This blog aims to explain the Umbrella Movement. Victoria Hui examines the movement based on theories of the state and contentious politics. Michael Davis analyzes the movement from the perspective of constitutional law and human rights.
Blog posts are organized by themes and regularly updated as events unfold and new information becomes available. New information is integrated with existing contents, not necessarily placed at the top of each blog post. Most images are taken from the Facebook pages of various groups involved, including SocRec, Apple Daily, Occupy Central with Love and Peace, Fluid Occupiers, D100…
VICTORIA HUI (許田波)
Hong Kong marked China’s National Day (Oct. 1) in unprecedented fashion, as pro-democracy protesters crowded the streets of the Asian financial hub for what is being called a critical day in the territory’s “Umbrella Movement.”
University of Notre Dame political scientist and Hong Kong native Victoria Hui worked in the democracy movement there. She says it is unlike any other.
“International media have reported on how hundreds of thousands of Hong Kong protesters have maintained nonviolent discipline and order,” she says. “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,” Hui says. “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, Hui says, 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. So, how long will the movement last?
“Hong Kong leader CY Leung learned the painful lesson Sunday (Sept. 28) that repression would only backfire,” Hui says. “They have since pulled back the riot police and protests have surged. The government seems to have belatedly followed the strategy of ignoring the protests, betting that protesters will eventually go home and the revolution will just fade away without any more clashes for the world to see.”
Hui says people may well slowly retreat, but that won’t necessarily be the end of it.
“Hong Kong people are known for their pragmatism as much as their passion for democracy,” she says. “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. Protesters cannot force CY to step down, but may have a chance at forcing his inner circle to force him to step down and reopen the consultation process.”
MICHAEL C. DAVIS
Michael C. Davis, a professor in the Law Faculty at the University of Hong Kong, has held visiting chairs in human rights at Northwestern University Law School (2005-06) and Notre Dame Law School (2004-05), as well as the Schell Senior Human Rights Fellowship at the Yale Law School (1994-95). His publications include Constitutional Confrontation in Hong Kong (1990), Human Rights and Chinese Values (1995) and International Intervention: From Power Politics to Global Responsibility (2004), as well as numerous articles on human rights and development in leading academic journals in law and political science.
Professor Davis, as public intellectual, has contributed to the debate over constitutional reform and human rights in Hong Kong for over two decades. In the early transition years he wrote a book and several articles assessing requirements under the Sino-British Joint Declaration and the Basic Law as the transition proceeded. In 2003 he joined with eight other leading lawyers and academics in forming the Article 23 Concern Group, which took a leading role in challenging the Government’s proposed legislation on secrecy and national security under Article 23 of the Basic Law. This group re-formed as the Article 45 Concern Group to promote democracy later that year. Protest over these matters attracted up to half-million protesters. The Article 23 bill was withdrawn by the Government, though democratic reform is still awaited.
In the 2014-2015 debate over political reform Professor Davis offered an open letter and a series of commentary in the press (link) on various proposals and government reports relating to political reform. His commentary in the South China Morning Post won the 2014 Human Rights Press Award for English Commentary offered by Amnesty International, the Hong Kong Journalist Association and the Foreign Correspondence Club. His work has highlighted the importance of democratic reform to Hong Kong’s rule of law and promised autonomy. Beyond his own writing Professor Davis has joined with other scholars in supporting genuine universal suffrage and human rights.