At this moment, our activists are preparing to board the container vessel. I will try to report to you everything that is going on. I hope that you will join us in our campaign against the illegal dumping of electronic waste by signing our petition demanding that the Hong Kong government plug the loophole in its toxic waste legislature and amend the Waste Disposal Ordinance according to the Basel Convention.
10:30am The telephone’s urgent ringing woke me up. My colleague was on the other end telling me that they have received notice that the container vessel would arrive earlier than expected so the schedule for our action will also be pushed forward.
12:00pm Arriving at the office, I found many of us were already working like mad to prepare for the action. At the moment, the skies are grey and it is drizzling, but thunderstorms threaten and we are worried this will affect our plans.
1:00pm The rain is lessening and the skies are clearing up. Seems like the weather is on our side after all.
2:30pm I am on the phone with our activist who is watching the container vessel through binoculars. We confirm that the right ship is arriving.
4:00pm Latest update: the ship is about to enter the harbor at Tsing Yi. We head off to Tsing Yi.
4:32pm In the distance, we can see the Kwai Chung Container Terminal, the world’s third largest container terminal. In 2007 alone, it saw 17,322,000 containers pass through.
4:32pm Five other colleagues and I load our own boat and help reporters climb aboard.
4:52pm Someone shouts. The container vessel had arrived. It is called Yang Ming Success.
5:30pm At the sound of a whistle, we head towards Yang Ming Success.
5:50pm We are beside the huge container vessel. It is at least 200 meters long and is stacked full of containers, almost three stories high. Suddenly, 5 or 6 orange-clad figures appear – they are dwarfed by the containers. It’s them! It’s our activists. I was so excited for them. They wore yellow helmets and bright orange jumpsuits and they seemed full of energy. Two activists had already climbed on top the containers and were letting down a rope ladder for the other activists to climb up. Then they unfurled our bright yellow banner stating “Toxic E-waste Not Welcomed Here”. The first step of our action was successful! I felt nervous for our activists, there is still a long way to go … yet I also felt empowered. Everyone on our ship, including the reporters, were excited.
6:22pm Our activists located the exact three containers that carried the toxic electronic waste. Two of the activists had entered the vessel’s control room and were initiating discussion with the captain. They let the captain know of their intentions and that there were containers of toxic electronic waste on board.
6:45pm Our rescue raft steered over to Yang Ming Success and passed a tent to the activists. They may have to stay on the container vessel overnight, or even longer, as they will not leave the vessel until the Hong Kong government agrees to deal with the e-waste responsibly.
6:50pm It starts to drizzle again and we grow increasingly anxious. Our activists set up their tent on top of the container … if the rain falls any harder they will be soaked and chilled to the bone.
7:12pm Time is passing quickly. Some reporters have returned to their offices to meet their deadline.
7:55pm The sky is darkening, but our yellow banner is as bright as ever, and our activists’ tent stands resolutely on top of the containers.
8:49pm Suddenly, a boat sails towards us. It is the Hong Kong Marine Police. They board our boat for an inspection. They are polite and kindly tell us to be careful on the waters as traffic is quite busy in this harbor. They return to shore and observe the situation through binoculars.
9:31pm The rain is falling hard now and we start to feel anxious. The wind is also picking up and our boat starts to rock making us all a little nauseous. We have all been overworked in the past few weeks, preparing for this action. Even though I’m getting a little seasick, I keep reminding myself of all the hard work everyone has put in and I force myself to be patient and see the action through to the end.
9:50pm We receive news on the walkie-talkie: people from the Hong Kong Environmental Protection Department have arrived on the Yang Ming Success and are in discussion with customs officers and the container agents. We are impressed by the Hong Kong government’s eager response. This piece of news renewed our hope and everyone on our boat, even if they are getting seasick, were excited again.
In the dense rain, we could make out the figures of our activists on the container vessel. They waved to us, held up their fists, and we waved back. We will persevere.
10:11pm “This is amazing! We’ve won!” Lai Yun, our toxics campaigner, announced to us that after an hour’s discussion with customs and with the container agents, the Hong Kong Environmental Department will detain the container of toxic e-waste and will communicate this to the public. They have also agreed to enter into discussions with Greenpeace to strengthen Hong Kong’s toxic waste legislation.
I am proud and exhilarated by the results. I give Lai Yun a vigorous pat on the back; I know that he must be extremely happy. He’s been campaigning against toxic waste for 5 years now, beginning with the initial investigations in Guiyu, Guangdong, exposing the toxic products made by major IT corporations… and now, in this moment, he can finally see his labor bear fruit
11:30pm Our activists return to shore safe and sound. They tell us that the captain of the Yang Ming Success is from Taiwan and has 10 years of experience at sea. He is only responsible for transporting the containers and had no idea about the contents of each container. When he found out about the toxic e-waste on board, he was very cooperative and supported our cause. He was worried about our activists’ safety and insisted that they do not climb down the container the same way that they climbed up it. He even invited the activists to have dinner with his 24 crew members.
We all returned to the office to celebrate in high spirits. For every one of our Greenpeace members, every one of our volunteers, our activists, our online supporters, this is an extraordinary moment, we must all be very proud of ourselves.
Positive action can bring about change! And the action must continue: we are looking forward to our meeting with the Environmental Protection Department next week, we will urge the government to amend the Waste Disposal Ordinance.
Read the activists' blog