The Umbrella Revolution
I woke up today to the news that the Hong Kong activists were arrested when police tried to clear Mong Kok, one of the areas on the protest map, following a court order. Having visited Hong Kong and witnessed what was happening in the protest zone two weeks ago I hoped that the peace would hold for long and that an outcome would be much different from this one. How little did I know!
In August Hong Kong residents learnt that any potential candidates eligible to stand as the territory’s next chief executive in 2017 will need to be vetted by the Chinese government. It was yet another restriction to their freedom.
The announcement of this news was followed by some demonstrations against Beijing’s creeping control at the end of September. When the riot police fired tear gas at pro-democracy demonstrators, mainly students, outraged HK residents joined them. The footage from the scene shows people using umbrellas as their shields, helping them to navigate through the smoke. This is how the Umbrella Revolution became a part of global media coverage.
Where Hong Kong writes its history
From financial district on Hong Kong Island to Kowloon the demonstrators are visible but it is fair to say that over the weeks the number of people has decreased from what I was able to see when following the news since September.
On my first night in Hong Kong, even before getting to the guesthouse I could spot the protest zone. A bus, that I boarded at the airport, had to take an alternative route dropping me off towards the end Nathan Road. It was already a place where the traffic resumed going round the camps scattered around in the area.
I ventured out to Mong Kok shortly after checking into my guesthouse. I was somehow drawn to that place and I wanted to see it for myself as soon as possible. A very heavy police presence was not a surprise but the democracy classes delivered to a group of residents just under their noses seemed like quiet a tease. Well, at least to me. Overall the protests were very peaceful and polite though. People were eating together, reading or chatting to each other.
In the city that every year marks the anniversary of the 1989 crackdown in Beijing’s Tianamen Square people are aware of the worst-case scenarios. Although all eyes are on Hong Kong right now few questions remain unanswered. Is anyone prepared to intervene when the Chinese government decides to close Hong Kong’s window of freedom? Maybe it was never opened very wide but it was open nevertheless.