Hong Kong's Umbrella Revolution

Posted on September 29, 2014 by Toothpicker There have been 0 comments

Hong Kong

Hong Kong's future is depicted in the photo above... foggy & unclear


Originally I was going to publish further posts on the London design festival, but what has been happening in Hong Kong has prompted me to write about the city where I consider as my second home.

I was shocked and saddened by the photographs I saw over the weekend when Hong Kong's government decided to use force (including tear gas and pepper spray) to disperse the peaceful pro-democracy protesters. Umbrellas are deployed by the protesters as the indispensable tools against the pepper spray, and this strong imaginary has inspired the media to name the protest as the "umbrella revolution" or "umbrella movement" (You can see the logos that local designers have come up with via SCMP). Ironically, this unnecessary force has escalated the protest from a relatively 'regional' event into a global one, gaining headline coverage from all the western media. This is what I would call a PR disaster for the Hong Kong/Chinese government.


Marc Allante

Marc Allante's artwork of Hong Kong's pro-democracy protest


The truth is that Hong Kong has been 'unwell' for a long time. A few years ago, I was talking to a Hong Kong friend about the future of the city and I said that a riot is likely to take place because of what has been happening to the city since the handover in 1997. And I didn't need to a be a fortune teller to have predicted that. Although I only lived in Hong Kong before the handover, I still have family and friends living there and so I would visit the city almost annually. I can say that the Hong Kong I see today is almost unrecognisable from the one I knew before 1997 (and I don't mean the cityscape). The widening wealth gap, influx of mainland Chinese migrants and tourists, unaffordable housing and commercial rentals, the suppression of free speech, the growing dissatisfaction with the incompetent government, the loss of identity, and the unclear political future etc all contribute to what is happening to this city now. If we trace back the history, Hong Kong's citizens have never been able to elect their own leaders, so the psyche behind this protest is deeper and more complex, and I believe it is very much related to the citizens' (esp. the young students) search for Hong Kong's lost identity and pride.

Honestly, I don't think the Chinese government would back down nor would they allow 'real democracy' in Hong Kong. And I don't think other western countries can do much about it either because they are so dependent on China's investments these days. £14 billion of trade and investment deals have been signed between UK and Chinese firms at the UK-China summit this year. Would the British government back up an ex-colony over the possibility of losing these deals? Highly unlikely. And unlike the “Jasmine Revolution" in the Middle East, the Chinese government is too powerful to be removed and it will do whatever it takes to demonstrate their power to control and shut people up.

Yet this does not mean that protests are pointless, and from what we have seen, the unnecessary force has united the citizens more and subsequently gained unexpected supporters worldwide. Again, social media plays an important role in this whole saga, and even though the Chinese government has banned Instagram (owned by Facebook) in China along with other western social media platforms, they are unable to ban it in Hong Kong where video footage and photographs are constantly being uploaded and shared to the worldwide audience. Most of my Hong Kong friends have changed their profile photos on Facebook to the picture of a yellow ribbon as their way of supporting the movement. We now live in an age when the people in power of our societies are the least trust-worthy, and so as ordinary citizens, we need to depend and support each other more than ever. People power can never be underestimated, which explains why the Chinese government is constantly monitoring all the movements of its citizens, and censoring anything that challenges its power.

It will be a struggle for Hong Kong to enjoy the democracy it once experienced (yes, I am using past tense here), and I do not want to see Hong Kong's Central being turned into Tiananmen Square. No matter how defiant the protesters feel, they need to protect their own safety and not make unnecessary sacrifices. The entire world is now watching the events unfold, and I hope that no more violence will be witnessed as the protests continue. No matter what will be the outcome of this, there will certainly be more social and political unrest to come and the future of Hong Kong is unlikely to be clearer anytime soon.


This post was posted in Hong Kong, Social issues, Politics and was tagged with Hong Kong, umbrella revolution, politics