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Hong Kong Visitors Tour Protest Site Where History Is Being Made


As NPR's Frank Langfitt has been covering the ongoing protests in Hong Kong, he's noticed something. During quieter times, some Hong Kongers bring their kids to the main protest camp for a civics lesson and also to witness something extraordinary, a pro-democracy demonstration on Chinese soil. Last weekend, Frank brought his kids along. And he sent us this reporter's notebook.

FRANK LANGFITT: So I've just flown in with my family - my wife Julie, Katie and Christopher. They're 13 and 10. We've just come in from Shanghai, and we're going to go up and take a look at the camp.

Katie climbs up on a pedestrian bridge and looks out over the protest zone, which covers an eight-lane highway.

KATIE: I see a lot of different kinds of tents. And they're all, like, on the road. Instead of cars, you see people walking and tents. And it's amazing.

LANGFITT: Walking amid the tents, we meet an 8-year-old boy.

GORDON: My name is Gordon.

LANGFITT: Chris joins Gordon in a card game, Uno, while sitting on camping chairs in the middle of the road.


GORDON: Oh, nine.

CHRISTOPHER: Oh, yes, green.

LANGFITT: Gordon's mom, Kelly Chan, has brought her son and a friend here so they can see history for themselves. Two years ago, China tried to introduce a school curriculum that glossed over the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown. Many here saw it as an attempt at brainwashing.

KELLY CHAN: So I bring them here to witness. I hope when they grow up, they won't forget what really happened in here. And they can't erase history.

LANGFITT: Chan told her son the protest, which has blocked roads for more than two months, is illegal.

CHAN: I tell him we are breaking the law. One day, probably, I will go to jail. And I hope you understand, by going to jail doesn't mean I make any crime. I'm just fighting for democracy. I'm fighting for us. I'm fighting for you.

LANGFITT: There are perhaps a thousand people at the protest camp tonight. Katie can't fathom mass arrest.

KATIE: Do you think they're really going to throw everyone here in jail?

CHAN: At least they were bringing - they will bring us into the station to perhaps make a statement. Do they really press charges? I have no idea.

>>KATIE Aren't the cops supposed to be the good guys?

CHAN: I can't tell. (Laughter). Can you tell the cops are good guys in the Ferguson?

LANGFITT: There are no police here this evening. It feels like a communal street fair.


LANGFITT: Christopher rolls up on someone else's scooter.

CHRISTOPHER: I was just playing with the light. I'm like, oh, that's awesome. And then he comes over. He opens up the scooter and gives it to me.

LANGFITT: And what did he say?

CHRISTOPHER: He just says, take it. Just remember to give it back.

JESSIE HO: Hi, I'm Jessie.

KATIE: Hi, I'm Katie, nice to meet you.

HO: Nice to meet you too.

LANGFITT: Jessie Ho is 24. I interviewed her for an earlier story. Unlike most people here, Jessie isn't really a protester. She just hangs out at the camp, which people refer to as Occupy. But she says even that could get her in trouble.

HO: There has been students trying to go to China - like, their permit to travel to China is canceled.

KATIE: Oh, my gosh.

HO: And there was a Cathay Pacific, like, a flight attendant.

KATIE: Oh, yeah.

HO: Yeah, and she - I think she came down to the Occupy area once when she was in Hong Kong. And she was not allowed to go into China. And she was like, I've only been there once. And I haven't even talked to anyone. And somehow, she was spotted.

LANGFITT: How did you find this out?

HO: It was on the news.

KATIE: That's interesting. Wow.

LANGFITT: After more than two hours walking the site, the kids are tired. We say goodbye to Jessie.

KATIE: It was fantastic meeting you. Thank you so much.

HO: Yeah, you too.

LANGFITT: Katie thinks about what she's seen.

KATIE: Everyone knows protests aren't exactly successful in this country. But it's amazing that they've stayed up this long. I mean, this is history.

LANGFITT: Frank Langfitt, NPR News, Hong Kong. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Frank Langfitt is NPR's London correspondent. He covers the UK and Ireland, as well as stories elsewhere in Europe.