is however past midnight here and we will need to wait until tomorrow. Apologies and please do continue the conversation and if at all possible repost the comments that seem to have been lost!

  • Let me then paraphrase what Simon had up (at the danger of misconstruing, so please forgive me if I get this wrong):

    He asked David whether he thought journalists could ever be objective and non-biased. He also mentioned that Charles had also left out pro-free trade/WTO blogs so he could also consider (if he wished) the post biased as well. The main thrust of the comment, if I recall, was whether objectivity is even possible.

    (Good question, I thought, and I was looking forward to David’s answer. I sometimes wonder whether the teaching of objectivity to journalists – hey I was one too – makes it difficult for them to do their job, which is inherently subjective. Blog posts are — or at least should be — obviously personal views. Which in some sense makes them truer.)

    Charles had a longer comment up that covered a lot of ground (so I can’t recall it here – Charles?) but at the end he asked David to email me, which he did! So I’m waiting to hear back from him.

  • Charles Feng

    Thanks, Boris and Joel.
    There seems to be three missing posts. David’s,Simon’s and mine.

  • I won’t take it personally that my comment has gone…although this kind of “censorship” does seem ironic for this site!

    Jose got the thrust of my comment and I’m eager for David’s and others thoughts. Does MSM still pretend to be objective? I imagine most media consumers wouldn’t consider most outlets objective. But does it even matter? The BBC or NYT can still be a good source of information.

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