Shatin: the Rite of Autumn

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Shatin has been a flashpoint several times already, especially after police carried out a brutal clearance in July. Once again, a protest in the New Town Plaza mall of Shatin became a ritual celebration, something which made me think of a “Rite of Autumn”. The feeling was truly that of revenge and liberation from Chinese yoke.

The “Bye Buy” protest

Originally, the protest organized in Shatin was dubbed the “Bye Buy” protest, aiming to encourage people to boycott businesses that were opposed to the protests. It all started normally, with the habitual mall singalongs.

Mall singalong in Shatin
Of course, the habitual “Glory to Hong Kong” was sung with full orchestra.

They decided to walk, chanting slogans throughout the mall.

Protesters march across New Town Plaza
The crowd in the center of the mall
The Crowd in the center of the mall

In particular, the protesters decided to target the “Maxim” restaurant group, since the daughter of the founder of that group took publicly position against the protests.

Reservation tickets
Protesters tried to jam the reservation systems of restaurants with numerous requests for tickets. The “777” refers to the number of votes electing Carrie Lam.

Protesters went everywhere, and even invaded a Starbucks (in HK, Starbucks is franchised to a subsidiary of the Maxim group).

Protesters invade a Starbucks
A garland of rservation tickets
Garland of reservation tickets in Shatin

In the end, they printed so many reservation tickets that they managed to make full garlands of them. That is where creativity took yet another leap, as protesters then stuck them together and managed to make them into huge garlands which extended from the top to the bottom of the mall.

Hanging garlands of reservation tickets

Origamis as a protest

For some reason, origamis came up also as a creative manner of expressing protest against China. A number of protesters sat down in the center of the mall, folding origamis to set them up on a huge wooden frame prepared to that end.

An old man carries two origami birds he made
An old man carries two origami birds he made in Shatin.

In a way, this was more like a Mid-Autumn Festival than a Rite of Autumn.

An American veteran was also there with two American flags. Named Bob, this veteran told me that the Hongkongers deserved to have “the right to choose”.

Bob with his two American flags
A US veteran, Bob, comes to support the protesters in Shatin.
Garland of reservation tickets across the mall

However, the festive atmosphere was soon to take a drastically different tone.

The Rite of Autumn around a flag

Somehow, someone suddenly brought in a Chinese flag captured from a building near the Shatin town hall.

That is suddenly where a real frenzy started affecting everyone. A mad dance started with people trampling and stomping on the Chinese flag. Something wild, something exhilarating and at the same time, something liberating.

The Rite of Autumn around the Chinese flag

After the dance was over, the miseries of the flag were not over… They spray painted it, stomped some more, and went running from one end to the other of the mall, before finally dumping the flag into the river.

The destruction of a flag

The madness around this flag was perceptible. People were in a frenzy to destroy something that symbolized everything they hated about Chinese rule, from its propaganda to its force-fed “patriotism”.

Once this symbolic act was carried out, the gates of violence were once again wide opened, and frontliners started equipping themselves.

To the barricades

As soon as the flag adventure was done with, protesters moved to bring outside their origami giant structure.

Giant bird comes out

After having done this symbolic act, the protesters refluxed towards the mall under the bewildered eyes of some onlookers.

An onlooker looks bewildered
An onlooker looks bewildered as protesters return to the mall.

And as they did that, others started attacking the MTR. In the meantime, news came that riot police had arrived at Shatin MTR station.

The Shatin MTR facilities
The Shatin MTR facilities destroyed.

Other protesters started erecting barricades inside the mall.

And then, all of a sudden, a group of angry protesters decided to destroy the mall’s information pillar. Other protesters arrived to cover them with umbrellas.

Protesters destroy an information screen in Shatin’s New Town Plaza
RIP for Sun Hung Kai after protesters destroy an information pillar

Ranged battle

Soon, protesters spilled out and started to prepare for the habitual ranged battles against the police.

A protester throws an object on the police
Protester throwing object on the police

The police, after clearing a barrage, established ranks near the mall.

Riot police form ranks
Riot police forms ranks

Protesters kept creeping forward, then pulling back. And at times, throwing molotov cocktails.

A protester throws a molotov cocktail
Protester throwing molotov cocktail

The aim was so bad that the molotov crashed harmlessly on the left.

Police break through the ranks of protesters
Police breaks through

Eventually, police broke through the barricades of the protesters and managed to chase the protesters from the main plaza. The protesters ran off towards the other side of the river.

Police reform ranks in Shatin
Police reform ranks in Shatin

As this wrapped up this moment of “rite of autumn”, police eventually loaded up in buses and moved out.

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