Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution

30.09.2014 - Tony Henderson

This post is also available in: Spanish, German

Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution
(Image by Leung Kwok-hung)

The streets and echoes resounding in Hong Kong in this moment are energised by an invigorating turmoil. It’s as if the shrouded urbanity had shook itself and woken up. People found themselves shoulder to shoulder, fired into a new solidarity. The young of course are at the helm, calming the torrid tending waters of city life usually dictated by me-first business interests.

It started as a cry for a faster pace of bringing into play the one-man-one-vote system when it comes to voting in the Chief Executive (CE), the one-time Governor in British days. I wonder why the British didn’t introduce this system though they did fling into the ring politically Conservative Chris Patton at the last minute with his cul de sac political ideas.

It is interesting that the students went in – like Scottish troops to the frontline – and likewise they had to take the brunt. However, when the Middle Class business types and academics made their move that was decried by the same students who were then in charge of the show and doing very nicely thank you.

The police over-reacted, no doubt under orders by their seniors (not Beijing, the local chaps) and CS gas and pepper sprays were used but as was so well covered by the media, the provocative ones were in very small minority among the crowd of peacefully demonstrating locals. A costly misadventure by an on-the-whole well disciplined police force.

It was at that time the value of umbrellas was experienced and the hitherto little heeded advice on anti-gassing precautions. Now the students have armed themselves with goggles, plastic wrapping, and an umbrella… besides water.

The government defended the police action – of course it’s their police force. The police said the officers were taken aback by the sight of umbrella toting, cling-wrapped humanoids. They acted in shock self-defence apparently. Sorry, that’s no excuse, me rather thinks they were told to crack down hard and clear the streets and settle this thing before it got out of hand – wrong! Backfired!

Given good coverage in the media – Hong Kong has all the usual freedoms – the sight caused more than an outcry, it got people out of bed and onto the streets. The 30,000 became 60,000. Mams were accompanying student children – after all some were secondary school level. The uninitiated were galvanised. Straights became cool. Old rockers were more trouble than young students and had to be carried off the police front line as they were ‘out-of-order’.

The students began calling for the resignation of the present CE, Leung Chun-ying, which seemed a bit over-the-top to me, not only that but some other like-minded person would be brought in by Beijing. Well, they are young and it’s a concrete call, so OK!

The other matter and more to the point, is this demand for one-man-one-vote for the CE. For me, I would rather just go with whomever Beijing approves of because I did not see any way it is going to be otherwise but – that might have changed – and Beijing is going to put someone safe there, someone one will not rock to boat – it’s their boat, well our boat as well but for us it’s a lifeboat, for China it’s The Boat.

I will quote my Hong Kong friend and neighbour Mui Wo Edith – though we don’t see ‘eye-to-eye on China issues:

“This revolution has completely changed the mode and pattern of social movements in Hong Kong. From the moment that students took back the Civic Square, the new model was born. Unlike the previous movements, the citizens acted on their own initiatives, no “leaders” were “leading” the movement, not the politicians, not the social movement workers, so there is no such thing as “dismissal” as ordered by those leaders. On Sunday (28th Sep), police wanted to seal the area around the Central Government Offices; they refused the demonstrators bringing in any sound devices; they even arrested several lawmakers. The police thought that they could arrest the people inside too. But the citizens came out behind the police and the police changed from predator to prey.”

I would call for greater economic and governmental integration between the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and the People’s Republic of China, whereas the fractured democratic movement in Hong Kong is as though allergic to that in a kind-of denial of the reality of the situation mentality.

It is true that the to-date largely apathetic, politically speaking, population that has seen or heard enough about the way such as the kuomingtang (KMT) handled things – not to mention the demonised Communist Party, lacks real interest.

Also, it has been under a subtle onslaught of western propaganda and outright lies by the western press all these years. Not now though when there is a flourishing Chinese press giving independent local views.

The locals just did not want to hear anything political at all only wanted a fairly decent life. Don’t mention the word Communism, that’s when people fall on the floor in shock and awe! Can’t they admit what great good the authoritarian Communist Party has brought to mainland China? They likely also do not see how that same Party has veered from its true path.

Hong Kong people want to change the system and align it with western-style democracy but there is another way, democracy with Chinese characteristics. Both these ways allow a representative government to form and both have the potential to develop into participatory government and in fact the latter is the more likely to achieve that.

Without participation there is no democracy. The Corporations in Hong Kong with their monopolies and cartels and government connections and established influential families are not going to allow the man-in-the-street to actually participate in government – even if we have the vote as demanded by the students.

The anarchism eschewed by the students now in their orderly disorder and during the real Occupy Hong Kong days in 2013, is seeking more fundamental changes. That’s the date when Benny Tai Yiu-ting – initiator of today’s Occupy Central – came to my attention, when he was to speak at the esteemed Jackson Road Hong Kong Club which institution was charging HK$400 to get in! Non-members HK$500! Besides a nice lunch you can have one drink.

It might be worth noting that of all the actions worldwide by this widespread movement Hong Kong lasted longest, under the hot seat of Capitalism’s HSBC building.

Hong Kong has long been ready for democracy, as another neighbour, Fish’n Chip Shop Karen Rouse said following her trip to Central to visit the scene:

“Stunning. Totally stunning. The streets are filled with people, packed. There are small groups everywhere camped on their spots along the tram lines and thoroughfares and lanes. Nowhere is there an angry word or feeling of brooding violence. Just thousands of people making their point – Give us what you promised: Democracy. I love Hong Kong.

“For these trucks, protesters made way because as the trucks moved slowly along, the volunteers tossed water bottles to those who needed them in this still quite punishing heat. Cases of water bottles were then left at strategic points. No pushing. No angry words. Just protesters helping themselves when necessary. And these people can’t choose their own government because it would be ‘chaos’?”

On the MTR a grandma refused a seat offered by a student saying,”You need it more than me…”

Non violence is the only way.

 

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