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.
Messages about the importance of maintaining nonviolent discipline are ubiquitous:
Watch how protestors chant “Keep Calm, Keep Calm, Keep Calm…” to maintain nonviolent discipline:
There were comments on listservs and by Chinese students that the protestors were not really peaceful on Sep. 28, that they were “poking the police with their umbrellas.” (see, e.g., http://www.eastasiaforum.org/2015/01/31/45050/.) Interestingly, the evidence is supposed to be found in this video. Take a look and make your own judgement:
Violence in Mongkok on Oct. 19? It seems that the following SCMP headlines are not quite matched by the contents:
The embedded video has this caption: “Watch: Injured Occupy Mong Kok protester: Hong Kong police officer hit me”
“New clashes erupted between protesters and police in Mong Kok early yesterday, just hours after Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor announced that talks with student leaders were scheduled for tomorrow.
Some protesters tried to remove barricades on the junction of Nathan Road and Argyle Street shortly after midnight, prompting officers to warn them against charging police cordons.
Officers then used batons to counter the protesters’ umbrellas. At about the same time, police reinforcements arrived and rushed into the protest zone to push the crowds back.
Images of protesters with blood streaming down their faces circulated on social media. ….
Winnie Chiu Wai-yin, acting director of the police force’s management services, said the Mong Kok protest zone was “very dangerous” with radical elements infiltrating the crowd.
She told people to stop charging at police cordons, and said police “did not want to be embroiled in the political turmoil”.
But the Federation of Students’ deputy leader Lester Shum said protesters were holding up their hands when their heads were bloodied by police batons.
“If you say this is a riot, it was only caused by police who used force. Only [Chief Executive] Leung Chun-ying is able to control the movement now,” he said.
Videos of Mongkok on Oct. 18 and 19:
More violence by counter-protestors on Oct. 21:
Pro-Occupy artists urge nonviolent discipline in Mongkok on Oct. 21:
Attacks on RTHK and TVB reporters:
“Which side is losing control? Protestors? The police? Thugs? The government?”
The police produced a video as proof of “hatred and violence” on Oct. 28:
Protective gear against police and thug beatings:
Efforts at fraternalizing with the police
Pro-establishment politician says that umbrellas are weapons
This line is mocked by protestors: