Tom Grundy’s published writing

Huffington Post: Photo Story – Squalid Slums Return to Asia’s “World City”

Some names have been altered and identities obscured to protect those featured.

Village houses and flats overlook a ramshackle slum in Lam Tei, a suburb in Hong Kong’s New Territories. As of December 2014, the ex-British colony is home to 9,618 asylum claimants.

Global Post: Occupy Mong Kok – Where Identity Politics Come to a Head, 17.11.14

Feature piece for Global Post.

“If they clear here, I think protesters should find an occupy site other than Mong Kok,” says Wong Yeung-Tat, the enigmatic, often controversial, leader of the political group Civic Passion. He knows that the clock is ticking for the pro-democracy movement’s Kowloon outpost but, exhausted as many are, few at the camp have any appetite to leave quietly.

Wong Yeung-Tat

Wong Yeung-Tat

For over 50 days, protesters spread across three protest sites have been occupying roads, demanding full universal suffrage from Beijing. Mong Kok has seen the most drama, with activists clashing with masked triads and counter-protesters angry about the disruption. Now, after complaints of lost income, a minibus drivers’ association has won a court injunction permitting bailiffs to “clear obstructions” around Nathan Road with police backing. It makes for a jittery atmosphere at what is commonly regarded as the resilient frontline of the umbrella movement demonstrations.

Huffington Post: “Kim Jung-un” Pays a Visit to Hong Kong Protests, 2.11.14

Photo story for Huffington Post

Huffington Post tom grundy occupy hong kong

The main Umbrella Movement ‘Occupy’ site in Hong Kong received an unusual visitor, on Friday, in the form of a Kim Jong-Un impersonator.

Huffington Post: Umbrellas vs. Riot Shields as Hong Kong Protesters Expand Occupy Camp, 15.10.14

Photo story for Huffington Post

tom grundy huffington post

‘Umbrella Movement’ activists in Hong Kong clashed with riot police on Tuesday evening in an attempt to expand an area near the city’s government headquarters currently being occupied by pro-democracy demonstrators.

Quartz: Here’s the Simple, Democratic Way to Hold a Chinese Election, 10.10.14

Analysis for Quartz.com

As Hong Kong’s pro-democracy sit-in protests wane, the city’s impeccably behaved student demonstrators can already claim a moral victory. Yet no amount of peaceful dissent is likely to cause Beijing to budge on its conservative reform plan for the city’s 2017 elections.

Over the past fortnight, student protesters have gained public sympathy and succeeded in laying bare the illegitimacy of the local government. They were never going to win against China, but it may not matter. This is because the man who originally inspired the city-wide occupations has a Plan B—one which will likely infuriate Beijing and may even work.

The idea to block roads and bring Hong Kong to a standstill as a protest of “last resort” was first suggested by law professor Benny Tai almost two years ago. State media and pro-government groups dubbed Tai and his co-organizers “radicals” and “extremists,” labeling their proposal “terrorism.” But just as support seemed to be fading for Occupy Central last month, students embraced Tai’s strategy for mass occupations off the back of their own week-long class boycott.

Hong Kong Occupy Central leaders

Occupy Central organisers Chan Kin-Man, Benny Tai and Reverend Chu Yiu-ming officially launch their civil disobedience campaign on Aug. 31st.(Photo/Tom Grundy)

This gave rise to the pro-democracy “Umbrella Movement” with tens-of-thousands of mostly young protesters shutting down some of the city’s main thoroughfares. They scrubbed protest sites clean, recycled trash and stood firm despite tear gas and attacks from pro-government mobs—thus winning hearts and minds at home and abroad.

Huffington Post: How Hong Kong Protesters Put the ‘Civil’ into ‘Civil Disobedience’, 09.10.14

Feature for Huffington Post

“It’s made in China so we don’t trust it would even blow up properly.” Sirius Lee (his real name) has few concerns over the safety of the crude-looking 40-socket USB charger he purchased for HK$500 (US$64) from the mainland. The contraption sits in a mesh of cables at a mall near the main Occupy Central protest camp in Hong Kong. Over the past six days, over 2,000 people have entrusted their phones and tablets to 22-year-old Lee and his team of 30 friends who man the “Recharge Corner” in shifts.

Smartphone-addicted Hong Kongers at the protest camp are so grateful for the free service, they have given food and chocolates to the team. Should the police move in, Lee’s team can escape rapidly into the metro system after pulling down an “emergency sign” that tells people who to contact to retrieve their phones.

Ming Pao: Arguments Against Occupy Central Amount to Scare-Mongering, 10.5.14

Analysis for Ming Pao (Hong Kong Chinese press)

Only in Hong Kong could one spend 18 months debating a protest. This is Protest City where there are hundreds each year, on every topic, often with accompanying counter-protests and protests to counter those counter-protests. They are usually formulaic but come in all sizes. Some are angry, some are solemn; some take the form of hurling hell money or fruit around LegCo, whilst others involve thousands of Hong Kongers surrounding government headquarters forcing leaders to pay attention.

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One thing, however, that unites post-colonial protest culture is how consistently peaceful such gatherings are. Having witnessed the city’s strong tradition of nonviolent dissent from the frontlines over the past 9 years, it is obvious that Occupy Central should be no different. For people such as C. K. Chow, chairman of the Chamber of Commerce, to suggest otherwise amounts to alarmist hysteria.

Time Out Magazine: East Timor – East of Eden, 10.10.12

Travel piece for Time Out Magazine.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Isolated and near inaccessible, Asia’s newest nation is home to the largest UN peacekeeping mission on Earth, located in the poorest and most overlooked corner of the region. Emerging from decades of bloodshed and occupation with scarcely any infrastructure intact, war-ravaged Timor-Leste attracts just a few thousand tourists per year. Roads are amongst the world’s worst (where they exist), the airmail service is rumoured to take one-and-a-half years, the humidity is oppressive, healthcare minimal, poverty rampant and the dinky shot-up capital, Dili, makes Beirut look refined. So why would anyone care to visit?

Because travellers will discover in Timor-Leste what everyone else in Southeast Asia is hopelessly searching for. All your dreamy paradise island clichés can be found within – pristine white beaches, crystal clear azure seas, some of the richest and most diverse sea life on the planet and a queue of welcoming, unjaded locals to show you the way. Adventurous tourists will come across incredible hiking routes, thick rainforest, untouched lagoons and delicious seafood – and more often than not, you’ll be the only traveller in town.

Time Out Magazine: Iran – Glorious Esfahan, 26.10.11

Travel piece for Time Out Magazine.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

As your flight descends into the dark heart of the Evil Axis, rumours of 50c heat, a presumed threat of kidnap and the danger of a terrorist free-for-all weigh heavily upon the mind. However, Iran’s terrifying reputation and wildly inaccurate stereotypes mask what must be one of the friendliest and safest hidden gems in all of Asia. From magnificent mosques to bustling bazaars, the Islamic Republic is home to a sophisticated culture and rich history, all showcased with a famously heartfelt level of hospitality. And as for the intense desert heat – long-suffering Hong Kongers may actually find the lack of humidity strangely tolerable.

The lightly beaten tourist trail begins in the ‘City of Love’, Shiraz. No longer a wine producer, this small city is centred around the elaborate Vakil Bazaar. The colourful marketplace comes to life at night and shoppers exploring the endless maze will find locals offering to pay for things (or even dinner!) as shopkeepers chase them down dark alleys merely to return their change.