Nxt supporting the student revolution in Hong Kong

Nxt at the Internet Finance Initiative CEO (IFICS) Global Bitcoin Summit

During the two days (28/29 November) of the IFICS, Global Bitcoin Summit in Hong Kong, at which I was invited to speak, Nxt enjoyed a fantastic opportunity to gain significant exposure; it was the only cryptocurency represented, even the Bitcoin foundation was missing. The summit was aimed at investors, businesses, and consultants. As always, it was full of representatives from various Bitcoin related services, including exchanges and ATMs.

As they had done at the Shanghai Bitcoin Expo in September, OKcoin was trying very hard to gain the best exposure. But it’s not just about the size of the booth. For example, take the China-based Bitcoin exchange, Huobi: they sent maybe just one representative, but the speech given by Wendy Wang (Huobi’s International Business Director) was absolutely amazing and they always prepare very nice slides.

After I had given a small speech at the Bitcoin Expo in Shanghai, I decided to represent Nxt at the Hong Kong IFICS summit in order to follow up with the Asian contacts I had made. And, as things turned out, it was a good idea, because the IFICS organizers were very Nxt friendly; so much so, I was given two opportunities to make presentations. In fact, Roger Ver (Bitcoin Angel Investor) and I were the only delegates who not only gave a speech but who also spoke on the discussion panels.

It meant that the other members of my discussion panel, having had no other exposure, had to deliver a lot of information in the short time available, while I could afford to focus on just a select few topics because most of what I wanted to say had already been presented in the speech I had given earlier.

Nxt was placed in the ‘Innovations in the digital currency’ category, so I decided to go with the simple topic: Nxt Innovations. As well as speaking about Nxt’s innovative technology, I also focused on the innovations taking place in our community. In particular I wanted to share my excitement regarding the working Starfish: Nxt’s decentralized ecosystem. The information in the speech came from many sources, not just the Nxt wiki, but also all the ideas I had spent weeks getting from the community to present at the conference.

I carried out this information gathering exercise via a private questionnaire for businesses and by opening new threads on the Nxt forum in order to get feedback from Nxters. So, while I was speaking at the conference about certain topics, I was able to put up slides quoting the real opinions about those topics made by Nxters. I showed a lot of pictures as part of my presentation – including infographics, a nice comparison of the Nxt mining rig (raspberri pi) and a picture of Bitcoin’s ASIC factory after the big fire. I even showed the pictures of Come-from-Beyond’s family which CFB had published.

I am not a native English speaker, but neither of course was the Chinese audience, so the speech was written in simple language, but the information in it was based on long-term research. As already mentioned, I have invested a lot of time getting all the information I needed, for example, the number of Nxt commits in the source code. I have been studying Nxt since January, when I was working on my ‘Nxt myth’ study. Since then I have been continuing with my research by formulating some new questions and trying to figure out the answers.

On the second day of the conference, I made the first presentation of my discussion panel. Initially there were about 80 people in the room. Many others came in while the presentations were being made. Half of the audience consisted of young cryptocurrency fans and the other half were businessmen, investors, speakers, and sponsors. As one of the invited speakers, I was able to attend both of the lunches and also the VIP cocktail dinner party. This is where a lot of contact building takes place, so it was very important for me to be there. And of course, we didn’t just speak about Bitcoin.

I took every opportunity of introducing Nxt and SuperNET. I think SuperNET is something so new and different that it has the best chance of capturing people’s attention. Even on the discussion panel, I spent more time talking about SuperNET than I did about Nxt AE and third party services, such as Coinomat, Nxt2pay…

During the event I gave out quite a large number of business cards, maybe 30-40. I was approaching people or they were just running into me. My question was always the same – what can Nxt do for you to accept it in your business? And, if it wasn’t a business, I would simply ask: Have you heard of Nxt? In the months leading up to the conference I had been involved in many internet discussions with lots of anti-Nxters thereby, in effect, training myself to deal with any troll type questions that might get asked at conferences. I had even discredited some of the troll-ideas in my speech in order to dispose of them in advance of any questions. But, as I have discovered in previous conferences, the people you meet are not only reasonable and fair-minded, many of them already know about Nxt and have nothing against it. That said, some of them are old school Bitcoiners, so here you need to speak to their friends and let the magic work…

The venue of the Summit was in the Cyberport, which is quite some distance from Hong Kong’s urban areas; even so the commute only took an hour, included searching for bus stops. It’s easy to travel in Hong Kong if you use Google maps, but sometimes it takes a lot of time to get a GPS signal. On one occasion I asked a policeman for directions, he used his mobile phone to search for the name of the street. 😀 The Cyberport’s hotel, where the delegates were invited to stay, was too expensive for poor Salsa, so I chose a 10x cheaper accommodation in a 2x2m room in Kowloon. But the food was included in my VIP ticket, so I could at least enjoy many luxurious delicacies.

Nxt and the student revolution in Hong Kong

And what about Nxt supporting the student revolution in Hong Kong? Each day after the conference business was over, I visited the demonstration camps. These are situated in a few streets near Admiralty, the Central Government Complex, and have been occupied by students for months. Actually a battle of Admiralty happened whilst I was at the second demonstration in Kowloon. The ‘Admiralty camp’ consists of hundreds of students; it’s become, in effect, their home and you can see them carrying on their daily lives: eating, learning, doing homework, drawing, preparing transparencies, providing information.

This camp is a very interesting place and something which you cannot see anywhere else. You can see many tourists passing by, making photos or selfies, there’s even a press camp… and the Lennon wall. I was talking to many students and I was proud of them for knowing about the Lennon wall in Prague (which a few weeks ago was destroyed but then restarted!) and for also knowing about a similar revolution in 1989, when we, the Soviet union countries, successfully demonstrated for democracy.

The Lennon Wall

The Lennon wall in Hong Kong is covered in paper messages, mostly in Chinese, supporting the Hong Kong revolution. These temporary means of communication are a fascinating topic with a long history; for example, in Shanghai, I was showing people pictures of the paper messages aimed at the Soviet army’s occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1968, as an example of anonymous communication. In Hong Kong, the students were also using chalk to make inscriptions. They have a symbol – a yellow umbrella, which can now be seen all over the place…

‘Pravda vítězí’ – ‘The truth wins’

At the end of the first day of the Hong Kong conference I placed a Czech symbol of Václav Havel’s fight for democracy: ‘Pravda vítězí’ – ‘The truth wins’ –  on the Lennon wall. This is a slogan which also appeared on our first postage stamp issued after the revolution. The idea of placing a message about Nxt on the Lennon wall came to me a little bit later, so when I returned to the Lennon wall for the second time, I left a Nxt message there too. It was a slogan that I remember from our site – ‘Nxt, democratizing the future’.

Nxt’s ideas fit perfectly into these demonstrations, because that’s what we are all doing: simply fighting for our rights, our freedom, for democracy. Although I took hundreds of photos of the demonstration camp, it wasn’t enough to satisfy my journalistic and freedom-loving instincts. So, in the evening, having found the Kowloon’s demonstrators, I joined them as a photographer.

Kowloon’s demonstrations

Kowloon’s demonstrations were very peaceful and, comprising around 1000 people, relatively small in scale; the demonstrators, sometimes splitting up into a few groups, just walked around the same few blocks. I was hoping that this would be a good opportunity for me to explore the area, but because we were going around in circles I only ever saw the same few streets. The Kowloon demonstrations were uncoordinated and therefore didn’t have much of an impact. Students, joined by many tourists and the press, went to the left, then to the right, then back, crossed the street, sometimes stopping for a few minutes.

The crowd was blocking the pavement, but it was always possible for other people to get through. Policemen were mostly just taking care of the traffic, so when there was a green light they let us cross the street and when there was a red, they blocked us. Once, when the crowd was blocking a bus, the police were a little more active, holding hands and pushing the crowd back onto the pavement. On another occasion, when someone was injured, the situation became rather more intense. It was a signal for radical protesters to start shouting and making gestures, for policemen to protect the wounded person and for the press to take hundreds of photos a minute.

In the TV news reports you can see the battle of Admiralty, where bricks were thrown and pepper spray had to be used. At the Kowloon demonstration I joined one local Bitcoiner and we were checking the situation online via social networks. In the TV reports you can see a policeman holding a red flag. The police operate according to a set of rules, which is good, especially for tourists and the occasional photographer like me, enabling us to escape into safety. Each policeman always carried three flags of different colours. I myself never saw them deployed, because the demonstrations I attended were peaceful, but in the TV reports you can see them being shown. The flags have different meanings according to their colour, so the first flag is just a warning:  ‘Police cordon, do not cross’.  The second means: ‘Stop charging or we use force’. And the last flag means ‘Disperse’. This is when you really should run away, put on your mask or start recording because the videos recorded in these circumstances are the ones that will appear on TV.

I don’t want to make this article over long, so I’ll conclude my account of what I witnessed with this: when you see on the TV or read in the newspaper that ‘the revolution has escalated’, what it actually means is that after many boring hours of nothing much happening, except for lots of verbal warnings, suddenly flags start being shown and the bulk of the crowd begins to disperse, leaving behind just a few radical protesters to fight with the police. Even on the videos showing the worst of the confrontations you can still see many reporters in the middle of the fight.

Although I was only a simple observer, I became a silent member of the demonstration. I didn’t shout “Kowloon” or any of the Chinese slogans shouted by the ‘one-minute-leaders’ which were then repeated by the demonstrators, nor did I raise a hand in the Hunger-games style. However, although I didn’t fully adopt the protest mentality, I still became one of the demonstrators and, for a while, was even leading them.

PS: I didn’t spend much time doing anthropological research while I was there, but I would suggest to anyone studying revolutions to visit this place, talk to people, talk to students (oral history), digitalize all written (temporary) sources and to record the students’ gestures during the demonstrations.


Some more photos of the conference and the demonstrations


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