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


There is always Wikipedia:

On umbrella

Video : The clips show how the simple act of people throwing their umbrellas to strangers triggered a chain reaction: with umbrellas used to protect against the rain and the sun, to spread messages and to become instruments for defense against teargas and attack against blockades.

How to say “umbrella” in Cantonese?

According to Victor Mair:  “Linguistically, the most salient fact about the Umbrella Revolution is that Cantonese has its own word ze1 遮 (“umbrella”), and so doesn’t need to use the standard Mandarin item. Ze1遮 also functions as a verb that means “to obstruct, shut out; to shelter; to hide; cover up” (Sidney Lau 1977: 385). Of course, this works well to express the most crucial function of the umbrella at the present time in Hong Kong. But the sheer fact that the Cantonese have their own completely separate word for “umbrella” sends a powerful message …”

What 遮打革命 means: Here’s why the name of Hong Kong’s “Umbrella Movement” is so subversive; and  Lost in Translation? “Umbrella Movement” is More Subversive in Cantonese

Tongue-Tied in Hong Kong

Is Cantonese a Dialect or a Language?

By the way, Cantonese almost became the official language


Pro-establishment politician says that umbrellas are weapons: This line is mocked by protestors:          10606238_629991823779742_388819591079776836_n     IMG_0054

首現大型燈膽雨傘 高照吐露港



Images of umbrellas at occupy sites:

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And even video games: and Attack! Take cover! Umbrella Revolution inspires new online game / 雨傘革命主題遊戲免費有得玩

But can’t print umbrella t-shirts in mainland china any more:


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Many unspecified images are taken from Facebook feeds, esp.


Filed under Umbrella Movement

3 responses to “Umbrella movement or revolution — What’s in a name?

  1. Pingback: Post-occupy: Divided over strategies and tactics though united over genuine universal suffrage | Hong Kong's Umbrella Movement

  2. Pingback: What happens now that Beijing has called the protests a ‘color revolution’? | Hong Kong: From the Umbrella Movement to the Anti-Extradition Protests

  3. Pingback: In Hong Kong, what happens now that Beijing has called the protests a ‘color revolution’? – libellus

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