Facing the ocean in all its calm and treacherousness

Understanding builds trust, trust builds solidarity, solidarity fights oppression.

7 min readAug 11, 2019


[Author’s note] I am one of the organizers of this year’s Facing the Ocean Meet & Hack. This article reflects my personal experience and do not represent any other person or collective. Facing the Ocean (FtO) is a newly-formed community. Much like the g0v community of Taiwan, it does not have a singular representation. At least not yet.

Afternoon on June 10, the sky has cleared a little from the rain. Three drove down to the southern shore and saw the memorial. “The Cornerstone of Peace.”

Standing in front of the stone, I read through the four languages carved on the stone. The languages converged into a single voice, speaks of a common history, interwoven and constantly forward, like waves of the ocean. Peace. A single word and a seemingly universal concept, yet its meaning has always been manifold and complex. Any simplistic interpretation of the word peace is problematic and could be harmful.

Whose peace? Peace of a person or a people? What people? Peace achieved by the community or regulated by the government? Which government? When peace is declared, are we in peace? Or are we at war? Sometimes, even if we do not hear gunshots or see smoke, we are at war.

June 7, we civic hackers and activists from Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, and Korea have finally met in person in Koza next to Kadena Air Base, “the largest and most active US Air Force base in the Far East.” Friends in Koza have arranged food inside a city-government-sponsored co-working space and a powerful dance “Eisa” outside on the otherwise quiet street. Standing next to the young dancers, the cultural shock waves were very real and visceral.

June 8, among other projects, we were compiling a list of Chinese “invasion” of Hong Kong for the last 20 years; we were making a four-language website to serve as an info hub for the growing movement against Hong Kong government’s attempt to legalize extradition to China; we were mapping relations between content farms and Facebook fan pages through matching post content to investigate Chinese information operations.

June 9, a reporter from Okinawa Times visited. It was the day of the Fan-song-zhong (反送中, No Extradition to China) march in Hong Kong. People are gathering in the parks, on the streets, wearing white. Across the ocean, four more hongkongers are on their way, rushing back to their homeland. They will be there in time to witness and experience everything.

Photo taken in Koza before friends from Hong Kong return home.

We did not know it yet but June 9 will soon to be known as the first among many anti-extradition gathering. 1,000,000 people on the streets.

June 12, protesters were met with police tear gas and bullets outside of LegCo (Hong Kong’s Legislature). June 13, I arrived at HKG (surprisingly) without delay or interruption. I was worried until passport handed back from immigration officer.

June 14, mothers sit-in; June 15, CE Lam “postponed” bill at 3pm, one protester declared dead in hospital after falling from outside of Pacific Place (PP) that night; June 16, 2,000,001 people marched, I became one of them.

June 18, a joint statement from 8 Telegram channels demanded official response to the 5 demands by June 20. June 20, no word from government, police HQ were under siege; government offices occupied.

In FtO’s Telegram group, we would continue to translate materials for the info website made in Okinawa. A friend of an FtO friend messaged me over Telegram. They asked if I would help to record voice over in Taiwanese Mandarin for the animated short film they have made.

A screenshot from the animated short film originally in Cantonese and published here via Stand News without attribution by authors’ request.

June 21, around 11pm, people outside of police HQ in Wan Chai were debating whether to stay or to leave. A poll was sent to one of the regional Telegram channels, echoing Joshua Wong’s on-site polling that was broadcasted via live-streaming. Comments quickly appeared to oppose this poll as forming “a big stage” (大台) and straying from the principle (rough consensus?) that this movement is “without a big stage”. (無大台) A meme then followed with the phrase “Be water, my friend.” It felt like a timely release, at least for me, of the “last battle anxiety.” It was the re-opening of a space for each person to think together and finally decide for themselves.

Screenshots of a regional Telegram group June 21 around 11pm.

This movement continues to decentralize and intensify. Some Telegram groups started to add mechanisms to prevent fake accounts. One requested real people to add a * after their screen name. Others would add a “shepherd dog” account to ask new accounts to solve a simple problem under 30 seconds.

Everything was happening in Hong Kong while in Taipei, I had to work on a proposal on information warfare research. Deadline was July 1. Then Hongkongers occupied LegCo the night of July 1.

Go. (22:13)
People are not violent. Governments are.
A protester inside LegCo took off his mask because “we cannot afford to loose again”. He urged people with capacity to join this occupation and non-violent protesters to surround LegCo. (22:28)

In government press conferences, Lam and officials have constantly mentioned “law”, “order”, “security”, “peace”, “prosperity”. What those people in suites never say is whose law and order? Whose security? Whose peace and whose prosperity? And most of all, at what cost?

Hongkongers’ schedule for six rallies in just three days July 5–7. Bottom-right reads “measure your strength and act accordingly.” Source: An anonymous Telegram channel

Lennon walls with post-its have “blossomed” everywhere in Hong Kong. Counter-protesters would destroy the post-its. Protesters would then put up new ones. “Post, don’t guard,” some netizens would say. “Be water, my friend.”

Photos of Lennon walls across Hong Kong. Source: An anonymous Telegram channel

July 9, in a 9am press conference, Lam announced that “the bill is dead.” Memes mocking use of phrase spread quickly.

We don’t want the bill killed. We want it withdrawn. Source: An anonymous Telegram channel

It has been a month since the first gathering on June 9. We did not know it yet but this movement has already started to spread across the entire Special Administrative Region.

What are the Hongkongers up to? 2019 Summer edition. Source: an anonymous Telegram channel

Many Hongkongers have paid great price in participating in this movement. Some with their lives. “Made of police batons, tear gas, and rubber bullets,” some have described the making of Hongkongers like so. What can I, an outsider, do or say to support a friend who has been through all this first-hand? Via Telegram channels, graphic design work have spread to arm the movement. Through those same channels, messages of love and care have also spread to strengthen the people from within.

You must have been through a lot after persisting for so long. I am ready to listen to you. Would you like to share with me? Source: an anonymous Telegram channel
This is what the Summer of 2019 is like for a Hongkonger. Source: an anonymous Telegram channel

July 21, at dusk, protesters gathered outside of China’s Liaison Office in West Hong Kong Island. PRC’s emblem was defaced. (A plastic cover was installed days later.) After night fall, citizens (wearing black for the protests) were attacked repeatedly by mobs wearing white holding blunt weapons at the Yuen Long metro station. Speculations on police-mob collaboration. Terrifying images and videos once again took over messaging groups and media platforms.

July 25–26, Taiwan Foundation for Democracy and the East-West Center hosted a close-door workshop in Honolulu titled “Defending Democracy Through Good Governance and Transparency.” Much of the conversation was around Chinese influence (“sharp power”) in the West Pacific. Lack of transparency, deeply rooted corruption, information manipulation (aided by ICT,) and China’s invasive powers threatens the lives and freedoms of journalists, civil servants, and civil societies in the Pacific Islands (also Taiwan.)

July 29, g0v contributors attended a meeting of nullfull in Seoul. It was the first attempt to build a bridge between two communities, an effort lead by the newly-formed g0v international task force (g0v-intl) to build mutual understanding among similarly-minded communities in East Asia.

August 5, almost two months after June 9, was a voluntary general “three strike” (of work, class, and market) and non-cooperative movements. More than 100 flights were cancelled. Most metro lines and stations including Airport Express stopped service. Major roads blocked. 7 simultaneous rallies were hosted in 7 districts. Protesters gather outside multiple police stations. Tear gas has been deployed everywhere. More mob and rogue police attacks on citizens and journalists alike.

Tear gas and bullet shells collected in Chuk Un on August 5. Source: Youngspiration Telegram channel posted around 5pm August 5
Photos of tear gas deployed across Hong Kong on August 5. Source: Apple Daily HK posted at 12am August 6
Real-time coverage of protests across Hong Kong posted to a public Telegram channel.

When facing the ocean, what do we see? What can we hope to see?

In the west Pacific, situated in between China & the US, can we find each of our struggles as a common struggle? Under the influence of misinformation, techno-authoritarianism, and China’s expansion in this region, can there be solidarity among our diverse peoples? In between NE & SE Asia, can we the Taiwanese people play a more active role in this searching and building of connections?

Looking ahead towards this unknown, the destination is far from our reach, the water looks more treacherous than ever, yet optimism and faith remain within me. There is a constant struggle between the real (or constructed) desire of peace, and the skepticism and brutal understanding that true peace is never simple. This struggle is partly what keeps me and many awake and relentless.




Hacking things from Taiwan. Writing in English and Taiwanese Mandarin.