Monday, October 13, 2014

The Hong Kong Umbrella Movement

The Umbrella has become a symbol for the People's Movement protest against the Government
When Hong Kong reverted back to Chinese rule in 1997, many folks questioned what would happen.  For years, things have seemed to be okay, placid, even.  However, now the Communist Chinese government is taking away the people's right to elect representatives and the people don't like that!

In 1898, Great Britain obtained a 99-year lease from China for the Hong Kong Territory.  The "Handover" or return of Hong Kong to China took place on July 1, 1997, and officially ended British rule in Hong Kong.

Barricades on the carriageway
People were generally pessimistic over this change, but when little changed immediately, they learned to live with it.  Protests and mass civil disobedience began in Hong Kong in protest against the Chinese government's decision on proposed electoral reform for the upcoming 2017 Hong Kong Chief Executive election.

This is the Reader's Digest version of events:  Instead of allowing Civil nominations, the government made it clear that everything was going to be controlled by Beijing.  Now, when the people vote, the government will have already screened out any pro-democracy candidate.

It doesn't look crowded now, but there were tens of thousands here protesting two weeks ago

The protests began at the end of September when the Hong Kong Federation of Students and Scholarism began protesting outside the government headquarters.

Soon, tens of thousands of people were taking to the streets in protest.  (An opinion poll shows that the majority of citizens (59%) surveyed since October 4th support the protesters.) This is what it looked like on September 26th:

- Photo:  Forbes
 A large police force was mobilized to surround the square.  At first they let people leave voluntarily.  Then things began to get out of hand.  You can read more about it here:

My friend and former co-worker, Jonathan, writes: "I am living in history.  Hope you enjoy the photos."

Wow.  Yes.  We do.

There is still hope in the atmosphere
The Umbrella has become the symbol of the protest.  As Jonathan explains it, the people used umbrellas for protection against pepper sprays and tear gas from police during the height of the protests.

Here is a colorful wall in an area of Hong Kong called Central.  People write down notes about how they feel and stick them on the wall.

"We don't know how long we could keep this wall" the sign says.
Then in an allusion to Marvel's Hydra: "Cut One Head Off Grow Two Heads."
There are thousands of these notes on the walls in this area!

"We are not alone" the sign reads

The stated goals of the movement are simple:
  1. Universal suffrage
  2. The resignation of the Chief Executive Cy Leung
  3. The withdrawal of the decision of the National People's Congress Standing Committee (the Communist government's ruling body)
  4. The submission of a new electoral reform plan that includes civil nomination of Hong Kong's Chief Executive

It kinda makes you want to go home and hug your November election ballot brochure, doesn't it? Being able to run for office, and to vote for your elected officials, are Rights we often take for granted in the States.

"No," Jonathan writes of the photo below, "These folks aren't homeless.  They are just resting during the day so they can be awake at night to continue the demonstration."

Booths popped up blocking the main carriageway in Central as a focal point of the protest.

Booths along the carriageway
We have yet to see how this whole thing is going to unfold.  According to various sources, Hong Kong is facing various economic challenges, as well as these political ones.  The student leaders and the government were expected to start formal talks, however on October 9th, the government cancelled the meeting that had been scheduled.  So, protesters took to the streets again over the weekend.

Umbrella Man Statue in Central, Hong Kong
This (below) was taken in the mid-afternoon on a weekday when most people were at work, but you can see that even after a few weeks, the protest still has some momentum.

View from the footbridge
As I read about the problems in Hong Kong, I was forced to ask myself: How much do I value my Citizenship?  How much do I value my right to vote?  How much to I value the freedoms of the republic I live in?

Would I take to the streets to protest a wrong?  Would you?

I'm going to keep watching the international news media for more information about Hong Kong!  I hope the people will continue to be able to make their voices heard.

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