The events of the past week in Hong Kong have made headlines worldwide. What started out as a class boycott by high school and a small sit-in at the government HQ quickly escalated into the full blown Occupy Central movement. The occupy movement itself has been under planning for up to 2 years and its purpose has been to call for direct elections in Hong Kong. Hong Kong was promised universal suffrage as part of the 1997 handover agreement to China, yet its implementation has been delayed up to now. Finally this August, the Standing Committee of the Twelfth National People’s Congress agreed on universal suffrage for Hong Kong in 2017 under the condition that it gets to screen out the candidates through an election committee nominated by them. That in effect would make it a faux-democracy.
Most people didn’t expect the Occupy movement to take off at all. Hong Kong’ers are a law abiding and hard working bunch after all. Perhaps, we can thank persistent use of force by the police for how quickly the movement escalated. What began as a small sit-in at the government HQ last Friday led by the student activist group Scholarism, a movement separate from Occupy Central, began to attract an increasing number of protesters of all age groups over the weekend as the police began deploying pepper spray and tear gas, tactics typically used in riots. Currently, the term Umbrella Revolution is the preferred term for the resulting movement, in reference to the use of umbrellas by the protesters to shield themselves from police pepper spray.
What I find amusing is how much the pro-China camp has been trying to paint this as a “violent” movement or riot funded by foreign governments. They have also pointed out how how police response to protests elsewhere including the US have been just as or even more virulent. But I need to point out that so far, no shops have been looted, no one has been assaulted, no Molotov cocktails thrown, nothing set on fire, even graffiti left by some protesters were swiftly removed by others. Instead what has characterized this movement are students helping keep the streets free of litter, recycling garbage, handing out donations of water/food/cooling pads, and just generally being civil. Probably the most “violence” there has been was when a small group of students decided to climb over the fence in front of the Government HQ building.
In fact most media outlets outside of China, including the BBC have been calling this out as one of most polite acts of civil disobedience in the world. Myself, knowing Hong Kong people and past pro-democracy protests, it’ll probably stay that way. In contrast, last month’s anti-occupy and pro-China rally by the ironically worded Alliance for Peace and Democracy was marred by egg throwing and assaults on those disagreeing with them.
Pro-China folks, here are examples of what real riots look like:
1967 Pro-Communist Red Guard Riots in Hong Kong
I agree when people start setting off bombs and murdering others, then it is probably a good time for the police to use force.
1992 LA Riots, Reaction to the police beating of Rodney King
2012 Anti-Japanese Riots in China
2014 World Cup eviction Riots in Rio de Janeiro
2000 Arson Attack at Immigration Tower HK by Shi Junlong
Who could forget him! The guy that set fire to the Immigration Tower, killed 2 people including an immigration officer. Yet he’s not a free man with Hong Kong residency! And he still has the audacity to call Hong Kong people dogs.
Now here are some photos from the past 4 days: