Faces of Hong Kong’s Occupy Movement: The Resource Suppliers

November 13, 2014 Updated: November 14, 2014

HONG KONG—On the front page of a recent edition of China Daily, the Chinese Communist Party’s mouthpiece to the English-speaking world, much was made of how hostile foreign forces must have been funding the supplies of food, drink, and thin nylon accommodations that have sustained the young protesters who have taken over key roads here, calling for greater democracy.

“We need to know where the mass of supplies supporting protesting sites are coming from and clarify whether there are any links to clandestine organizations,” pro-Beijing legislator Ann Chiang was quoted saying. “Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has said there was proof of foreign involvement in the protests,” the article continued.

But actual discussions with the individuals involved shows the truth of the matter to be a much more local, and grassroots, affair.

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Since the beginning of the umbrella movement, which led to the occupation of a highway and minor roads around government headquarters in Admiralty in late September, a key component of sustaining the presence of protesters has been making sure that they’re supplied with food, water, and—since mid October—places to sleep.

There are three informal, volunteer, overlapping, and sometimes disputing groups on the site that carry out this mission: “G1” and “80,” as they are called, and the network run by the Hong Kong Federation of Students, the group that is officially representing the umbrella movement to the Hong Kong government.

Each is headed up by a different figure who tends to their inventory and flow of resources, and then sees to their distribution through a network of tents throughout the occupied zone.

Gary Yeung, a 25-year-old who runs a human resources firm, is in charge of the site called “80,” nestled just around the corner from the exit to the subway station. He happened to fall into the position because he pitched his green tent in the corner that later became one of the main drop points for supportive Hongkongers to leave supplies for the protesters.

It is one of the few areas at the site that has road access (as long as vehicles are allowed in.) “If people come here to drop stuff off, they’re not going to walk out to a tent with a box of water bottles, are they,” Yeung remarked.

Soon, the medics appeared, and then volunteers and friends. Someone donated a couch, a set of walkie-talkies appeared, and the semblance of a headquarters came about.

Yeung would not provide a map or details of the tents that his station services, but he says they have “officially recognized stations, and someone has to be in charge of them and that person must be trustworthy and accountable.”

He added: “If for example a station has been asking for 10 boxes of water every day, that will be suspicious. We know where it’s located. If we find them suspicious then we just cut off their supply.”

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His mixed-breed dog Gaga sat nearby. “Her responsibility is to growl at people.”

Along with Yeung there is Yoko, in charge of G1, perhaps the largest of the supply stations. A saleswoman at a bank, currently on partial leave, she has joined pro-democracy protests for years and has a wide network of friends.

She was on site on Sept. 28, when police first used tear gas, which led directly to a flood of protesters and supporters, some of whom began delivering food, water, and boxes of face masks and goggles to protect against tear gas and pepper spray.

“I stayed overnight on the 28th, and in the morning started picking up rubbish. People began delivering buns—but they were sitting in the sun, so I moved them under here,” she said, gesturing to the skybridge that G1 is located under.

“Then everything started coming. Water. Masks. Food. Whatever you can think of, left by people exiting the subway.” Her station is located on the road directly opposite the subway exit—an obvious drop-point for those looking to deliver supplies.

Beginning about Oct. 4, when it became clear that a long-term occupation was afoot, Yoko found that many other parts of the sprawling camp were asking for food and water, making them available to protesters around the site.

Someone—no one seems to know who, precisely—set up the rudiments of a preliminary network, with numbered tents and a map that others could refer to.

When showed a map of this network obtained by Epoch Times, Yeung rejected it as outdated. The basics of a semi-structured distribution system are apparent, however.

The most organized of the resource suppliers is the network run by the Hong Kong Federation of Students, which has a fleet of drivers that go out and purchase and ferry resources wherever they’re needed.

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“We knew when it started that they would need help, and we’ve been helping them since then,” said Simpson Sung, who coordinates other drivers and shifts materials around himself. “Most drivers only help when they have time. They’re friends of friends.”

There is a group of between 40 and 50 people on a Facebook group, he said, and when help is needed he sends out a call to see who’s available.

Others around the site, including Gary Yeung, have murmured about the Federation of Student’s attempts to “take over” the network of supply stations around the camp, so they can have more formal control over the Admiralty occupied zone.

When asked about the matter, Sung responded that “I wanted to talk to them about how they deal with things. For example, if they have a surplus, we can deal with it. But they don’t listen. They say they’ll take care of it themselves.”