I come from Germany and I currently study Putonghua at SYSU in Guangzhou. I often go to Hong Kong and every time I go I meet activists at autonomous 8a. When I think of autonomous 8a, of the place and of the people who run it, then I see it as the gate to Hong Kong with all the people around 8a who welcomed me and allowed me to understand Hong Kong’s society and activism.
In Germany, I took part in social movements and social centers for about two decades, I engaged in environmental, tenants and labour struggles, supported refugees, LGBT and many more, I organized cultural events, political sharings and summer camps with activists from all over Europe. And it is through this summer camps that I met activists from Hong Kong for the first time. Two activists from autonomous 8a came to our summer camp in Europe and told us about the social and political situation and struggles in Hong Kong and also invited us to visit Hong Kong ourselves.
Since these first personal exchanges me and other activists from Europe have visited Hong Kong numerous times and 8a was always our first address. The activists around 8a have organized many sharings with me and other visitors from Europe about tenants struggles, labour issues, general political, economic and social situations, cultural topics and many more which enabled us – activists from Europe and Hong Kong – to better understand the differences and commonalities in both regions and to learn from each others’ experiences and to get inspired by each others’ creativity.
I still remember vividly how untiring and meticulously we discussed and compared every detail of the housing situation in Hong Kong and Germany, public housing (which has been discontinued in Germany since 10 years), rent contracts and rent control until well after midnight. Or how we shared experiences of working in service sector jobs in Hong Kong and Germany and struggling for better work contracts.
Every time me and other activists traveled back home to Europe we would bring along lots of impressions and material from Hong Kong and share it with people in Europe, from discussions to film screenings in Berlin and elsewhere and thus made more people aware of the specific situation and experiences of activists and grass root people in Hong Kong.
I have personally learned so much from this exchange and I know that others did too. In our highly globalized world we have to share the knowledge of the living, working and housing conditions of grass root people around the world in order to understand how these are effected by global developments and global capitalism and in order to struggle for better living conditions together.
Building bridges between countries and continents is therefore indispensable. autonomous 8a with its space for sharings, its equipment, its continuing and consistent work over more than a decade, its unchanged address easy to find for visitors, its knowledgeable and welcoming activists and its huge network and reputation abroad is undoubtedly invaluable in this regard.
I look forward to continue this cultural, social and political exchange among grass root activists in Hong Kong and Europe and I hope we can enable many more people to participate in this.
I dearly wish autonomous 8a all the support needed to continue with this great work!
Berlin and Guangzhou, July 2017