Reflections One Year On

[updated on Oct. 17, 2015]

My commentaries to commemorate the first anniversary

What the current political storm spells for Hong Kong’s freedoms (HKFP)

打壓不會輕易落幕 好戲在後頭 (The struggle to rein in HK’s freedom is not over and more is yet to come) (Ming Pao)

沒有民主, 香港怎能在「風雨中抱緊自由」(“Without Democracy, How Could Hong Kong Embrace Freedom in the Storms )? (BBC Chinese)

The anniversary

The one-year anniversary of the firing of tear gas passed with little incident on Sep. 28. People Power tried to break through to Harcourt Road but was easily stopped by the solid barricades and huge police presence. (‘Open the roads!’ – Tensions flare at Admiralty protest, a year since mass rallies) The theme of the gathering was anti-political persecution — and volunteers are invited to sign up (全民反政治打壓集會」; call for volunteers). On Sep. 27, Pro-democracy Mong Kok protesters march back to Admiralty for Occupy commemoration. Artifacts and street art from the movement are exhibited until Oct. 16. (其後:雨傘運動中的物件 Hereafter: Objects from the Umbrella MovementProtest street art on display ).


See also photos by HKFP.

Events, talks and protests planned for the one-year anniversary of Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement

Younger protestors made a dire warning that Sep. 28 should not be treated as a celebration or a holiday: The Umbrella Movement one year on: In between commemoration and celebration ; Hong Kong activists mark Occupy protest anniversary and set sights on next battleground ; 紀念?不,是念記!黃之鋒:唔想9.28成節日冀政壇有轉變】. Rowdies even argued that a failed movement should not be commemorated: 失敗的「雨傘革命」,根本不需要記念!

Umbrella supporters don’t seem to know that many other movements made a conscious effort at making protests festive. Why? Fear is often a key impediment to mobilization. By making participation fun, organizers could get more people to join potentially risky protests. It is no coincidence that protests around the world often have rock concerts. Another 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. (See another post for a more comprehensive discussion; and How Can a Movement Increase Participation?)

In any case, the mood was hardly festive at the commemoration. The emphasis was put on remembering the firing of tear gas, as exemplified by the moment of silence and these posts: 特區差人準備開槍一幕,要忘記,難了… ;  香港人永遠不會忘記


The mood was best summed up as “there was less passion (anger stirred up by the firing of tear gas) and more perseverance (少了一份激情, 多了一份堅持” — a phrase I heard on radio news afterwards.

According to the cartoonist of Mr and Ms HK people: 1年前,那股憤怒,那珠淚水,那份衝動,還記得嗎?還是已經忘記了,回到了營營役役的生活?那把一起撐的傘還在嗎?(Mr and Ms HK People


No need for democrats to wallow in gloom


[Oct. 23, 2015] Gov’t inspectors shut down Hong Kong’s ‘Occupy Hotel’

There have been a lot of reflections on the lessons learned.

See also the weakness of organization in What Weng Wrong? Insights from “Almost a Revolution”

Leaders’ reflections : Umbrella Movement ‘just the first step’‘We are our biggest enemies,’ says student leader Alex Chow;  What Joshua Wong regrets most;傘後‧一年》:專訪周永康、羅冠聰和黃之鋒 ;  928 梁國雄 宣言:不再下跪,大家站起來!香港民間團體探討雨傘運動後何去何從 ; 團體辦雨傘運動一周年紀念活動 冀延續雨傘精神 回顧傘運系列之一:梁麗幗

Benny Tai and Joshua Wong

The spontaneity of the movement was its strength as well as its weakness. Occupy leaders had to step aside when people who hadn’t signed up for the movement poured into the streets. Even though there was a joint leadership of the Occupy Central organizers, HK Federation of Students and Scholarism, no one had the authority to lead. What was missing was a mechanism to make collective decisions including the many protestors.

Both Tai and Wong think that they will have to mobilize the support of more than half of HK’s population in the next wave. It is estimated that 1.2 million participated in some form during the movement.

HK people should think about other means of civil disobedience and non-cooperation beyond occupation of streets.

Tai: We called for a general strike on day one but no one heeded the call. What if 2 million people had gone on strike?

(【壹錘足本】檢討前瞻 第二波「雨傘」必做的一件事 — begin at 18′)

Relatedly, Chan Kin-man:

The academic said previous studies indicated that 60 per cent of Hongkongers were pro-democracy supporters. However, he said, various polls showed that only 40 per cent at most backed the Occupy protests and objected to the Beijing-decreed political reform model. “It is a very big drop from 60 per cent to 40 per cent. The supporters we lost are mostly moderates and the grass roots,” he said. “Their preferences are crucial in district council polls as they are the most active voters.” (A new term for Leung in 2017 will make Hong Kong more radical, says co-founder of Occupy protest movement)

Protest fatigue? 

if Hong Kong can put 100,000+ people outside Legco every Sunday night until Christmas, like we saw on Harcourt Road on September 29th, then this government would come under immense local and international pressure to change its ways and listen to the voice of the people. Seriously, can you not give up one night a week to help this city and make your voice heard once again?

[Sep 24] 佔旺之後】烈女學生:放下佔領情意結:  她又希望一些人能夠放下佔領情意結,不要在沉醉於當時的情景,「我知好多人都想再有佔領行動,但係如果唔先好好反思,汲取上次失敗嘅教訓,係無意思嘅。」她又說,現時的民怨,根本未足夠出現第二次佔領行動。

Occupy our hearts with Hong Kong core values.

Contentious politics outside of statutory councils to defend HK 在地抗爭 我們才能守住香港

In order to win new hearts and minds and to mobilize ahead of the District Board elections, many umbrella supporters have spread out to promote the cause in their own districts. (See documentation of their efforts on earlier posts.) It is worrisome that:

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)

Rowdies conclude that “occupation with love and peace” failed and advocate “using force to counter police violence (以武制暴)” or “forceful resistance (勇武抗爭).” Long Hair wonders why they have so little support:

梁國雄認為除了泛民和學生要檢討運動,本土派亦要檢討,「他們昔日經常說有人阻住佢(勇武)……他們目前要解釋沒有人阻住他,為何勇武不了?」(長毛促本土派檢討 「為何勇武不了」)

It is wrong to think that nonviolence means only that you let the police beat you up and do nothing. I have pointed out on other blog posts that nonviolence does not mean not fighting back, but fighting with other nonviolent means — and many of such means that have been proven effective in cases as difficult as South Africa have not even been considered in HK.

Alex Chow also reflected on the fact that during the Occupy movement, the only real act of civil disobedience the protesters had was blocking the road. “But if we have only one tactic, it’s quite weak and the government can’t really feel our resistance. (We are our biggest enemies,’ says student leader Alex Chow)

One of those who advocate forceful resistance started to mobilize popular support at the district level, but has learned the bitter lesson that few people would take a pamphlet from his hand. (傘後。一年)  Kenny Wong/黃台仰…「有試過落區,但不是想像中容易」… 曾在土瓜灣落區,未曾被市民罵過,「街坊只是唔理我哋」。 (城邦派出選﹕騎劫宣揚本土)

See an online course on nonviolence:  Civil Resistance and the Dynamics of Nonviolent Movements

Many young people have sour relations with parents:「一樣米養百樣人」,即使同一家人,也各有想法。雨傘運動以來,由於政見不同,以致同一家人也如同社會各階層,各為自己的立場而爭持、吵架,寸步不讓,造成許多紛爭。(傘後‧一年》:年輕人無悔佔領 How to mobilize support when one can’t even win the minds of those whose hearts are with you?  See “Bridging the generation gap at home.”

[Sep. 26, 2015] Occupy Central one year on: how historic talks became a missed opportunity – Pair brought students and top officials to the negotiating table, chief secretary ‘backtracked’

HK Shield invites people to write down their reflections.

Joshua Wong is making waves with his call for self-determination: He learns from Beijing’s and HK’s policies that the existing system erodes rather than delivers the promises of “one country, two systems,” “a high degree of autonomy” with “HK people ruling Hong Kong.” (See freedom.) As such, he has turned to advocate self-determination beyond 2047 (when the Basic Law expires).

Self-Determination Is the Only Solution for Hong Kong

A Year After the Umbrella Revolution, Calls for More Autonomy, Even Independence, Grow in Hong Kongsome young Hong Kongers feel pushed to the limit… In the political stalemate and frustration that followed, localism took root.

Protest leader: ‘trying to turn impossible to possible’

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 democracyWong is conscious that, if the movement is to be followed, it will need a clear roadmap. And that, he says, was not around a year ago. Then, the demonstrations were born out of frustration – a show of force, a desperate cry without a plan. But that is beginning to change. “I want Hong Kong to have democracy. That’s why we should walk towards the right to self-determination. People must be able to decide whether they want ‘one country, two systems’, ‘one country, one system’, or even independence,” he explains. His roadmap includes a process with short-, medium- and long-term goals.  “First, it’s necessary to build the referendum system as common practice for Hong Kong to decide the most important issues, such as minimum wage or social housing policy,” he says, proposing that this system be used to gain greater autonomy. “Independence would not be necessary if China granted us more autonomy and democracy …. Unfortunately, we only get disappointments from China,” he adds. 

Two very different men visit D.C.: China’s leader and his teenage nemesis:  One — Chinese President Xi Jinping — will get a state dinner and a 21-gun salute. The other — Joshua Wong — was in town to talk about Hong Kong’s fight for self-determination… Strengthening the city’s hand means building civil society and institutions from the ground up — not easy, Wong admits. But by the time Hong Kong is supposed to merge fully with the mainland, in 2047, China may have changed. Wong will be 51 that year, and, he hopes, still fighting.

[Oct. 13] Joshua Wong seeks judicial review of election age limit: What makes Joshua Wong run? Sparks ‘Rule by the old’ debate ; 佔中陳健民籲泛民政黨換血泛民幾時新陳代謝?

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

Scholarism’s Agnes Chow also urges Hongkongers to adopt new solutions in fight for democracy–preparing a referendum to revise the Basic Law

Self-determination begins in the community: community citizen charter《社區公民約章》運動

Suzanne Pepperby focusing protesters’ attention on 2047 – the year the “one country, two systems” model introduced following Hong Kong’s return to China in 1997 ends – the protests had already achieved one major victory… Many young people now understood that Beijing was “trying to ease Hong Kong into a one country, one system format” under which the former colony’s much cherished freedoms would be lost… (One year on, Hong Kong democracy activists ask what protest achieved)

As if the HK government wanted to prove Scholarism’s point, the Hong Kong University Council stacked by regime supporters just vetoed the appointment of Johannes Chan. In an exemplary act of civil disobedience, Billy Fung, the student union representative at the Council, disclosed the outrageous reasons cited by those who vetoed the appointment.Among all the examples of erosion, HKU’s autonomy probably touches raw nerves more than anything else. (See blog post on freedom and scroll down to 2.2 – f.)

Johannes Chan appointment to HKU key position rejected, 12 votes to 8University of Hong Kong’s council (stacked with pro-govt members) votes 12-8 to reject Johannes Chan’s appointment as pro-vice-chancellor

More on Attacks on academic freedom (scroll down to f.)

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It does not help that even Li Ka-shing is under attack these days

[Oct 3, 2015] Tycoons not the boss anymore as Beijing calls the shots: “Mainlanders now tend to see Li Ka-shing as a ‘profit comes first’ businessman, rather than ‘a role model who loves the country and Hong Kong’.” … Thanks to the two-week long media bashing of the “superman” on the mainland, every tycoon in town should by now know who the boss is and how to behave. Beijing is, however, not allowing them much time to turn “patriotic”. It is not taking any chances, grooming its own crop of patriotic tycoons in Hong Kong.

[Sep 29-30, 2015] Li’s empire strikes back: Hong Kong’s richest man slams mainland Chinese media for ‘totally unfounded’ reports he is divesting from countryTycoon rejects accusations he is abandoning the mainland, saying such ‘Cultural Revolution-style’ attacks by media do not reflect Beijing’s views; 李嘉誠回應官媒批鬥撤資:令人不寒而慄,深感遺憾;  李嘉誠揮手辭親故 

More on How does the erosion of civil and political freedoms affect economic freedom? (scroll down to 2.3)

A lesson from history for Hong Kong’s appeasers:

even Mr Li has to be taken down a peg or two. But the same thing even applies to real party loyalists, such as the sacked government minister Tsang Tak-sing, who presumably believed that his Party membership (which he has never publicly confirmed) was a sufficient shield to protect him from the consequences of arguing with the bosses… Professor Chan himself has never been more than a mild critic but his real sin lies in not joining the hounding of more aggressive critics, and worse still, being friendly with them. Niemoller’s words only need a little tweaking to apply to current circumstances in Hong Kong:

First they came for the democrats, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a democrat.

[I would add: Then they came for journalists, and I did not speak out — Because I was not a journalist.

Then they came for the academics, and I did not speak out— Because I was not an academic.

Then they came for the lawyers, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a lawyer.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

The emergence of new civic groups (see also district council elections)




Commemorative coverage:

SCMP: The Occupy Central live blog: one year on

HK Free Press One Year On ; Day One – Photos from the eye of the storm as Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement was born ; Video: ‘Battle of Lung Wo Rd’ – unseen footage from the lead up to Ken Tsang’s beating ; Umbrellas vs. riot shields on Lung Wo Road – as it happened, one year ago ; Remembering the umbrella movementWhen photographer Kevin Cheng’s Lego Man visited Occupy

Ming Pao: 佔領一周年 ;  佔領一周年圖輯 – 因為佔領,所以……【75張圖輯】《明報》75天頭版 從罷課到佔領 從潮起到百川入海佔領50天.黃金50句

Apple Daily‘s Umbrella Movement page

HK Journalists’ collection 傘下人‧情‧事──香港記者佔領採訪集思

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

RTHK Radio 1: 《傘後.一年》傘開以後

ChinaFile The Hong Kong Protests in Pictures

HKU student〈除魅〉下載PDF版

Initium: 動圖輯:一年以後

HK Independent Media 

Manchu media 一年過後 

Washington Post  Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement, one year later



Al Jazeera Hong Kong: Occupy Central

Almost a Revolution

The three-part report goes behind the scenes with a pro-democracy campaign trying to ensure free elections in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong Trilogy: Preschooled Preoccupied Preposterous (reviewed in NYT)

Umbrella Diaries: Revealing new documentary charts the storming of Civic Square – the moment that sparked Occupy

Raise the Umbrellas (forthcoming)


Screen printing at the site. Here is my umbrella:

P1200257 P1200254


1 Comment

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One response to “Reflections One Year On

  1. Pingback: Not a Christian Movement | Hong Kong's Umbrella Movement and Beyond

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