I don’t know if you’ve heard about the protest going on in Hong Kong now, called the Umbrella Revolution.
We’re protesting for democracy and universal suffrage.
On Wednesday, student groups led peaceful marches to protest China’s new plan for Hong Kong’s 2017 election, which looked like China reneging on its promise to grant the autonomous region full democracy (see the next section for what that plan was such a big deal). Protest marches are pretty common in Hong Kong so it didn’t seem so unusual at first.
Things started escalating on Friday. Members of a protest group called Occupy Central (Central is the name of Hong Kong’s downtown district) had planned to launch a “civil disobedience” campaign on October 1, a national holiday celebrating communist China’s founding. But as the already-ongoing protesters escalated they decided to go for it now. On Friday, protesters peacefully occupied the forecourt (a courtyard-style open area in front of an office building) of Hong Kong’s city government headquarters along with other downtown areas.
(Fischer, 2014, Vox.com)
The really important thing is what happened next: Hong Kong’s police cracked down with surprising force, fighting in the streets with protesters and eventually emerging with guns that, while likely filled with rubber bullets, look awfully militaristic. In response, outraged Hong Kong residents flooded into the streets to join the protesters, and on Sunday police blanketed Central with tear gas, which has been seen as a shocking and outrageous escalation. The Chinese central government issued a statement endorsing the police actions, as did Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing chief executive, a tacit signal that Beijing wishes for the protests to be cleared.
(Fischer, 2014, Vox.com)
So what’s the big deal? Why are people up in arms over this?
It’s all about Hong Kong’s history as a British colony, and the current possibility to being under China’s totalitarian rule.
When Hong Kong was handed over to China after a 150 year British rule, the central Chinese government promised a “one country, two systems” deal with HK – meaning that HK can still have its own government, without interference from China.
They also promised – and this is the important part – that in 2017, the Chief Executive (HK’s top leader, like the President or Prime Minister), can be democratically elected by the people.
Then, in August, Beijing announced its plan for Hong Kong’s 2017 elections. While citizens would be allowed to vote for the chief executive, the candidates for the election would have to be approved by a special committee just like the pro-Beijing committee that currently appoints the chief executive. This lets Beijing hand-pick candidates for the job, which is anti-democratic in itself, but also feels to many in Hong Kong like a first step toward eroding their promised democratic rights.
(Fischer, 2014, Vox.com)
Sounds like a good reason to protest, right?
The student-led protesters have been very peaceful, taking over Civic Square – a public area designated for public protests. But the government is calling this illegal, and is labelling the protesters as “violent mobsters”, justifying the measures taken by the police.
This is not true at all.
This is what it looks like:
All that we protesters have to defend ourselves with against pepper spray and tear gas are umbrellas
Surgical masks and goggles
They’re communicating with their cell phones, over Facebook at messaging apps like Whatsapp or Firechat. That way the whole city knows what’s going on right away, even when they’re not there.
Things are working out eerily like a 21st century version of Les Mis. People are building barricades on the streets
And MTR (metro/underground railway) station exists, when it was reported that police would storm from there
This protest is on an unprecedented scale in HK, one that is highly reminiscent of the Tiananmen Square Massacre in Beijing 25 years ago, when the army gunned down peaceful student protesters. Even today, the Chinese government denies that it ever happened.
So, what can you do now?
- Wear black and wear a yellow ribbon – the sign of support for the movement
- If your city/town/area has any demonstrations supporting HK, please take part. We need our voices heard all over the world
- Follow these Facebook pages, that have English and/or multiligual updates:
- And keep an eye on the news and/or websites/Facebook pages of newspapers, from what I’ve seen BBC and CNN seem to have the biggest coverages, though I may be wrong.
- Vox.com has a good summary and explanation of what’s going on
I am going join the protesters this afternoon. Please pray for our safety.
We’re standing up for democracy, universal suffrage, and freedom. We want peace as much as any society, we’re just willing to risk more to achieve it.
Do you hear the people sing?