Those of you who haven’t been living under a rock will have by now noticed that Hong Kong is in the full grip of an Umbrella Revolution. The phrase was coined on social media to illustrate the participants of Occupy Central’s use of umbrellas to protect themselves from rain – and tear gas – all while standing strong on the issue of Universal Sufferage.
This student-led movement (note, it’s not officially a ‘protest’ due to having no dedicated leader) has seen the streets of Hong Kong swell with supporters since it began on September 26th. Police use of tear gas, rubber bullets and force backfired somewhat and instead of detering folk, has instead attracted a growing number of people prepared to show their support. An increasing number of areas have become somewhat paralysed over the course of the week with Admiralty, Causeway Bay, Tsim Sha Tsui and Mongkok all joining the core in Central, where government offices are based.
The cool thing about this movement, of course other than the breathtaking aspect of youth standing up and engaging in mass political action, is the maturity with how they are approaching their protest. Volunteers hand out water bottles and snacks to ensure participants are hydrated and safe in the hot weather. First aiders roam to assist those in need. People clamber to help others negotiate barriers. Students, who are currently not attending their classes in order to participate, can still be seen doing their homework on the streets. The passion, but also the politeness and calmness of the masses is an inspiring thing to witness.
Of course the echoes of Tiananmen Square still ring through the minds of many people here. With the deadline for the protestors’ demand of CY Leung standing down as Chief Executive looming, Police have been stockpiling tear gas, rubber bullets and “other weapons” in anticipation of the movement’s planned next step – occupation of the government offices. With parts of the city paralysed, opponents vocalising their anger over the illegal occupation, the economy suffering and a China that is unlikely to heed the loud message of the students (and beyond), the world watches to see how this will all play out…