A Look at the Pro-Democracy Protests in Hong Kong [updated]

A few additional links have been added since the original publication.

Facing a government-imposed Monday deadline to disperse, the protest movement in Hong Kong against Beijing’s version of democracy for the former British colony has come to a critical moment with demonstrators split about making some concessions but generally receptive to dialogue with the government in the face of Monday’s government-imposed deadline to disperse.  People are nervous because of the Chinese Communist Party’s October 1 statement that invited similarities to its statement regarding the gathering in Tiananmen Square in 1989.  Additionally, Chief Executive C.Y. Leung (梁振英) (who is probably less despised than his daughter) urged on October 4, for a restoration of public order and warned that the “Government and the Police have the duty and determination to take all necessary actions to restore social order, so that the Government and some seven million people of Hong Kong can return to their normal work and life.”  

Orville Schell, Arthur Ross Director of the Center on U.S.-China Relations at the Asia Society, offers his opinion on Beijing might do.   Chris Patten, the last British Governor of Hong Kong says that this was not the path that Hong Kong was promised.

We’ll leave news coverage and further commentary to the experts, but we would be remiss not to talk about the recent events.  It’s incomplete, but this article pieces together stories from the past week and focuses on social and cultural aspects of the demonstrations and other topics that might have gotten lost in the shuffle.

Before we jump into it, here are useful resources:

The best English-language coverage comes from Hong Kong’s hometown newspaper South China Morning Post, though their live-feed and articles seem to randomly fall behind their paywall.  Great coverage and commentary can also be found at New York Times Sinosphere, Wall Street Journal‘s China Real Time ReportThe GuardianChinaFile, and Tea Leaf Nation.   Reddit also has a live feed.

Instagram posts tagged with #occupyhk#occupycentral, #umbrellamovement#umbrellarevolution#occupycentral#occupymongkok#occupyadmiralty

Tumblr posts tagged with #occupyhk#occupcentral, #umbrellamovement#umbrellarevolution#occupymongkok#occupyadmiralty

Twitter posts tagged with #occupyhk#occupycentral, #umbrellamovement#umbrellarevolution#occupymongkok#occupyadmiralty

Flickr images tagged with occupyhkoccupyhongkong, umbrellamovementumbrellarevolution, occupymongkok

Among many others, @hkdemonow, Correspondent Joanna Chiu (@joannachiu), Hong Wrong’s Tom Grundy (@tomgrundy), NY TimesChris Buckley, Agence France-Presse’s Judy Ngao (@Judy_Ngao) have been providing great on-the-ground coverage of the gatherings in various parts of the city.

Photo coverage can be found, again among many other places, at Hong Wrong, ChinaFile, and the New York Timesand SCMP‘s Instagram feedThe Atlantic‘s In Focus ,

While the pro-democracy movement is sometimes generally referred to as “Occupy Central”, it is actually made up of various groups including one called Occupy Central with Love and Peace (佔領中環 / 占领中环).  The current demonstrations actually began with a class boycott and demonstrations in mid-September by two student groups, secondary school activist group Scholarism and the Hong Kong Federation of Students (HKFS, 香港專上學生聯會 / 香港专上学生联会) which is made up of student unions of eight Hong Kong tertiary schools.  On September 26, a small group of about 100 demonstrators obtained a Notice of No Objection permitting them to gather outside government offices.  They were immediately cleared out and Scholarism’s leader, 17-year old Joshua Wong (黃之鋒, New York Times profile) and HKFS’ leaders Alex Chow and Lester Shum were detained and released.   Somewhat to the chagrin of the students, Occupy Central’s leader Benny Tai, a law professor at the University of Hong Kong, took advantage of the momentum and began Occupy Central on September 28, ahead of its originally planned date of October 1, China’s National Day.  

Though generally restrained, the police attempted to disperse the crowds with rubber bullets and tear gas and inadvertently created a symbol for the movement when demonstrators used umbrellas to protect themselves.  The use of force strengthened the resolve of the protesters and this past weekend saw protesters fill the streets in Admiralty (金鐘) and Mong Kok (望角 / 望角).  The New York Times shows us where the demonstrations are.


Not everyone in Hong Kong agrees with the current movement.  A group called Silent Majority for Hong Kong, though supportive of the goal of universal suffrage, opposes the Occupy Movement believing it to be chaotic, disruptive, and overly provocative to Beijing.  They note that while 70,000 people are participating in the protests now, 1.5 million signed a petition opposing Occupy Central.  Earlier in the year, when the possibility that Occupy Central was going to happen, they released this video, warning of the apocalypse Occupy would bring:

The occupations have not killed the city, but residents and store owners are weary of the movement have been affected by the disruption during one of the busiest tourist and shopping seasons.  Concerns of damage and looting have been dispelled by how polite and considerate the protesters have been.  They tidy-up after themselves, keep off the grass when asked to, hold umbrellas for the police, and even compost.


Aiding their commitment to peaceful demonstrations and efforts to win public support particularly if violence is used against them, a Manual of Civil Disobedience was issued days before Occupy Central began.

Suggesting that this fight against Beijing has a Christianity vs. Communism angle, The Wall Street Journal wrote about this movement as a Christian mission for some, pointing to Christianity’s integration into Hong Kong culture, the visibility of “prayer groups, crosses, and protesters reading Bibles in the street”, and the religious beliefs of some of the leaders.  Foreign Policy, in an article written, ironically, by someone named Christian, wonders about this underreporting:

“Yet many other leading media organizations — like The New York Times or CNN — have neglected to mention this point. This strikes me as a significant omission.  We can hardly be expected to understand why the demonstrators persist in defying the world’s most powerful dictatorship without understanding the beliefs behind their choices.

 Why has there been so little attention to the Christian factor? I think it’s a combination of ignorance and embarrassment. Most journalists in the countries of the West today are skeptics or secularists. They tend to regard religious belief as a quaint oddity, a sort of exotic irrelevance. And since those reporters who hail from Europe or the U.S. come from environments historically shaped by Christianity, they’re also anxious about appearing biased.”




The People’s Daily has told protesters that starting a color revolution in China is a “daydream”.