As soon as I got home from Hong Kong last night, the first thing I noticed was the burnt skin on my face. I got sunburned due to the three-day spate of anti-WTO protests spearheaded by the International League of Peoples’ Struggle and Bayan. Everyday, from Dec. 16 to 18, members of ILPS and Bayan marched several times everyday from Victoria Park to a few hundred meters from the Hong Kong convention center where “representathieves” of the WTO member-countries were trying to hammer deals that will affect more than trade.
Filipinos marched and demonstrated at least twice a day. In most of the rallies, I helped the ILPS and Bayan marshalls in leading the shouting of slogans like “Da Dou Sai Mou!”, “Junk junk WTO!”, “US imperialists, No 1 terrorist” which caught on among other groups mobilizing in the city. All along, I was just wearing a sweater and a jacket, and had no hat or cap to protect my face. I simply had the wrong thoughts that the cold December air in Hong Kong would blunt the heat of the sun.
Long live the militant Koreans
Filipino activists could learn a lot from Korean farmers and workers who were at the apex of anti-WTO militancy.
First, they came to Hong Kong truly prepared to protest. They had hats and headbands, armbands and body placards, flags and streamers. They really looked like rallyists.
Second, when the Koreans went to the streets to rally, they were serious about it. They did not do idle chatter. They followed their obviously pre-agreed conduct of activities. Once, they just had to march all around Hong Kong, walking and then bowing to the ground in perfect cadence to the shouts of “Down down WTO!”.
Third, they showed how militancy could target government infrastructure and police personnel and not damage even an inch of private property. Yes, the Koreans fought hard and waged battle to dramatize the worldwide opposition to the WTO. They snatched pepper spray canisters, shields, truncheons, portable fire extinguishers and used all of them against the brutal Hong Kong police.
Fourth, the vivid videos of the Koreans fighting the police inspire people the world over about how we could destroy the so-called “peace” of those who unjustly govern us. Elder Korean women and Korean youth were seen in the frontlines seemingly battling to their death, ignoring the sting of being hit either by police truncheons and pepper spray. Only a handful sustained injuries and had to be hospitalized.
The ILPS banner waves and dances across Hong Kong
Compared with the most militant Koreans, the Philippines-based activists belonging to the ILPS staged militant and rather peaceful protests.
On Friday, five ILPS members donned masks bearing the stars and stripes of the US flag. They led about 50 others in a march where “imperialism” was pinpointed as th culprit behind the WTO. At Victoria park where the march started, and at the gates of the convention center where the protest ended, the ILPS activists used their bodies to spell out the words “Junk WTO”.
On the same day, members of the Asian Peasant Coalition burned a US flag at the end of its march.
On Saturday, about 150 members of the ILPS, along with friends from Japan (from the Asia-Wide Campaign), Belgium, Taiwan and other countries, participated in a colorful flag-dancing, flag-waving march that drew crowds along the route. Aimed to project Philippine participation in the protests, the ILPS and Bayan led the marchers in shouting standard Filipino slogans that alternated with anti-WTO chants. It never failed to attract Filipinos working there to paused and wave at their marching compatriots. In this same rally, three ILPS members wore Chinese devil masks labelled “IMF”, “WB” and “WTO”. The three were making hand movements at cultural activists playing the role of the people. The tableau wanted to signify imperialist plunder and war being pushed and abetted by the three leading imperialist agencies.
Of course, the women’s groups held their own march. Nobel Prize nominee Irene Fernandez led the women-marchers from across Asia even if she was on a wheelchair. That she was undeterred by the anti-riot police blocking her at the frontlines only agitated the women activists even more.
On Sunday, thousands of Filipino migrant workers joined the final rally and march led by the Hong Kong People’s Alliance. True to form, the ILPS brought as its centerpiece visual a rather huge effigy bearing the face of an eagle and its body in the form of a US flag emblazoned with the words “US imperialist, No. 1 terrorist”. Flames engulfed this same effigyat the end of the HKPA rally.
The Hong Kong protests provided the ILPS a good chance to project itself as an international anti-imperialist campaign center. It attracted a wide array of political groups and movements tio march under or beside its banner. More importantly, the ILPS successfuly brought to the world stage its view that the WTO is a mere instrument of imperialist powers, and that ultimate it is imperialism, led by the US, which the world’s peoples should slay in order to restore/attain sanity, freedom, justice and democracy across the world.
(Photo courtesy of BBC and AP)