Monthly Archives: October 2014

HK protestors and American slaves

This is not the first time that Chinese politicians refer to African Americans. Typically, the analogy is meant to suggest that the US has human rights abuses too, so why do Western/American observers criticize China’s human rights record? For the pathology of “comparing degeneracy/rottenness (比爛 ),” see Chinese commentaries 比爛 美國也有 | 梁文道 | 主場新聞  and 圣奴-隶 (the original post has since been harmonized, a saved copy is attached here 比爛 李承鹏 圣奴-隶 copy).

This time, it is meant to suggest that HK protestors should be patient. Laura Cha, a nonofficial member of Hong Kong’s Executive Council, and the first non-mainlander to serve China’s central government at a vice-ministerial level, says:

“American slaves were liberated in 1861, but did not get voting rights until 107 years later… So why can’t Hong Kong wait for a while?” (“Hong Kong Politician Likens Protesters to African-American Slaves“)

… democracy cannot be reached in just one step, and no one knows whether democracy will be achieved after 2017. So why not accept the current policy and wait longer? (“Don’t be a slave to reform, says finance figure“)

If HK protestors are as deprived as American slaves, why not support both the Umbrella Movement and the Civil Rights Movement? And Martin Luther King’s civil disobedience?

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Umbrella Movement has hurt the HK economy?

[updated on Nov. 24, 2015]

Contrary to dire predictions by anti-occupiers, the Hong Kong economy and the stock exchange have been doing well overall.

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Does HK matter to China’s economy?

See the stock market crash in summer 2015

Let The Economist explain:

Why Hong Kong remains vital to China’s economy 

AIIB needs HK ‘s role as an international financial center 亞投行終歸要靠香港

RMB Inclusion into SDR

among those 2.45 percent of international payments carried out in RMB, 70 percent are transactions done in Hong Kong… the internationalization of the RMB that makes the currency fulfil the IMF technical requirements is mostly about the RMB-ization of the Hong Kong economy so far. It involves the increase of RMB deposits in Hong Kong banks, sales of RMB-denominated “dim sum bonds” in Hong Kong, and the “through train” Hong Kong-Shanghai stock arrangement, etc.. The increasing use of RMB in Hong Kong has been carefully managed by Beijing under a quota regime. As such, RMB’s “free usability” in the world is in large part attributable to its “free usability” in Hong Kong, and China’s opening of capital account to the world is mostly its controlled opening to Hong Kong. The “free usability” of the RMB is way different from the “free usability” of the existing currencies in the SDR basket. RMB remains not fully convertible, and China’s capital account remains quite impermeable.

Why China needs HK to pull off its grand Silk Road plan

Here’s the main reason Chinese firms are flocking to Hong Kong 

Despite China’s stock market tumult this year, mainland banks and asset managers are crowding into Central in hopes of drumming up new business with foreign clients. The moves are further cementing Hong Kong’s status as the prime gateway into and out of China, property experts and bank analysts say.

Hong Kong An Indispensable Fund-Raising Platform For China

Panama papers show that HK is a money-laundering hot spot for Chinese money :  How Hong Kong makes it easy for wealthy Chinese to launder billions of dollarsHong Kong tops for secretive offshore financial services, according to leaked docsHong Kong, Singapore implicated in ‘Panama papers’ rich people scandal ;真・萬能插蘇】中法澳權貴轉移資產 均經香港 ;【巴拿馬文件】香港為第二大洗錢聖地 解放軍若鎮壓 各國政要好傷 ; All mention of Panama Papers banned from Chinese websites

Why ‘red capital’ is a blessing and curse for Hong Kong

As China’s slowdown hits wealth and relations sour, can the territory revive its fortunes? 

China-HK relations: three questions to set the record straight

Special Report: The mainland’s colonization of the Hong Kong economy (Reuters)

Direct investment access to China threatens Hong KongIt has long been the gateway to China, but new systems and products are undermining its status

And how dependent is HK on water and food from mainland China?

Is HK really dependent on mainland water and electricity?


The Xi-Ma meeting in Singapore did not mention “one country, two systems”, HK is of little value left「習馬會」不提「一國兩制」  香港利用價值所餘無幾

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Sacking James Tien (plus sidelining Tsang Yok-sing and Li Ka-shing)? You risk alienating pro-regime allies

[Updated on Mar. 1, 2016]

Original post:

If I could advise CY Leung, I would tell him to drop the proposed sacking of James Tien. This advice is based on my knowledge of contentious politics.

Upper classes and business elites in every autocracy tend to be pro-regime. You need them to maintain your ruling coalition. They would not normally support the opposition — unless you alienate them and drive them into the hands of the protestors. This is called the mechanism of regime defection in theories of contentious politics.

Mend fences with James Tien. Keep in mind that many HK business elites supported Henry Tang rather than you during the last CE “election” (by the 1,200-member election committee). Moreover, this is not the  first act to alienate HK’s rich and famous. The New China News Agency openly criticized 4 of the richest last week for not explicitly condemning the Umbrella Movement. You are  alienating the entire spectrum of business elites. If you continue down this path, they may well conclude that supporting genuine universal franchise can better serve their interest in the long-term.

My earlier “advice” turned out to be correct. I told a friend on Thu, Sep. 25:  “If I were to advise CY, I would tell him to leave the striking students alone until they go back to school, and to ignore the Occupy Central which was due to start on Oct. 1. If you don’t arrest protestors, they will just lose steam in a few days and then go home.” Unfortunately, CY didn’t hear me. By arresting students on Sep. 26-27, CY created a chain of reactions that culminated in the Umbrella Movement. See “background” and “backfire” and “more police and thug abuses.”

Unless CY really wants to further strengthen the Umbrella Movement, then sack James Tien, and do more to intimidate business elites!

Liberal leader James Tien Pei-chun to be axed from CPPCC after calling for CY Leung to resign:

CPPCC member Chan Wing-kee said the proposal to sack Tien was based on the advisory body’s charter, which empowered the committee to remove a delegate who violated the charter or a resolution of the CPPCC’s plenary session. A resolution that delegates must “resolutely support the chief executives of Hong Kong and Macau to govern in accordance with laws” was passed at the CPPCC’s plenary session in March.

Tien – whose resignation from the Executive Council days after the July 1 march in 2003 forced then chief executive Tung Chee-hwa to withdraw the controversial national security legislation – could not be reached for comment yesterday.

James Tian Faces CPPCC Expulsion After Calling CY Leung


On Oct. 25, the official New China News Agency published a commentary entitled “Hong Kong tycoons reluctant to take side amid Occupy turmoil” :

Sitting next to Tung at the meeting with President Xi was Li Ka- shing who made a statement on Oct. 15, calling on the Occupy protesters to go home and not to “let today’s passion become tomorrow’s regrets.” The Asia’s wealthiest man did not make it clear whether or not he agrees with the appeals of the protesters…

Other Hong Kong tycoons, such as Lee Shau-kee, nicknamed “Hong Kong’s Warrenn Buffett,” Kuok Hock Nien known for his sugar refineries in Asia, and Woo Kwong-ching whose businesses range from Hong Kong’s cable TV to the Star Ferry, have all remained mute… none of the tycoons at President Xi’s meeting has expressed support to the police’s handling of the demonstrations and Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying’s government. (

This commentary generated such a storm that it was promptly taken down. Here is a saved copy: tycoons reluctant to take side amid Occupy turmoil – Xinhua |

Beijing warns Hong Kong tycoons to toe the line

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“Art of the Impossible” — “No, you can’t” v “Yes, we can”

[updated on Feb. 8, 2016]

I do not know if HK protestors are aware of Vaclav Harvel’s “Art of the Impossible.” For 10 years, I have been teaching my students that Contentious Politics is the art of the impossible. In any case, HK protestors have surely been practicing the principle. Once Beijing issued its verdict on the arrangements for election of the chief executive in 2017, commentators have been saying that this is “the reality” that HK people have to live with. Hong Kong students responded with a week-long class boycott on Sep. 22 with the slogan “Resist, Do Not Submit.” The boycott soon evolved into the Umbrella Movement on Sep. 28. See Timeline and Background.

In addition to the Lennon Wall borrowed from Prague, I finally see this video more directly adopting Harvel’s ideas: “DEMOCRACY is not just a dream 1989-2014”

On the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989:  <這一天並不遠了> – The day will come!

Lennon’s “I may be a dreamer, but I am not the only one” is a common sight: 10750086_10152928574222448_535840677210228836_o

Inspiration from Nelson Mandela: “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” (

Joshua Wong’s dictum: 「人定勝天 —— 仿如刺青般畫在我們身上,成了青春的座右銘。我們就是不應向命運低頭,被冷酷無情的命運澆熄了青春的熱情。因為我們堅信,青春就該這樣用。」(黃之鋒-joshua/抱著你們不懂的青春-放下對政權的恐懼/734504073308770); Protest leader: ‘trying to turn impossible to possible’

The adults among us should not forget this Confucian dictum: 知其不可而為之」: 孔子不因為是否成功才決定做不做,而是因為應該做,就去做。儒家講「無所為而為」的學說:一個人不可能無為,因為每個人都有些他應該做的事。然而他做這些事都是「無所為」,因為做這些事的價值在於做的本身之內,而不是在於外在的結果之內。

GRIT: Why never giving up is a worthwhile goal

“A state of being in the moment is much more fruitful and rewarding than any mind continually striving for the results of tomorrow.” 不問成敗,只要曾努力過/Richard Scotford

[Mar. 30] The high school certificate exam in Chinese had this as the prompt: “A dream/dreams appear/s to be unrealistic but very meaningful” or “A dream/dreams appear/s to be very meaningful but in fact unrealistic.”


Banners and flyers: “Resist, do not submit”


[Dec 26, 2015] How do HK people deal with “learned helplessness”? 我灰到核爆?

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Genuine universal franchise is “Western” and not “gradual and orderly”?

There have been another tidal wave of commentaries and remarks suggesting that democracy defined as genuine universal suffrage by 2017 is “Western” and goes against the “gradual and orderly” principle.

This argument would have been less problematic had I not begun to hear it in the 1980s. See “before 1997.”

I just remembered my 10-year-old commentaries. Really, 10 years old! Why are we debating the same issues 10 years, 20 years later? Why is it that time is somehow frozen in HK?

“SAR must take long-delayed steps to democracy,” Weekend Standard, Volume 1, No. 6, March 20-21, 2004, p. A55

“Confucianism and Patriotism: Speak from the heart,” South China Morning Post, Feb 14, 2004, p. A13

Heaven’s Mandate lies with the people, South China Morning Post, July 11, 2003, p. A15.

For more in-depth analyses, see “Citizenship Rights in Historical China” in The Edinburgh Companion to the History of Democracy, edited by Benjamin Isakhan and Stephen Stockwell, Edinburgh University Press, 2012, pp. 60-70;and “The China Dream: Revival of What Historical Greatness?” in Arthur Shuhfan Ding and Chih-shian Liou, eds., China Dreams: China’s New Leadership and Future Impacts, Singapore: World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd, 2015, pp. 3-32.


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Which side is undermining the rule of law: protestors or the government? (Michael Davis)

[Mar. 3, 2015]

Student leader seeks judicial review on electoral reform

Yvonne Leung, a standing committee member of the Hong Kong Federation of Students, has lodged an application in the High Court for a judicial review on the second round of consultation on constitutional reform.

As student leader seeks judicial review, chief secretary insists restarting process is ‘unrealistic’

In a judicial review application filed yesterday, student leader Yvonne Leung Lai-kwok argued the local government had “misdirected” by relying heavily on the NPCSC decision. “Such matters [in the NPCSC decision] have no legal effect and are not legally binding to the institutions of HKSAR,” she said in the writ. “This is because these matters fall outside the scope of the provisions of the Basic Law and the 2004 NPCSC Interpretation.” She said that under the interpretation all the NPCSC could do at this stage was to say if there was a need to amend the electoral method, and no more. The High Court should therefore quash the second round of public consultation and order the government to restart it, she said.


Occupy protests breaking law, but not undermining Hong Kong’s rule of law

Do protesters using civil disobedience to promote democracy and better secure Hong Kong’s core values pose the risks to the rule of law that officials and pro-government lawyers claim? It is important here to distinguish between breaking the law and undermining the rule of law. The non-violent protesters have clearly broken the law by not complying with the Public Order Ordinance and, further, by not clearing those areas covered by court orders. Both are purposeful law-breaking in furtherance of a non-violent civil disobedience campaign. We should bear in mind that civil disobedience by definition involves breaking the law in support of a higher ideal that is the aim of the civil disobedience campaign… By putting the Standing Committee above the law and redefining basic human rights guarantees in an unrecognisable manner, the State Council and the Standing Committee have put Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy and rule of law in jeopardy. The failure of the local government to guard Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy and its seemingly complicit role in the Standing Committee’s decision implicates it as well…

Disobedient civilians pale in comparison to blatant violation of guarantees in Basic Law  Denial of genuine vote harms rule of law more: Legal expert


November 21, 2014 Davis speaks to RTHK’s The Pulse.


Dec. 2, 2014 Hong Kong government must face up to responsibilities on human rights

As court orders, followed by more aggressive police tactics, seek to clear the streets in Mong Kok and Admiralty, the non-violent civil disobedience campaign in Hong Kong has reached a climax. For two months, the protesters have impressed the world with their peaceful sit-ins. Allegations that they are undermining the rule of law have met with scepticism. In this moment of difficulty, we should not lose sight of the fact that primary responsibility for maintaining the rule of law rests with the government. The administration cannot simply hide behind civil court orders and police powers in exercising its responsibility. How it tackles the many problems with the underlying reform process will be crucial…..

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Has the Government abandoned the pretense of universal suffrage? (Michael Davis)

In recent days the fig leaf has largely come off. Originally the Government argued that the NPC SC decision opened the door to universal suffrage and the democrats will suffer the harsh judgment of history for not seizing that opportunity. Now, after the protesters courageously exposed their ruse to the global audience, they have stopped pretending they are fulfilling the commitment to universal suffrage. Now the story is, as the CY Leung as stated, that Hong Kong cannot allow genuine democracy or we will be subject to the whim of the people who will demand a welfare state. Even Carrie Lam in her response to the students effectively acknowledged that the model now on the table is not universal suffrage, arguing this may be achieved in a subsequent election. After all this misrepresentation and bullying how can anyone trust the commitment to universal suffrage in the Basic Law.

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You can’t kill an idea — the giant banner “I want genuine universal suffrage” on the Lion Rock and the Chalk Girl

[Updated on May 16, 2016]

In contentious politics, it is often argued that while you can kill leaders and followers and individuals, you can’t kill an idea. In Hong Kong, it seems that you can’t remove an idea: the demand for genuine universal suffrage. By removing a giant banner  that says “I want genuine universal suffrage,” the idea is likely to grow even deeper among pro-occupy supporters. Though no police force was used in this case, the removal is seen as a form of repression and seems to be backfiring. See posts on backfire. Immediately, memes and banners inspired by the stunt began to emerge at occupy sites and online. Protestors say “We put up 10 banners for everyone you take down.”

Since then, the giant banner has been put up and taken down multiple times.

[Sep 27, 2015]【雨傘一周年】Banner再現獅子山 消防員登山拆 and  [勿忘初衷]

[Feb. 23, 2015] The banner reappeared on the forth day of the Year of the Goat【巨幅再現】獅子山再現「我要真普選」.

Ricky Wong’s suggestion: umbrella supporters could hang the banner outside the windows of their flats to create scenes of yellow banners all over HK: 我建議一個讓大家表達意見而且可行的做法,就是在家的窗外插上旗幟。

[May 12] 《激戰獅子山》; 學舌鳥作品《激戰獅子山》團隊背後的故事(RTHK31:19/5/2015)

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[May 16, 2016] Police camp atop Lion Rock before Zhang Dejiang visit to Hong KongPost learns officers gathering at iconic mountain to ensure security for state leader. Nevertheless, Hong Kong activists welcome Chinese state leader by hanging pro-democracy banner near Lion Rock


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Protest, counterprotest and the collective action problem

Apparently, pro-democracy protestors want democracy so badly that they can solve the collective action problem through ultruism while pro-establishment citizens are less willing to stand up for their position and let others speak for them.

Successful political participation involves solving the collective action problem (see wikipedia). People who share similar grievances would benefit from collective action but often fail to come together. The solutions to the collective action problem typically involve 1) leadership and incentives and 2) ultruism. There have been many stories on how the occupy protesters are “leaderless but orderly.” Of course, there is a joint leadership of the Hong Kong Federation of Students, Scholarism, and the Occupy Central. But many ordinary protestors act on their own and have refused the leadership’s decision to retreat twice. (See leadership. ) The use of social media has also facilitated this self-organized movement. (See a social media revolution.)

Counterprotestors, on the other hand, seem to be more reliant on leadership and incentives. A significant percentage of HK people are pro-establishment. (See a cross-class movement.) But many counter-protestors are caught on film or by undercover reporters that they are paid.

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Increased popular support for the Umbrella Movement–and beware of more backfire

This latest poll confirms what everyone has been saying, that the use of police violence has backfired, driving up support for the Occupy and Umbrella Movement when many people originally had misgivings about disruptive action. Meanwhile, the SCMP reports that the government may use harsher measures to put a stop to the occupy movement. Let’s hope that the government finally learns the lesson that police and thug violence is more likely to strengthen protestors than to shut them up. The CY government has no alternative to talking to student representatives.

Governments confronting popular challenges have the options of making concessions or heightening repression. As authoritarian rulers do not want to make concessions, they often resort to more repression. Unfortunately, in case after case, repression only drives moderates and bystanders into the arms of the opposition. In Hong Kong where the people fiercely defend their long-cherished freedom and where the movement is live streamed for the world to see, repression has only backfired and will continue to backfire.

SCMP Public support for Occupy movement growing, survey shows : Public support for the Occupy movement has grown since the campaign began, and it continues to divide residents, a Chinese University survey has found….Pollsters said they believed that the police force’s controversial handling of protesters – including using tear gas and batons – was a catalyst.

SCMP Government source hints at tougher line on Occupy protests if deadlock persists 

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A Eurasian Movement — Why is the Tiananmen analogy wrong? And interacting dynamics with Taiwan’s Sunflower Movement

[updated on J. 20, 2016]

Why is it that international observers cannot resist the temptation to liken the Umbrella Movement to Tiananmen? Even commentaries that suggest that Tiananmen is the wrong analogy still use the idea in the headlines. If one looks hard enough, it is not difficult to find parallels. Why is the analogy so mistaken? Most of all, Hong Kong has freedom even though there is no full democracy. Han Dongfang puts it well:

“While Hong Kong’s Occupy Central With Love and Peace movement bears a superficial resemblance to the 1989 demonstrations, Mr. Han explains that they have less in common than many think: ‘The big difference is, at Tiananmen, we were asking for reform and democracy, which didn’t exist in China. We wanted something we didn’t have. Here in Hong Kong, they already have free speech and rule of law,’ Mr. Han says. ‘They can go out on the streets and protest. They are fighting so Beijing doesn’t take that away.’”  Han in A Protest Veteran in Hong Kong — Lessons from Tiananmen for the students of the Occupy Central movement.

Another Han interview: Building Hong Kong’s Future: Interview with Han Dongfang (建設香港的未來:韓東方訪談)

According to Tung Chee-hwa, the first post-1997 Chief Executive: “The [People’s Liberation Army] will not be sent to Hong Kong streets,” he said. “I have full confidence in the Hong Kong police in handling the protests.” Asked whether that was the central government’s position, he said: “Yes”.

According to Jimmy Lai of Apple Daily, “A violent crackdown will ruin China as it ruins Hong Kong.” Whether this sentiment will turn out to be right or wrong, it is quite widely shared at the moment.

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HK Chief Executive says democracy “would produce policies skewed toward the poor”

Those on the Left have been sympathetic to CY Leung and critical of the protestors. Would CY’s honest words on how the system favors the rich trigger a rethink?

Hong Kong Leader Reaffirms Tough Stance on Elections and Economic Discontent, NYT :

HONG KONG — The Beijing-appointed leader of Hong Kong, Leung Chun-ying, said Monday evening that allowing his successors to be chosen in an open election based on who won the greatest number of votes was unacceptable in part because it would produce policies skewed toward the poor.

Not sure if CY Leung meant that all the European welfare states are doomed to go down the drain. He should consult at least champions of neo-classical Economics: The Economist and Douglas North. E.g., North, Wallis, and Weingast (2009, 266) say:

The logic of a median voter model suggests that widening the suffrage in a democracy to include more low-income voters will likely result in populism and other forms of zero- or negative-sum redistributive politics emphasized by Meltzer and Richard (1981). If the median voter makes less than the average income, it is in his or her interest to transfer income from rich to poor people. Such an analysis, however, ignores the incentives for redistribution that exist if the government is able to deliver redistribution impersonally. As Lindert (2004) shows, the social costs of redistribution create incentives for the poor and rich to redistribute in ways that have the least negative effects on society as a whole. They create strong incentives to redistribute opportunity to poor individuals through the provision of education, public health, and public services rather than strictly cash. When public goods enhance human capital, the ability to provide impersonal policies allows open access orders to respond to citizens in ways that complement markets rather than undermine them. In this way, open access orders sustain democracy as a positive-sum game. Of course, if the government cannot credibly deliver impersonal public services, then the poor have every incentive to use their votes to transfer cash now and are susceptible to populist appeals from factional leaders. This is the dark side of democracy, a side often visible in natural states.

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Foreign/external forces at work in Hong Kong

[Updated on July 1, 2017]

[May 6, 2016] Declassified documents shows that the UK and US understood in 1984 that the lack of specificity in the s/election of the Chief Executive formed the biggest loophole of the Sino-British Joint Declaration 九七密檔揭特首選舉漏洞 英美唔理2047靠自己

[Oct. 23, 2015] Joshua Wong: What’s the fuss about foreign visits 黃之鋒:外國聯繫 何罪之有

[Oct. 21, 2015] Proof of foreign involvement in Occupy protests absent, one year after CY promise to media

[July 8] Poisoning The Well Of U.S.-China RelationsIn the past few years, virtually no area of Chinese policy has remained untouched by the influence of “hostile foreign forces.”

[July 2] If the stock market crash is due to hostile foreign forces, then why wouldn’t the umbrella movement? In China, hostile foreign forces blamed for bursting stock market bubble

Hostile foreign forces often get blamed for trying to undermine China, and were said by the government to be behind pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong last year.

Hong Kong’s Occupy protest ‘was an attempt at colour revolution’: PLA general

The Occupy protests were “an orchestrated Hong Kong version of a colour revolution” and Beijing’s response should serve as a warning to advocates for Taiwan’s independence, according to a senior PLA general. General Sun Jianguo, a deputy chief of the General Staff of the People’s Liberation Army, made the comments …“Hostile forces have always attempted to make Hong Kong the bridgehead for subverting and infiltrating mainland China,” Sun said. “The illegal Occupy Central activities in 2014 came as minority radical groups in Hong Kong, under the instigation and support of external forces … orchestrated a Hong Kong version of a colour revolution.”

[Sep 22, 2015] Hong Kong’s Democracy Movement and Beijing’s Fear of Foreign Influence


Original post with updates:

CY Leung and pro-establishment figures suggest that Hong Kong protestors are under the instigation of foreign forces. Maybe they should talk to protestors  to find out for themselves. At least watch the live streams (see separate post “A social media revolution“.)

It is important to distinguish between international monitoring and media attention that are integral to HK’s success  and foreign orchestration of protest activities. There is plenty of the former and no evidence of the latter. Instead of blaming foreign forces, why doesn’t the HK government try to win back the hearts and minds of the Occupy Generation?

A Notre Dame student from HK asks this question: What is foreign and what is not foreign in HK? Good question. See In Hong Kong, Just Who Is an Expat, Anyway? HK is not a fortress. Let us not forget that HK is an international city that is fully integrated with the rest of the world. It would be disastrous for HK to follow China’s anti-foreignism (see In New China, ‘Hostile’ West Is Still Derided and China Targets ‘Hostile Foreign Forces’) What do we make of HK’s brightest and richest who often have dual citizenship? They are both local and foreign. Among the population, 300,000 Canadian citizens live in Hong Kong, of whom nearly 90 per cent are dual citizens. The Economist’s last count in 2008 shows that 30,000 people held both Australian and Hong Kong passports. The US counts 60,000 citizens in HK–as the US does not recognize dual citizenship, it is not clear how many of those American citizens are also HK citizens. The Basic Law is explicit that foreigners can serve as public servants save in a few specified posts. Foreigners can also serve in the Legislative Council “provided that the proportion of such members does not exceed 20 per cent of the total membership of the Council.” (Basic Law, Art. 101 and 67)


HK has always invited and welcomed “foreign forces”. The HK government, the business sector, and civil society have always looked to the world for the best talents, best ideas and best practices, and have always tried to sell the best of HK to the world. It is hardly surprising that the Umbrella Movement embodies the fusion of the West and the East, just like many other aspects that HK is so proud of. See a Eurasian Movement.

While HK protestors have taken inspirations from around the world, their nonviolent discipline, self-organization, artistic talent and strong determination have won them admiration from everywhere. Subsequent movements are certain to draw on the HK experience. As the Umbrella Movement becomes HK’s latest export, is HK now “interfering” in other countries?

[Nov. 8] Juli Minoves of Liberal International said during a visit to Occupy Admiralty:

“With this umbrella movement, they want to be able to decide who will govern them in the future. This is great hope. It’s great hope for Hong Kong. We don’t want to interfere at all in the internal affairs of China, not at all. On the contrary, I have to say, it’s the students that interfere with us, because they have actually brought about the imagination of the world. We’re just here by chance. We admire what they are doing. We are not interfering at all. We just want to show our support.” (50外國領事議員撐場 讚學生勇敢香港有希望)

[Nov. 13] A high school student Lavina appeals for international attention: Lavina : I need your help [Jan. 6, 2015] Despite the accusation, the government’s public sentiments report makes no mention of foreign instigation. [Jan. 14, 2015]  CY Leung repeats claim of ‘external forces’ influencing Occupy – but provides no evidence

In an event on Monday that was open only to two pro-government newspapers – Ta Kung Pao and Wen Wei Pao – Leung reportedly said the leaked emails showed “the trace of external forces” in the Occupy movement… But Leung has so far failed to explain how the donations were actually related to the foreign interference. A spokesman for Leung’s office said no further information would be provided. (CY Leung was referring to leaked emails in Wen Wei Po’s report 「佔中」勾結外部勢力證據大曝光)

What ‘foreign forces’ are truly threatening HK

In fact, the only external force interfering in our local affairs is either from mainland China or from certain anti-party or anti-Xi Jinping factions embedded in Hong Kong…  As a matter of fact, it is the anti-party and anti-Xi forces who should be held responsible for the political chaos and social disharmony in Hong Kong in recent years, especially after Leung gained power with the support of certain party factions and the indigenous Communists. They are the root of the social unrest that has haunted Hong Kong for so long.

[Jan. 29] Hong Kong added to Beijing’s list of ‘core interests’ amid post-Occupy unease:

Hong Kong has been named publicly as one of China’s “core interests and key concerns” in a veiled warning from Beijing to Washington over territorial issues. The rare reference surfaced in a military-to-military meeting in Beijing on Tuesday between PLA deputy chief of general staff Sun Jianguo and US undersecretary of defence for intelligence Michael Vickers, the PLA Daily reported…  His remarks follow repeated claims from mainland media and Hong Kong officials that “foreign forces” had meddled in the city’s politics.

Pundits believe that the talk about foreign forces is to push for the introduction of national security bill in HK.

Mainland think tank on HK affairs forms group ‘to safeguard national security:  The new group, formed under the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies, came into being on the same day the city was met with a high-level suggestion to copy and paste the mainland’s tough security laws into the Basic Law.

“Beijing is doing this because they want to [turn] the Umbrella Movement into [a] national security concern.” (The Coming Storm of Hong Kong Nationalism)


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Democracy and chaos? — erosion of freedom without democracy

The Chinese argument that democracy leads to chaos resurfaces in the midst of the Umbrella Movement. When Jack Sndyer published the Chinese edition of his “Democratization and War,” I mentioned that Chinese would love his argument, using it to support the long-standing Chinese argument that democratization would cause chaos. Here is what Jack said: You don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Note that Jack’s argument is that the rule of law and the free press are essential for successful democratization. As it happens, HK is a case of freedom without democracy — what is at stake is that the rule of law and the free press are being eroded without democracy. What protestors are defending are precisely such “core values of HK.”

Meanwhile, the Hong Kong economy and the stock exchange continue to do well overall, thus debunking the argument that the Occupy movement has hurt HK’s economy.

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Why didn’t Hong Kong people fight for democracy before 1997?

Chinese students studying abroad have repeatedly asked this question: Why didn’t Hong Kong people fight for democracy before 1997? Paradoxically, HK’s young radicals are saying the same thing in their attacks on traditional democrats, thus perpetuating Beijing’s party line that the struggle for democracy is a post-1997 phenomenon and so HK people should be grateful for whatever little democracy that Beijing is granting.

Hong Kong’s democracy movement was born in the midst of the Sino-British negotiations in the 1980s. See Timeline and background.

For most of HK history before 1997, China, the UK, and HK’s business elites thwarted democracy at every step. The British HK government first rejected the demand for direct elections to the Legislative Council (Legco) in 1988. See 民意彙集的政治:論兩次處理香港民意的缺失. It then rejected the Exco-Legco Consensus model (兩局共識方案) proposed after Tiananmen: 1/3 of the Legco seats to be directly elected in 1991, half in 1995, and fully elected by 2003. For a start, those who ask the above Q should comb Patten’s harsh words on London’s HK policies, in his memoir and numerous public interviews.

Young radicals have this perception that the traditional democrats tended to be leftist and supported HK’s return of sovereignty to China; as such, they didn’t fight for democracy in HK before 1997. In reality, first-generation democrats demanded the British govt to introduce full democracy in HK before the handover. Not surprisingly, Beijing saw the demands for democracy as “using democracy to resist China’s communism” ( 民主抗共) and pressured London to stall democratization in HK. This became even more so after HK people upheld the slogan “Today’s Tiananmen, tomorrow’s HK” in 1989. So the point about the democrats’ personal backgrounds —if that ever mattered before Tiananmen — was completely irrelevant afterwards.

On the British HK govt’s manipulation of public opinions to reject direct elections in 1988, see 民意彙集的政治:論兩次處理香港民意的缺失  Thus, the CY Leung govt.’s public consultation report in 2014 is hardly new.

A very informative series on key events from the 1980s to 1997 in Cantonese: 政壇回憶錄 

The history of the struggle in one cartoon 尊子文 阿平圖:


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A cross-class movement

Because Hong Kong’s democracy movement is 30 years in the making, it has gradually expanded to a cross-class movement. College students and professionals (in particular teachers and social workers) have always formed the core of support. The anti-Article 23 episode in 2003 draw in lawyers and medical workers (who were furious at the initial covering up of SARS). The anti-patriotic education episode in 2012 politicized a generation of teenagers. Workers have likewise served as a key pillar because pro-democracy legislators have promoted labor rights over the years. Some business elites and small businesses have also joined the currents. Jimmy Lai publishes the Apple Daily which is the staunchest pro-democracy media company when many other media bosses have exercised self-censorship. The Liberal Party formed of business leaders can be seen as a fence-sitter: it defected from Article 23 legislation in 2003 and are well-known for their despise for the Chief Executive CY Leung.

Nevertheless, there are limits to how far the movement can grow. Hong Kong has had a long-standing 60-40 divide between pro-democracy and pro-establishment support as reflected in past election results. International observers are baffled when they see scenes of counter-protestors cursing and yelling at pro-democracy protestors. While reporters have dug up evidence that some counter-protestors are paid, pro-establishment sentiments are largely genuine. It is noteworthy that a significant portion of pro-democracy supporters did not endorse disruptive action, so much so that Occupy Central initially chose a public holiday to minimize disruption. The police’s use of pepper spray and tear gas, however, turned many skeptics of Occupy Central into sympathetic supporters of the Umbrella Movement.

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Nonviolent discipline — the protesters were not peaceful?

See a more recent post “the fallacy that nonviolence has not worked?” See also police state and escalation.

If there ever is a self-organized movement that can maintain absolutely nonviolent discipline in the face of police and thug violence, this is it! (OK. Let’s give credit to Taiwan’s Sunflower movement too!)

Occupy Central spent over a year training thousands of activists on nonviolent discipline. As Occupy Central mutated into Occupy Admiralty, Occupy Causeway Bay, and Occupy Mongkok, as the number of protestors surged to hundreds of thousands, and as protestors are confronted by police violence, thug violence, and counter-protestors, it appeared that the protests would get out of control. Yet, even while protestors in Mongkok and Causeway Bay claimed that they were leaderless and had no obligation to follow organizers, everyone on the street seemed keenly aware of the critical importance of maintaining nonviolent discipline. In the face of provocations, protestors restrained and reminded one another not to fight back. Protestors in Mongkok even developed a nonviolent tactic which has become legendary: singing the birthday song to drown out counterprotestors.

Why are protestors so disciplined that they clean streets and public toilets? Hong Kong people are perfectly capable of trashing the streets. A good test is what Victoria Park looks like after the Mid Autumn Festival and after the annual June 4 candle light vigil and July 1 demonstration. After the festival, the park would be littered with wax and garbage. Yet, after the candle light vigil, not a trace of wax would be left behind. It seems that Hong Kong protestors intuitively understand what scholars call the show of worthiness as well as unity when they are fighting for a cause larger than themselves.

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Targeted boycott and noncooperation — “If we withdraw now, we would lose everything that we have been fighting for”?

[updated on Feb. 8, 2016]


After occupy:

What could protestors have done to put pressure on the government? What could pro-democracy folks do now to sustain the movement without violating the law?

The main non-cooperation act in the society is the call to pay taxes by stacks of checks each amounting to $68.90 or $689, or $6890 etc. This act has symbolic value but doesn’t really achieve anything. See 良心抗稅運動. See blog posts on targeted boycott.

[Feb 2, 2016] Passion Times advocates boycott of a Chinese New Year film made by a producer who has long ridiculed the pro-democracy camp: 賭城風雲3》周五門票開售 旺角百老匯7:45場暫賣出6張飛 ; a dedicated Facebook page 香港人有骨氣 杯葛王晶罷看王晶攻略;  Why is there a boycott drive against Wong Jing’s latest movie? However, apparently many HK people rushed to watch the movie: 王晶微博報喜稱票房已破億. Hmmm, if HK people can’t boycott a terrible movie, what is the chance of a city-wide targeted boycott?

[Sep 28, 2015] Anti-umbrella camp dropped the plan to sue occupiers for damage for fear that participating businesses would be targeted for boycott:

今日佔中一周年,保衞香港運動及部分的士業人士上街再反佔中時,身兼中華廠商聯合會永遠名譽會長的「保普選」反佔中大聯盟發言人施榮懷,卻在今日南華早報刊出的專訪中稱,早前原本想向佔中發起人提出民事索償的餐廳等小商戶,都紛紛打退堂鼓,因為他們當初提出此舉後,即遭標籤為「藍絲」,以至反過來失去更多生意。(反佔中「福建幫」發言人變相承認 「藍絲」非民心所向│丘偉華)

Would the “China Ready” campaign make targeted boycott easier? CHINA READY認證出爐 迎合中國旅客喜好

A call to boycott pro-Beijing bookstore chains and to shop at small bookshops because  the former are promoting a series of anti-umbrella books and have returned pro-umbrella books to the publisher.

Hong Kong book giant in censorship row after returning titles to ‘pro-democracy’ publisher ; 推介10間獨立書店 抗衡「三中商」霸權 ; 香港獨立書店 每周推薦一書 ;【香港獨立書店地圖】and map

Small bookstores are closing one after another 不敵加租 精神書局西環店下月結業

Basic Law violation seen as LOCPG tightens grip on HK publishers:

The Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government (LOCPG), the de facto government in Hong Kong, … has taken control of Sino United Publishing Limited, the dominant player in the local publishing market, through a shell company based in Hong Kong, the magazine said, quoting documents from the State Administration for Industry and Commerce. Sino United Publishing has businesses ranging from publishing to distribution and retailing. The publisher wholly owns three local major bookstores — Joint Publishing HK, Chung Hwa Book Co. and the Commercial Press.


Stacks of pro-umbrella books at one of the small upstairs independent bookstores in Causeway Bay:


Stacks of anti-umbrella books at one of the main bookstore chains in Wanchai:


Chinese University students read umbrella books outside the Commercial Press 中大生商務印外 快閃讀傘運「禁書」

[Mar. 29] Call to boycott a pro-establishment newspaper Sing Tao Daily 身體力行杯葛星島集團的刊物

[Apr. 3] A suggestion to boycott the repayment of student loans  學聯有沒有想過罷債?

[Oct 8, 2015] But support Kwok Shiu-ming”s businesses 莎莎 : I would hire HKU Student Union President Billy Fung, business tycoon says

[May 18] A FB page dedicated to promote shopping with mom-and-pop shops instead of large chains 撐小店大聯盟



[July 10] Call for a consumer boycott 公民的消費制裁

[July] boycott of taxi drivers who staged a counter protest against the occupy movement on Oct. 13:


[July 29] Hong Kong’s taxi voting block shows how electoral process is open to corruption and [Aug 14]  Hongkongers rally to Uber’s cause as nearly 50,000 sign petition in favour of continued service after arrests

[July 12-] The pro-establishment camp is suddenly faced with another crisis: Made-in-China water pipes contain high levels of lead and a pro-govt legislator is related to the contractor company China State Construction. There should be a growing market for local businesses using supplies that comply with int’l standards.

 50,000 public housing residents may be drinking unsafe water  ; 食水含鉛超標 水務署點名水喉匠林德深避提中國建築 ; 【 香港鉛爆?】房署准用國產貨被指罪魁 網民稱國產「假銅」水管整條含鉛 政府謊稱接駁位出事圖掩飾 問題遍全港 ; 中國建築母公司 曾涉賄賂被世銀列黑名單 蔣麗芸積極反拉布 丈夫任董事中國建築 逾百億工程合約受拉布影響Hong Kong lawmaker denies conflict in lead drinking water scare


See also “Shopping revolution

[Sep 29, 2015] Joshua Wong explained that they couldn’t withdraw because 40% of the occupiers would not leave.

黃之鋒接受《星島》訪問時表示,自己沒有一刻想過主動退場,「不主動退場的原因不是學生要面、賴死唔走。原因是如果我們叫退場,退盡都是退六成,其餘的四成人點算?這種金盤洗手式的主動切割係唔work(可行),因為切割後,其他人都係會話,你看看你們一宣布主動退場,剩下的四成市民就被打至頭破血流,你們為何不跟他們並肩作戰?」… 他透露,泛民一直希望退場,「他們抒發完感受後,我都跟他們說,如果你叫得走九成的人,咪考慮是否主動退場。你叫不走九成的人,就面對現實吧!」【黃之鋒:不退場的原因】

When interviewed, many protestors express the same sentiment: “If we retreat now, we would lose everything that we have been fighting so hard for in the past 3 weeks.” (‘If We Lose This, We Lose Everything’ and Hong Kong protesters won’t “surrender,” reject leaders’ calls to leave) [Note that the term withdrawal is better, because it conveys the meaning of tactical withdrawal rather than retreating for nothing.]

Hong Kong people do not seem to be aware of a key lesson in nonviolent movements: that methods of dispersal such as targeted boycotts can be just as effective as methods of concentration. It is possible to keep up the momentum while everyone goes back to school or work.

This is particularly the case in a system where economic privileges are manipulated to maintain political stability.

Up to now, HK protestors have sought strength in numbers. (“I’m here as one more body,” said Leung. “Because for every one less body here, it gets more dangerous for everyone else.”) After the police arrested Scholarism students, protestors poured to the Central Government Offices to protect students. When thugs showed up to beat up and sexually harass student protestors in Mongkok, messages appeared on social media requesting reinforcements. Whenever the no. of protestors dwindle at different sites, whenever the police show movements, etc., protestors make appeals for help on social media.

Of course, Hong Kong protestors have deeply impressed the world that half a million people could peacefully demonstrate in the streets.

Unlike other nonviolent movements, HK people have enjoyed freedom even without democracy. As such, they have had little need to pursue methods of dispersal which are often adopted to avoid direct repression. As police brutality increases and freedom shrinks, it may become increasingly necessarily to come up with innovative tactics of dispersal.

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More police and thug abuses — have they learned the lesson of backfire?

The shocking video of the police beating and kicking a protestor is surely to backfire yet again.

It is surprising that the police still have not learned the lesson that violent repression would only backfire on Hong Kong people. It was police violence that created the Umbrella Movement in the first place. And it was thug violence that sustained the movement just when it was fizzling out.

Many protestors are on the street now only AFTER the riot police used tear gas and pepper spray. If CY had allowed the student boycotts and Occupy Central to go on without incident, the protests would have died out on its own after a few days. Instead, the use of tear gas on Sep. 28 caused an outrage and mobilized people to pour into the streets, thus giving birth to the Umbrella Movement.

And just when the protests in Admiralty, Causeway Bay and Mongkok were fading away by Oct. 2 or so, thugs (who were suspected to have the blessings of the police) beat up and sexually harassed protestors in Mongkok. Soon after, more people poured into the street to condemn thug violence.

Just yesterday, it was looking like the police would be able to remove road blocks piecemeal and thus end the occupy movement any time soon. And then the police beat up protestors, reporters and monitors in the middle of the night.

HK protestors who are baptized by criminal arrests, pepper spray and tear gas would only increase their determination.

HK testifies to the well-known theory that it is state violence that drives support for the opposition.

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Backfire — Baptism of Fire

ByoRL1rCIAAg7q2 Hong Kong police fires tear gas at pro-democracy protesters

Scholars have long argued that repression could backfire rather than silence dissent. That is exactly what happened when the govt sent out the riot police and used pepper spray and tear gas on Sep. 28. In HK, people use the concept “baptism of fire.”

Baptism Of Fire 00:21:56 2014-10-09: The students of Hong Kong have hit the headlines all over the world. Many of them have become new soldiers of democracy, with boycotting classes and staging protests as their first experience of action politics.

Another commentary using the same analogy 小思:浴火鳳凰

The police did not use this many (87) rounds of tear gas even when leftists staged riots in conjunction with the Cultural Revolution across the border in 1967:

鄧鍵一:誰動員群眾? ——電視畫面在雨傘運動的動員作用社會/t444/2014/11/28/鄧鍵一:誰動員群眾?-電視畫面在雨傘運動的/


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Views from China — and why don’t HK protestors reach out to mainland Chinese?

[updated on Feb. 8, 2016]

In other struggles for autonomy, one of the key strategies is to reach out to the core/dominant population. In HK, protestors have made no efforts to mobilize support from mainland Chinese or  break the Great Fire Wall. There are several reasons.

1) It is difficult enough to fight for autonomy for HK. Consciously spilling the umbrella movement across the border could give Beijing an excuse to crackdown. However, mainland Chinese are of course watching…

2) HK people have acquired an increasingly local identity, considering themselves as “HK people” ahead of “Chinese.” There has also been growing anti-mainlandization. Some people are happy that the occupy movement has caused mainland tourists to cancel their trip. “Suddenly the streets are not swamped by mainland tourists.”

3) Hong Kong people speak Cantonese rather than Mandarin. Cantonese is a different language/dialect that is incomprehensible to mainland Chinese. (The Economist explains dialect vs. language. See also “Cantonese almost became the official language“.)

4) It is very difficult for Hong Kong protestors to reach out to mainland Chinese not just because of the language barrier, but also because of Chinese nationalism. If mainland Chinese do not know what is going on in HK because of heightened censorship, Chinese students studying abroad show little sympathy for HK because nationalism hinders understanding. For mainland Chinese, the return of HK to the motherland in 1997 marked the end of the “century of humiliation.” Many do not understand why HK people are not grateful to the motherland.

Mainland Chinese youth remain cool to Hong Kong’s democracy fever:

After the Hong Kong unrest erupted in late September, China’s state media were briefly gagged. Soon, though, they were firing salvos of criticism at the protesters. Besides, China’s internet firewall is porous, so it is virtually impossible to block news of such magnitude. There are many tools available to get round attempts at censorship.

Instead, China’s continuing economic stability is the primary reason mainlanders are seemingly unconcerned with the Hong Kong protests. The country’s rapid economic progress has brought wealth and comfort, as well as a fear and loathing of politics.

For their part, the Hong Kong protesters simply want their grievances to be heard by Beijing. They have no desire for their protests to spill over to the mainland. Thus, the protests have neither appealed to nor affected the lives of those across the border.

See 我係大中華膠?

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The Umbrella Movement failed (or was already failing then)? Why do some people say that?

[Updated on Sep 29, 2015]

See also divided, unity and leadership. Pundits argue that the Umbrella Movement failed because it did not compel CY Leung to step down or to re-open consultations on universal suffrage. To begin, success is difficult everywhere:

Jeremi Suri, a University of Texas historian who has studied global revolutions… As Suri puts it, “we’ve relearned the lesson that it’s a lot easier to get people out in the street than it is to make a political difference.” (2014 protests: From Ferguson to Hong Kong, impact unclear

Lin Fei-fan, a student leader of Taiwan’s Sunflower Movement, has a similar view:

“很多朋友可能認為雨傘運動失敗了,或者訴求沒有達成。其實我覺得也沒有那麼悲觀。因為事實上香港人在這次運動中,給北京政府已經很大的震撼。過去這幾年我參與很多社會運動,覺得很挫折的時候,我都想一件事情。就是馬英九到底在想甚麼,北京政府到底在想甚麼。其實他們在想你們哪一天自己消失,你們哪一天自己放棄。我覺得香港民眾其實要記住這一點,你們沒有放棄的權利.” (台灣太陽花學運一周年 at about 20 min.)

[Mar. 21] Of course, CY Leung and his supporters are celebrating their victory:  特首晤建制派 指佔中失敗;  梁振英昨在禮賓府宴請反佔中核心成員

[Jan. 2015] Paradoxically, what Chris Patten calls the “rowdies” are also calling the movement a failure. It seems that the purpose is to put all the blame on the leaders of Occupy Central, HK Federation of Students and Scholarism. First, they don’t seem to understand that the way to keep the momentum of any movement is to claim victory, however, small. Second, the rowdies seem to be encouraging this split, which had been set aside at the height of the movement, so that they can assume leadership in the post-occupy phase. See split.

A key lesson from other movements is that focusing on “failure” makes people lose heart — thus it is important to claim small victories so that people are motivated to carry on.

[April 3, 2015] Hong Kong’s pan-democrats: Plagued by a chain of failures, yet unrecognised for their mini-victories 

Cardinal Zen says Occupy Movement was a success





Original post:

Student leader Alex Chow says: There really is nothing to lose because HK already lost everything with the NPCSC decision. (「其實我地仲有乜可以輸??人大落下831這項決定時,全香港已經輸清光。」

It is also argued that Occupy Central already failed too – that it failed to mobilize as many protestors as students, and that it failed to capitalize on the outrage at police violence by calling to end Occupy prematurely on September 28. But such a view misses the point. We should look beyond a single episode and examine its role in the long stream of contention. Occupy Central and its mutation into the Umbrella Movement have fundamentally rewritten Hong Kong politics. Never before would activists be willing to stage disruptive actions and thus risk criminal charges, pepper spray, tear gas, and thug violence. As activists so proudly put it, they have been baptized in the flames of fire. Through their collective courage, they have fundamentally transformed Hong Kong as well. McAdam, Tilly and Tarrow etc argue that contentious politics is like a chess game. This means that there is no particular move that will guarantee success or failure — it all depends on what the other side does and how events turn out. In contentious politics, success and failure are hard to define, for many reasons. For one, we should examine processes as well as outcomes. In terms of process, the umbrella movement is unprecedentedly successful. It has completely transformed HK and HK people. Today’s teenagers will certainly continue to fight for the next 70 years. There is also the question of dating the beginning and end points. When do you date the end of a movement and thus call it a failure? HK’s democracy has been 30 years in the making. The umbrella movement marks only one episode (or chapter) in a long stream of HK’s democracy movement. At what point can one say that the movement has failed? Take the anti-apartheid movement, it looked like it had failed at every episode (especially when the regime repeatedly imposed states of emergency in 1985 and after) until it finally succeeded. The walk to freedom, as Mandela said, is long.

John Garnaut provides one poignant explanation for why some international observers are condemning the umbrella movement to failure:

The meta-narrative of ever-growing power is … the incentive for economic beneficiaries to avoid seeing, or to rationalise, or to even actively support China’s underground program to degrade, dismantle and decapitate the institutions of civil society and government enjoyed by the citizens of Hong Kong and Taiwan. Before the umbrella protests of Hong Kong it was easier to believe that it was only a matter of time before the peripheries were fully absorbed into the empire and made safe for Chinese Communist Party rule. And that’s the way the way that Hong Kong’s great multinational banks, the world’s top four accounting firms, and even the Australian Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong still see the odds, judging by their recent statements. Geoff Raby, a former ambassador who represents Australian corporations in Beijing and sits on the board of Andrew Forrest’s iron ore company, Fortescue, was empathetic with the protesters he surveyed in central Hong Kong. Indeed, their earnest faces were haunting reminders of those he’d seen a quarter of a century earlier in Tiananmen. And, to him, their hopes are as futile now as they were back then. To contemplate otherwise would not just be wrong, as he put it this week in the AFR, but “ideological”. So much so that Canberra should resign itself and allow history to take its inevitable course if the People’s Liberation Army is once again sent in. “It will be a time for cool reason, rather than ideological enthusiasm,”according to Raby.

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The Umbrella Movement is about economic grievances rather than democracy?

[updated on Oct. 5, 2015]

Many observers suggest that protestors are really grumpy about inequality, job prospects, housing prices etc. rather than democracy. They are mistaken to take material and political grievances as discrete issues. What matters is the mechanism of attribution. When people blame their blight on the political system, the two sets of grievances are inextricably interlinked. Continue reading

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A Social Media Movement — and self-censorship by most mainstream HK media

[updated on April 4, 2015]

Hong Kong police pulled down more web content in last four months than in previous four years: Force insists content is criminal but activists say they are targeting online political organising as rise coincided with Occupy

Hong Kong’s Virtual Districts: How online groups are helping build communities in the real world


This movement is live streamed for the world to see. http://umbrella.appledaily.com

Also live, though not live stream:

Activists have been mobilizing on social media: when to gather for mass rallies, when an occupy site needs more people to hold it, when the police seem to be preparing for new action, when supplies are running low, etc. Social media have significantly facilitated self-organization.

The role of social media in Occupy protests, on the ground and around the world: “At the height of the riot police operation, 12 tweets about Hong Kong were being posted every second as images of protesters engulfed in tear gas spread globally. Days before the street protests began, there were just 19 Hong Kong-related messages being posted per minute.”

Hongkongers who find news online more likely to support Occupy protests: Hong Kong residents who primarily find their news online and regularly comment on the internet are far more likely to support the city’s ongoing pro-democracy protests, a new survey has found.

Mobilization on social media (there are far too many to list them all): (requires registration)

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Leadership — Students hijacked Occupy Central leaders?

Archbishop Zen scolded the HK Federation of Students for hijacking the Occupy Central leadership. At the same time, radicals who had never supported OC applauded students for “pushing out” the “old guys.”

It is wrong to say who hijacked whom in HK’s 3-decades-old democracy movement. It has grown and sustained over time because every crisis nurtured a new leadership. Every time, traditional leaders graciously stepped aside and stood behind the new leaders.

The Sino-British negotiations gave birth to the first summit meeting of all pro-democracy forces (高山大會)in 1986. Tiananmen further coalesced them into the United Democrats of HK. The anti-Art 23 campaign of 2003 gave rise to lawyers and the Civic Party. The patriotic education policy led to the formation of Scholarism in 2012. The universal franchise campaign pushed OC to the forefront in 2013. At every juncture, older generations stepped aside and let new leaders lead.

Students organized a week-long class boycott in the week of Sep. 22. Occupy Central announced that they were going to start occupying on Oct. 1. The arrests of student leaders on Friday, Sep. 26 drew so many people to Admiralty that OC had to announce its early beginning.

Hijacking? What we have seen is a joint leadership of Scholarism (high school students), the Federation of Students (college students) and Occupy Central (2 professors and 1 pastor) in this chapter of HK’s democracy movement.

Different episodes of Hong Kong’s democracy movement have always been tightly interlinked, with every leadership pushing the movement a bit further and then passing on the torch to a new leadership in a new episode.The fluidity of leadership has created a cross-class, inter-generational leadership structure over the years. This is why HK’s democracy movement has sustained and expanded.

Original Hong Kong Occupy plan veered off script:

today, the Occupy Central protests that Tai launched with conviction on September 28 have deviated markedly from his script – in ways that he and his two co-founders had not imagined in their wildest dreams… But the shift in leadership left the campaign less organised than planned. In its early days, a rift emerged between Occupy organisers and the student leaders and concerns were arising that the protests could spin out of control. (

An intergenerational leadership of Scholarism, Federation of Students and Occupy Central


Who guides Hong Kong’s ‘Umbrella Revolution’ pro-democracy movement? Hong Kong’s protesters come from a huge swath of society and have no single leader, but there is a group of figureheads

Wong, Tai on list of leading global thinkers

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Umbrella Movement in art

[Updated on May 23, 2016]

[May 23, 2016] Lights out for controversial 2047 ‘Countdown Machine’ art installation on Hong Kong’s ICC building ; ICC building protest art suspended as Arts Council slams artists’ ‘disrespect’

Film “Ten Years” Dark vision of Hong Kong’s future proves surprise box office hit ; Global Times says it is absurd ; Ten Years wins ‘best film’ at 2016 HK Film Awards, as news of win is censored in China

其後:雨傘運動中的物件 Hereafter: Objects from the Umbrella Movement (26/9/2015 – 16/10/2015)

[Sep 28, 2015] Protest street art on display; [Sep 2] Occupy art exhibition struggles to find home in time for anniversary

[Sep 28] HK Journalists Association’s photojournalism exhibition disappears from urban centers 消失於鬧市的攝影展

[Sep 24] Italian artist donates Occupy paintings to university

[March 28, 2016] Humour out of chaos: How satire helps channel Hong Kong people’s frustrations


During the umbrella movement:

“Just as the protests have upended the notion that Hong Kong people don’t care about politics, the blast of public art is changing the image of a city better known for making money than for art and culture.” (Rescuing Protest Artwork From Hong Kong’s Streets

RTHK’s The Works: and

Channel 4 News The political art behind the umbrella revolution in Hong Kong

CNN, Art bursts from Hong Kong protests

A View of the Artistic Protests of the Umbrella Movement

Cartoonist of Mr. and Ms. HK People : profile

Words of the Umbrella Movement

Word art 街上的民字

Wordplay a new weapon in Hong Kong democracy battle

佔領區的靈性 落地的信仰

Giant projector: and

A cartoon timeline: Harry’s View on Occupy Central

Kickstarter Funds `HK Trilogy’ Film

Umbrella dance: Chapter 9.28; review

Urban design: Hong Kong Government Office Architect Reflects on ‘Occupy’ Movement

Rocco Yim… is the lead architect of Rocco Design Architects Ltd, the Hong Kong firm that originally designed the government complex, including the area that stretches from Tamar Park to a elevated walkway that links the Legislative Council with a nearby office building…

Mr. Yim said that the protests made him rethink his views on the space surrounding the government complex. “As I walked through the occupied zones towards Central, which felt so much less congested and cleaner, I thought: do we really need so many roads? Can we do something to persuade people to use their cars less, and pedestrianize this area — if not permanently, at least occasionally? If we could experiment with fewer roads – not just for protesters, but as a civic space – it could have a very positive effect.”

What this protest art means for the protest and the art scene: 一場學運兩種進路─香港藝術X社運的範式轉移

Knowing that the occupy movement will end some day, there is a rush to preserve this art:

Rescuing Protest Artwork From Hong Kong’s Streets

Will Hong Kong’s protest art be saved?

Victoria and Albert Museum

Hong Kong Artists concern protest art Community

Occupy art in Germany :  When Protest Becomes Art: The Contradictory Transformations of the Occupy Movement at Documenta 13 and Berlin Biennale 7

[Mar. 6]  Umbrellas part of Maritime Museum exhibition of HK history


Umbrella art exhibition at universities 聯校雨傘運動藝術展 以藝術呼籲大眾「勿忘初衷」

[June 25] A HK photographer won the French PX3 Gold award for umbrella pictures 記錄佔領一刻 港人奪法國攝影賽PX3金獎

Can the Umbrella generation build careers in art? 文化創作能做職業嗎?

HK has worked very hard to promote artistic creativity, the Umbrella Movement achieved it overnight: Hong Kong Moves to Refashion Itself as a Global Hub of Creativity

And preserving old HK in sketches: 事吉茶記 Sketcher-Kee

USIP Global Campus’ online course on nonviolence:  Civil Resistance and the Dynamics of Nonviolent Movements5.4.1 Arts and Resistance Overview

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Umbrella Movement in songs–and artists in politics

[updated on July 1, 2017]

TV Most put on a widely acclaimed and sold-out performance of parody songs on Jan. 11, 2016: “TVMost 1st Guy Ten Big Ging Cook Gum Cook Awards Distribution (第一屆十大勁曲金曲分獎典禮)” — official videos;  How TVMost show made its audience feel like Hongkongers ; Hongkongers need more of sense of humour, especially in politicsHumour out of chaos: How satire helps channel Hong Kong people’s frustrations ; 笑聲滿載對抗的溫馨

撐起雨傘 Raise the Umbrellas

[Jan. 1, 2015] The Umbrella theme song “Raise the umbrella” named song of 2014 with a symbolic no. of votes (2887 — 87 rounds of tear gas on 9/28) and huge margins over competing songs:;撐起雨傘-奪-叱咤樂壇我最喜愛的歌曲-獎/

Umbrella theme song “Raise your umbrella” released on Oct. 3 ; with translationEnglish version released on Oct. 26. A Cappella version. Taiwanese version in Minnan.

Occupy Central’s theme song

問誰未發聲/who hasn’t spoken up

The longest-standing protest song: Beyond’s 海闊天空 Boundless Oceans and Vast Skies:

English version

The original Beyond song with transliteration and translation

Metro Vocal Group sings 『海闊天空」, much appreciated by HK Cantonese

Linguist Victor Mair on this song which he translates as “Boundless Oceans Vast Skies

More umbrella songs and playlists

A different umbrella song released on Nov. 14, 2014: 運動歌曲《雨遮》:從學生創作到現場動員

The umbrella playlist: 傘聚 United Umbrella  [Music video]– a fusion of Lennon’s Imagine and local songs — fit for the Lennon Wall in Admiralty


The shopping revolution song: 日日去鳩嗚 (voice only)

Under the lion rock 獅子山下 MV 葉德嫻、何韻詩、黃耀明 20141028 Hong Kong Umbrella Revolution

Umbrella dance by college students: 大專Mass Dance學生撐黃傘跳舞 全場大合唱

An MTV made before the final clearing <金鐘應該很高興> -The wall against autocracy! 

No Turning Back

Camping at Occupy sites

The Umbrella Movement Playlist

Hong Kong’s Pop Culture of Protest

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Why are Hong Kong’s young people protesting? Fighting for their future

[Updated on April 30, 2016]

See grievances.

[June 7, 2016] INTERVIEW: Hong Kong’s Joshua Wong Takes the Fight to Beijing

[April 29, 2016] One in five young people pessimistic about HK future: survey[Sep 25, 2015]  Youth more pessimistic about Hong Kong’s future

[Jan 23, 2016] An examination of the idea that HK youth are “trash youth” 我係廢青?

[Mar 27, 2016] Out with the old: The political awakening of a new generation of Hongkongers

[Oct. 21, 2015]  Hong Kong student leader Joshua Wong on Xi’s UK visit, human rights and democracy

[Oct. 13] Joshua Wong seeks judicial review of election age limit: Sparks ‘Rule by the old’ debate 

[Sep 26] The teenager who defied China: Joshua Wong was one of the faces of Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution and now he has drawn a roadmap for democracy

[Sep 29] Elsie Tu criticizes young people for being irrational 佔領一周年】梁愛詩指許多青年不講理 不放心香港交予不理性謀發展的人

[Dec. 2, 2015] China Daily: Self-righteousness closes the eyes and minds of our youth

[Dec. 7, 2015] Hong Kong companies adopt Shenzhen interview tactic — It may be to check if a job applicant is ona mainland blacklist for political reasons

[July 15] Students with top scores had participated in the occpy movement 多名狀元曾經佔領

[June 29] Scholarism leader Joshua Wong, girlfriend attacked after movie 

[June 15] Pupil’s poignant palindromic poem praised: A poem written by a pupil in Form 3 went viral in Hong Kong last week after the teacher, Eric Windarcher, uploaded it onto the internet. Hold your umbrella:

Our city is dying

Never will [anybody] say

We can fight against the ruthless government.

The truth is

Under the pepper spray and tear bomb

We can never succeed

It is wrong to believe that

We can build our wings and fly high.

Having the right to freely nominate and elect the head of our government by 2017

Is a joke.

We know that

Our goals can only be fulfilled in fairytales,

‘The revolution is not an apple that falls when it is ripe. You have to make it fall’

Che [Guevara] said.

Can we? Never

Put down your yellow umbrella.

Let the communist Chinese government take away all the core values we treasured.

Give up protesting for political freedom.

We know it is a lie.

People may think Hong Kong is dying.

That might be true,

Unless we turn things around

[Dec 24, 2015] “I am achieving balance in my own wayFor me, balancing is not for survival. It’s for a keeping a dream alive.”

Hong Kong student protest leader Joshua Wong: ‘We will win’ ; CNN: On China: Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement

潮未遠去,風再起時 傘運後的新世代

A documentary on the anti-parallel trade youth 反水貨客少年



CY Leung urges young Hongkongers to ‘fight back’ against radicals

But three in 10 young people unhappy with HK situation and 47 percent of the respondents between 20 and 24 favor upholding justice through civil disobedience.

Dramatic upsurge in the no. of HK students applying to study abroad after occupy 雨傘運動後 赴英升學港生大增

Meanwhile, the generation gap is growing wider:  Why older voters have become critical in HK political battles:

Unhappiness over the 79-day street occupation last year by democracy activists is a key factor weighing on the minds of the people aged 50 and above, a recent opinion poll suggests… According to the survey, around 10 percent of even those who claimed to have been pro-democracy camp supporters and aged over 50 said they would consider voting for pro-establishment candidates in the upcoming district election… around half the interviewees held a very negative impression over the Occupy campaign, while 30 percent remained neutral…The Occupy movement, it is now acknowledged, has widened the rifts in Hong Kong society, with the youth and the elderly mostly standing on opposite sides…The number of registered voters above the age of 61 has surged to 981,489, making up for one-third of the total registered voter base. In comparison, registered voters aged 18 to 30 saw their number reach 580,000.

It does not look good that young people are so alienated that they did not register to vote:

Newly registered voters for the November 2015 District Council elections are overwhelmingly retirees (two thirds of newly registered voters are over 56) and many young people between the ages of 18 and 30 remain unregistered. This is a very serious challenge, more so than the lack of broader support for the occupation itself, and indicates the lingering sway of disenfranchisement even among Hong Kong’s younger population. (One year after Occupy, political alienation of the young still the major challenge for democrats)

[July 7] Some young protestors are supported by their parents 我的社運爸媽

Young generations are increasingly worse off.

Salaries of Hong Kong’s university graduates dropped 20 per cent in last 20 years, study findsUniversity grads forced to accept lower-level jobs, poorer pay  ; 港高級職位不足 80後畢業生月入較70後少兩成


Original post

However this episode of the Umbrella Movement turns out, effective governance in the long-term requires some accommodation with today’s young people who will easily live for another 70 years. They are restless and fearless — as they have been “baptized” by pepper spray, tear gas, police manhandling, and thug violence.

In a poll released [in Dec. 2014], only 8.9 percent of Hong Kong residents identified as Chinese, the lowest figure ever recorded. And the trendlines aren’t good for Beijing: The territory’s younger generations, epitomized by the bespectacled Wong, supported the protesters the most. This could turn into a long-term problem for the Chinese government, said Trey Menefee, a lecturer at the Hong Kong Institute of Education who has observed the protests firsthand.  (Hong Kong’s Protests Are Over—for Now

According to another HKU survey, the Hong Kong Federation of Students passes the recognition benchmark for the first time to enter the “top 10” list and also ranks first while Scholarism goes up three positions to rank 5th. Lian Yi Zheng on Hong Kong’s Occupy Generation:

By the time the Occupy Central movement is eventually dissolved — by force or of its own resolution — and its leaders make good on their promise to submit themselves to arrest, an entire generation of pro-democracy citizens will have arisen: young and dynamic, dauntless and relentless. It is a force that the Beijing plutocrats and their emissaries in Hong Kong will have trouble getting used to. Political business will no longer be as usual.

Hong Kong’s Summer of Love and the Umbrella Generation:

From its origins as a protest movement with a narrow set of political demands, the Umbrella Movement has morphed into a defining generational moment, one whose impact will be felt even stronger in 2027 than in 2017.

For Hong Kong Protesters, a Spark to Keep Alive:

“This is a lifelong movement,” she said. “We cannot give up. Because we belong to this place. If we want this place to be well, we cannot just leave it.” (

Students are overwhelmingly dissatisfied with political issues: Political issues top concern among students now: survey (see also 明報民調:近半受訪青年最不滿政治)

In a survey conducted by Ming Pao Daily, 47 percent of student respondents said what they are most unhappy about at the moment is the way the government is dealing with political issues. Disputes on the political system, failure to ensure “Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong with a high degree of autonomy” and the shortcomings of local officials were among the factors cited by the students.

調查發現,47%受訪者最不滿政府處理政治議題的表現,包括「政制爭議」(24%)、「香港未能做到『港人治港、高度自治』」(16%)、「問責官員能力不足」(7%);有46%受訪者認為政府應優先解決政治議題。 民生方面,最多受訪者不滿政府處理樓價高企表現(15%),其次是「中港矛盾」(10%)、「貧富懸殊」(9%)等;有20%受訪者要求政府優先處理房屋問題。 被問及是否滿意特首表現時,79%受訪者不滿特首梁振英的表現,當中有43%表示「非常不滿意」,整體的不滿比率較針對特區政府高,滿意或非常滿意梁表現者只有3%,其餘18%人對此表示中立。

The source of Hong Kong youth’s frustration: Siegfried Sin says young people are, above all, angry at the uncompromising attitudes of the older generation, and the fact they have had no voice in society – until now oped_1213_1

Young people are on a path of no return and will keep up the struggle 那是我們都回不去的從前

Umbrella Movement Through the Eyes of Students On the Occupy Generation: What Does Hong Kong’s “Occupy Generation” Want?  A documentary of the voices of Hong Kong’s teenagers:

Through Occupy, Hong Kong youth claim their citizen’s rights

The Umbrella Movement marks a coming of age for Hong Kong’s “princess” generation

Listen to the young ladies: 傘不走的女聲 Do you hear the women sing

SocREC 2015015 林同學心聲

More young voters on electoral rolls after Occupy

網片新人王 Who is Joshua Wong–what Scholarism is for? Joshua Wong, Taking Back Hong Kong’s Future Joshua Wong for Time’s person of the year 學民思潮召集人黃之鋒 “Lessons in Dissent” about Scholarism made earlier: Student unions want to withdraw from the Federation of Students after occupy


Beijing’s Liaison Office in HK is trying to make the HK Federation of Students more Beijing-friendly by influencing member student unions. A City U student disclosed that the Liaison Office was trying to bribe and threaten students running for elections to the student union: CityU student exposes threats and deals made and offered by leftists in order to infiltrate HKFS城大學生爆左派威逼利誘 滲透學聯

Chinese University’s next student union cabinet has students with ties to left-wing groups 中大學生會換屆閣員疑有左翼背景

a former Chinese communist youth league member is running for HKU’s student union:  港大學生會內閣候選人叶璐珊承認共青團身份 / Mainland student tells of smears in HKU election —- [Jan. 17, 2015] Does CY Leung’s 2015 Policy Address seek to erase the next generation of youth with 1) the open criticism of HKU’s student publication “Undergrad”, 2) a new Chinese history curriculum, and 3) diversion of education resources to exchange programs with mainland schools?【施政報告系列】有實無名國民教育,消滅新一代青少年

[Jan. 22, 2015] Why HK youth hate Leung even more after his policy speech: there are some problems with his tone when he said in his speech that he “needs to guide young people and university students through the process of understanding the constitutional relations between Hong Kong and the Mainland”.

The city’s biggest pro-establishment party conceded it had met “difficulties” in recruiting young people, as well as members from the commercial and professional sectors, meeting only half its target.

China No 3 leader says more attention needed for Hong Kong young

Alibaba sets up HK$1b fund to help young Hong Kong entrepreneurs

Yet, the government appointed someone born with a silver spoon to head the youth affairs committee  劉鳴煒獲委青年事務委員會主席


See also relevant section on the erosion of academic freedom


“What is so scary about these young people”

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Umbrella movement or revolution — What’s in a name?

[Updated on Sep 29, 2015]

Umbrella Movement or Umbrella Revolution? The “Umbrella Revolution” is a name coined by international journalists. Hong Kong protestors quickly adopted it. They love the symbolism of “umbrella.”  While many people also follow the term “revolution,” the leaders prefer “movement.” They are worried that Beijing is allergic to color revolutions. Student leaders emphasize that “we are just fighting for genuine universal franchise, we are not seeking to overthrow the political order.” Radicals, in contrast, insist on calling this a revolution. I don’t understand the fuss about this. Both sides misunderstand the term revolution. Color revolutions on record are hardly revolutionary. They have taken place in semi-democracies. Thus, in Serbia, Georgia, Ukraine, what was at stake was electoral disputes rather than regime change.

Hong Kong’s students want you to stop calling their protest a ‘revolution’

Beijing calls this a foreign-instigated color revolution:【國家安全教育展 介紹佔中事件為一場顏色革命】

Benny Tai on why this is a movement:

Hong Kong University student magazine Undergrad talks of revolution — Publication criticised by CY runs article urging city to revolt or face ‘destruction’.

Some protestors believe that there is no need to avoid the term “revolution.”

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What Chris Patten calls “rowdies” insist on calling this movement the Umbrella Revolution and attack student leaders for calling this the Umbrella Movement. I actually don’t understand the fuss about this controversy — or why they want to call this a revolution while China is nervous about this movement being a color revolution. Color revolutions are hardly revolutionary because they have uniformly taken place in semi-democracies. In Serbia, Georgia, Ukraine, what was at stake was electoral disputes. As for the so-called “velvet revolution” in Eastern Europe in 1989, the more appropriate term is “refolution” combining both top-down reforms and bottom-up revolutions. See Goodwin’s No Other Way Out.

Mao’s famous characterization:

“A revolution is not a dinner party, or writing an essay, or painting a picture, or doing embroidery . . . . A revolution is an act of insurrection, an act of violence by which one class overthrows another.”





This is probably the best characterization: “Almost a revolution


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Background and Timeline–and Analyses

[updated on Sep 28, 2015]

The Umbrella Movement did not begin when the CNN anchor descended on Hong Kong. The Umbrella Movement was mutated from the Occupy Central movement. Adopting McAdam, Tilly and Tarrow’s terms of processes and episodes, both the Occupy Central and Umbrella Movement are the latest episodes in Hong Kong’s 3-decades-long process of fighting for democracy. Every episode has been marked by a new crisis and a new leadership. HK’s democracy movement was born at the “Ko Shan/high mountain summit” (高山大會) of 1986. In response to the Sino-British Joint Declaration of 1984 which stipulated the drafting of the Basic Law, the then college students and young professionals dreamed of building a democratic Hong Kong. Of course, first-generation activists didn’t just fall from the sky; they had spent years working on social livelihood issues for years. Different groups joined forces to form the Joint Committee on the Promotion of Democratic Government and demanded direct elections to the Legislative Council as soon as 1988. (In Chinese: 民意彙集的政治:論兩次處理香港民意的缺失,八八直選 and民主政制促進聯委會) Probably under pressure from Beijing, the British HK government manipulated a public consultation《代議政制今後的發展白皮書》 and delayed direct elections until 1991, and for only a small portion of the seats. After Tiananmen in 1989, when Hong Kong people held the slogan “Today’s Tiananmen, Tomorrow’s Hong Kong,” the first generation of democrats became more convinced that democracy was the only hope for Hong Kong. The United Democrats was formed in 1990 to contest for 18 directly elected seats (out of 60) of the legislative council in 1991. While the handover in 1997 marked a watershed in Hong Kong’s history, the democracy movement appeared stagnant. The next big push for the democracy movement came when Beijing wanted Hong Kong to implement Article 23 of the Basic Law by introducing the national security bill in 2013. The Article 23 Concerned Group formed of lawyers mobilized half a million to take to the street on July 1. The government shelved the bill afterwards. Another episode came when the government wanted to introduce patriotic education in 2012. This time, high school students founded Scholarism to contest the policy, joining forces with the long-standing Federation of Students formed of college students. After 100,000 people turned out to support students and parents, the government shelved the policy.

Occupy Central was formed in early 2013. While Hong Kong people have long mobilized tens and hundreds of thousands to show up at rallies for an afternoon or an evening, Occupy Central called for a disruptive action for the first time in Hong Kong’s democracy movement. Organizers threatened to bring businesses in the central business district to a halt unless the government made arrangements for genuine universal franchise in the election of the Chief Executive in 2017. Beijing responded by a hardline decision in late August 2014. Thus the Federation of Students mobilized a school boycott in the week of September 22 and Scholarism on the day of September 26. And Occupy Central announced the kick-off of Occupy on Oct. 1. On the night of September 26, Scholarism sought to recover the “Civic Square” which had been the site of the anti-patriotic education campaign in 2012 but was barricaded during the summer of 2014. The rough handling of student activists and the mass arrests enraged the population. When protestors poured into areas surrounding the Central Government Offices on September 27, Occupy Central was forced to begin early, then and there, at the Central Government Offices in Admiralty rather than Central. And Occupy Central, Federation of Students, and Scholarism joined hands in leading the revised Occupy movement. As ever more protestors turned out in the weekend, the government sent out the riot police and used pepper spray and tear gas on September 28. When rumors spread that the police would escalate to rubber bullets, the joint leadership called for a complete retreat. By then, outraged protestors not only refused to retreat, but also spread out to Causeway Bay and Mongkok. Photos of hundreds of thousands of protestors spanning Admiralty soon became the iconic images of the Umbrella Movement. It was only then that the CCN anchor descended on the scene.

The next question is: when will this movement end? Surely not when international journalists leave:-) So far [as of Nov. 8], every prediction that it was ending or fizzling out or failing has been proven wrong. According to most protestors, the moment when they withdraw is also the moment when the real struggle begins, at a new level. According to Jimmy Lai: “I’ve been working in the media for so long, so I’m supposed to understand the people. But I tell you, I don’t. I don’t understand them. Their potential power and fighting spirit is something I’ve just discovered. It’s amazing.”… “I was quite shocked by the young people. I told myself that I really have to reassess and understand the Hong Kong people. It shows that the intensity of this movement is limitless. Its depth is bottomless. You never expect people to have such persistence and be so fearless.” (Apple Daily Owner Full of Wonder at Hong Kong’s Pro-Democracy ‘Kids’ ) Original Hong Kong Occupy plan veered off script: today, the Occupy Central protests that Tai launched with conviction on September 28 have deviated markedly from his script – in ways that he and his two co-founders had not imagined in their wildest dreams… ( Continue reading


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Background: constitutional and legal issues

Useful sources:

Michael Davis on Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement and Beijing’s Failure to Honor the Basic Law

HKU Law’s Cora Chan discusses recent developments in Hong Kong, the impetus for the current protests in Hong Kong, the constitutional relationship between Hong Kong and China, and the prospect for democratic reform in the region.

The British Institute of International and Comparative Law on the Sino-British Joint Declaration, the Basic Law, and Beijing’s decision on the electoral arrangements for the Chief Executive in 2017

Human Rights in HK on the 30th Anniversary of the Sino-British Joint Declaration

The law faculty of the University of Hong Kong have a blog on legal issues.

The International Law Case for Democracy in Hong Kong

Beijing’s broken promise on Hong Kong democracy shattered our trust

Hong Kong constitutional affairs minister lambasted for saying that China alone pledged to keep city’s way of life intact

Does China Think the Sino-British Joint Declaration Is Void? Recent statements suggest China pays little heed to the document governing Hong Kong’s handover.

Here’s why ‘pocket it first’ is unconstitutional

Government changes Basic Law facts.

House of Commons report: The UK’s relations with Hong Kong: 30 years after the Joint Declaration

See also Michael Davis on HK and general timeline and background.

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Interviews and Daily observations (Oct. 5 – Sep. 30)

Arise America: Hong Kong Protest Leaders Call for Retreat

Ian Masters/NPR


Victoria Hui, a political scientist at the University of Notre Dame in the U.S., suggested the protests partly stem from young people’s anger at decreasing social mobility and their dimming prospects at finding decent jobs after graduating from college, which is also becoming more unaffordable for people outside the upper and middle classes.

“People are attributing their economic grievances to the political system,” Hui said. “Demand for universal suffrage is connected to these material grievances.”


KUHN: Victoria Hui is a political scientist at the University of Notre Dame. She says that in recent years, every chapter in Hong Kong’s struggle for democracy has been led by a different group. This time she says it’s the students’ time to lead.

VICTORIA HUI: The leadership role is also very fluid. It’s taken over by different groups of people over time. In fact, this explains why Hong Kong’s democracy movement has sustained over time.


Victoria Hui, associate professor of political science at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, says that a hit on the industries dependent on tourism doesn’t have to be detrimental for the protest movement.

“Many people are already incensed by the effect of mass tourism from the mainland,” she says. “Rents have shot up and many mom-and-pop stores are torn down for the benefit of malls catering to tourists.”


Students should consider alternative ways to pressure the government without inconveniencing regular Hong Kong people, said Victoria Hui, associate professor of political science at the University of Notre Dame and author of “War and State Formation in Ancient China and Early Modern Europe.” Protesters could organize targeted boycotts or convince people to withhold income tax payments, she said…

“The worry really is that the enthusiasm of core supporters will also wear out,” she said. “If CY Leung was smart, he would just wait out the protesters, he could avoid the choice of making concessions or cracking down.”

[After this blog] Occupy Radio: Occupy Central Report from Hong Kong


Oct. 6

To withdraw or not to withdraw, that is the question now. The Umbrella Movement has to find a way to generate decisions that can earn the support of ordinary protestors. A week after the riot police unprecedentedly used pepper spray and tear gas, Hong Kong woke up to relative calm on Oct. 6. Despite ultimatum-like warnings last weekend that protestors must completely retreat from various protest sites by Monday morning, there was no attempt to clear the sites over night. Tensions eased as protestors partially opened roadblocks and agreed to open talks with government representatives. Over the weekend, protestors debated at protest sites and online if and under what conditions they may make a strategic withdrawal from the occupied sites. Shortly after some protestors announced that they were withdrawing from the Chief Executive’s office and Mongkok, other protestors rushed to re-occupy the sites. Likewise, when the joint leadership of the Federation of Students, Scholarism and Occupy Central asked protestors to retreat from the Mongkok site at the height of thug violence last Friday, people only flooded to protect Mongkok. International observers suggest that the “leaderless” nature of the movement is the source of confusion and disunity. This does not have to be the case. Of course, this so-called “leaderless” movement has been led by student leaders and the Occupy Central elders. At the same time, the movement has been notably “orderly” because protestors are highly civic-minded and self-organized. The challenge is to more tightly link up leaders and protestors. Protestors who are willing to brave both police and thug violence deserve to have a say in the decision-making process. Scholars have long argued that pro-democracy movements should be highly democratic in their own internal structure. The joint leadership can become stronger by more systematically incorporating the views of fiercely independent-minded protestors. If the Umbrella Movement prefects democratic self-governance in its decision-making process, then they can have stronger leverage in negotiating with the government. See Leadership.


Oct. 3

Just when the Umbrella Movement is expected to fizzle out on its own after the coming weekend, new tensions arose as counter-protestors started to beat up protestors. After throwing 87 canisters of tear gas at protestors last Sunday, the Chief Executive CY Leung seemed to learn the hard lesson that police violence would only backfire. The use of pepper spray and tear gas drove hundreds of thousands of people to occupy not just the areas surrounding the Central Government Offices in Admiralty, but also the business district in Central, and shopping districts in Causeway Bay, Mongkok, and Tsimshatsui. The natural alternative to repression is concession. Yet, the proposed negotiation with students yesterday was dead on arrival. The Chief Secretary Carrie Lam, who is charged with negotiating with students, has only reiterated that there could be no change to the central government’s decision on the arrangements for the election of the CE in 2017. If neither repression nor concession seems viable, the Hong Kong government probably thought that it had a third alternative: tacitly supporting counterprotestors to beat up protestors and clear the occupied sites. Pictures and videos of the police standing on the sideline or even siding with counterprotestors have gone viral in the last few hours. This is not the first time that thug violence is used against pro-democracy activists and even journalists, from Szeto Wah and Martin Lee to Kevin Lau. The government should know that every wave of thug violence in the last decade has only outraged the population. This current wave against the Umbrella Movement will be more so. Instead of letting the protest sites empty out on their own, thug violence is bringing them back to defend their “democracy zones.” The government has no better option than talking to its citizens about re-opening the consultation process for the CE election in 2017.


Oct. 2

Tensions in Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution were diffused at the eleventh hour last night, but could rekindle any time unless protestors find a third alternative between escalating and retreating. Tensions were building up last evening as Hong Kong protestors surrounded the Chief Executive’s office  and threatened to occupy other government office buildings if CY Leung would not step down by midnight. In response, the police were seen to stockpile tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets, and even bullets for AR-15 at the Chief Executive’s office. Observers could finally take a deep breath when CY Leung announced that he would appoint the Chief Secretary Carrie Lam to open negotiations with students. However, few people are optimistic that the negotiations would amount to anything. Not only that Mr. Leung refused to resign as demanded by protestors, Beijing has also stepped up its hardline position that it will not change the arrangements to vet candidates for the CE election in 2017 — which caused the protests in the first place. Protestors will thus continue to feel that they have to escalate to more disruptive actions or the movement would lose momentum and die out. But protestors have a third alternative. Scholars have argued that methods of dispersal — such as consumer boycotts and nonpayment of taxes — could be as effective as methods of concentration — such as the massive demonstrations that are on display now. If targeted boycotts hurt the interest of business tycoons whose support CY relies on and if nonpayment of taxes make bureaucrats unable to administer Hong Kong, then protestors would have a higher chance of compelling concessions and avoiding direct clashes with the police. And the movement will be sustainable in the long-term even when people have to go back to school or to work.


Oct. 1

International and local commentaries alike are wondering for how long the “umbrella revolution” could last. The CY Leung government learned the painful lesson last Sunday that repression would only backfire. They have pulled back the riot police and protests have surged since then. The government seems to belatedly follow the strategy of ignoring the protests, betting that protestors will eventually go home and the revolution will just fade away without any more clashes for the world to see. Hong Kong people are known for pragmatism as much as their call for democracy. When the rice bowl is at stake, HK people may well slowly retreat from the protest sites. What this strategy misses is that a people power movement could work equally well when it is dispersed as when it is concentrated. Hong Kong people could sustain the movement while still going to work and to school by adopting methods of dispersal. They could, for example, compile a list of business interests closely tied to CY’s inner circle and launch a targeted boycott. Protestors cannot force CY to step down, but may have a chance at forcing his inner circle to force him to step down.


Sep. 30

International media have reported on how hundreds of thousands of Hong Kong protesters have maintained nonviolent discipline and order. International observers see images common to nonviolent movements around the world: strength in numbers, determined faces in front of riot police, slogans, songs, and more. Beneath such broad strokes of similarities, Hong Kong is unlike other cases given the constitutional structure of “one country, two systems” agreed to between Beijing and London. While Hong Kong has only semi-democracy, people are free to protest. While the police sometimes make arbitrary arrests, the independent judiciary inherited from the colonial era routinely releases activists. This constitutional structure presents a very open political space unseen in the rest of China and yet makes it difficult for activists to mobilize the largely contented population. Against this backdrop, the unprecedented use of riot police and the firing of tear gas seemed to have galvanized popular support for the protesters fighting for genuine democracy and increased sympathy for nonviolent actions.

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