Checking his watch for the third time, he was eagerly counting down by the window. Still wondering how many echoes he would gain that night, he had his phone ready.
It’s time. It’s 10 o’clock.
“Gwong Fuk Heung Gong!” He could not wait any longer.
“Si Doi Gak Ming!”
“Si Doi Gak Ming!”
Roaring by the Window
Nightly chants for democracy, or “roaring by the window (窗邊咆哮/吶喊)”, started on 19 August 2019. Many residents living in high-rise building chanted slogans by the window at 10 every night. The “roaring” was most effective in the residential neighbourhoods. The chants would sound even louder since the densely packed buildings reflected and amplified them.
While conflicts on the streets continued, the “roaring” served as an act of solidarity. It also cultivated the sense of belonging among the pro-freedom protestors. In fact, numerous video footages circulated online capturing the interaction between residents. These residents often stressed the neighbourhoods at which the footages were filmed. Sometimes these locations were explicit. Introductions, like “friends of South Horizons, show our colors”, were common.
Different from the fierce street conflicts, these chanting footages illustrated a unique side of the movement. Not all forms of protest ought to be bloodshed and tears. These roars were entertaining and inviting.
The Roar Went Silent
Yet this form of protest did not last long. It was phased out perhaps much faster than expected.
With the academic year starting in September 2019, “when to roar” gradually stole the spotlight of the discussion. Questions such as “must it be at 10? Could it start at 9?” swept online. Swiftly the surrounding discussions blurred the focus. With the conflicts on the streets intensifying, soon the chants died out.
The movement continued to snowball. Meanwhile, the risk of going on the streets also skyrocketed. Fierce and bloody conflicts at the campuses of The Chinese University of Hong Kong and The Hong Kong Polytechnic University were great demonstrations of the escalating determination of the authority. Crushing the pro-freedom movement at any cost seemed to be the top priority.
Other peaceful alternative protest forms, such as Neighborhood Lennon Walls, Human Chain and Lunch With You, were no longer “risk-free”. Protestors were frequently attacked by flash mobs. Lunch With You were always ended abruptly by tear gas and pepper-spray projectiles. Apparently, these “risk-free” protests at public spaces were not risk free after all.
Truly the morale among protestors reached a new low. The usual forms of protest were proved unfruitful. The cost to protest at public spaces has been rising disproportionately to the benefits gained from these tactics.
7pm Cheers and Applauses
However, something familiar to the pro-freedom protestors has emerged in New York City. During the ongoing Wuhan Virus (or the COVID-19) pandemic, New York City has been applauding for their medical workers at 7 every night. The New Yorkers’ 7PM Cheers/Applause has been reported worldwide.
Every night New Yorkers break the city’s silence at 7 to clap and cheer for the essential workers in the midst of the pandemic for 2 minutes. Videos with the hashtag #ClapBecauseWeCare or #ClapForKeyWorkers are trending online. The phenomenon has also spread to other American cities.
Revival of the Roar?
Undoubtedly the movement in Hong Kong has grown a lot since the first roar in August last year. When the cost to protest in public is higher than ever before, Roaring by the Window perhaps remains to be the least risky.
New Yorkers’ example proves again that acts of solidarity do not have to be explicitly political. In fact, the content of the roars can still be explored. Whether the chants should be as explicit as “Gwong Fuk Heung Gong”, or as radical as “Heung Gong Duk Laap”, shall remain an open question. The foreign example shows that applauses resonate louder than doing nothing at all.
A Different Take on Roaring
After a year of protests, repeat chanting of the same well-known slogans can sound tiring. To boost the morale, chanting should not be limited to these slogans. Even applause can do the job. Slogans can sound offensive but applauses are inviting and encouraging.
One has to question themself – do we roar to gain support from the opposite side? Or do we roar to show solidarity? To remind ourselves it is not yet over?
Applauses are contagious in nature. Interestingly no one can determine if the applauses are pro-freedom or not. It would not matter who clap along. For those who understands, no explanation is needed.