The Umbrella Revolution

What’s the story?

Hong Kong, one of the world’s most important financial hubs, exploded on September, 26th 2014. The so-called “umbrella revolution”, a series of sit-in street protests, turned the city’s central business district into a virtual conflict zone.

The “Umbrella Movement” is a pro-democratic political movement that was created spontaneously during the Hong Kong protest of 2014.

Tens of thousands of Hong Kong residents – young and old, rich and poor – peacefully occupied major thoroughfares across the city, shuttering businesses and bringing traffic to a halt. They claimed that Beijing reneged on an agreement to grant them open elections by 2017, and demanded “true universal suffrage”.

How this happened ?

Hong Kong, a former British colony of 7 million people, has been governed under a “one country, two systems” framework since it was handed back to Chinese control in 1997.

The principle is simple: Beijing is responsible of the city’s defense and foreign affairs; Hong Kong enjoys limited self-governance and civil liberties, including an independent judiciary and unrestricted press.

The chief executive is chosen by a “nominating committee” of 1,200 people, most of them from pro-Beijing elites.

When Beijing regained control over the city, it promised that the region would be able to elect its top leader by universal suffrage by 2017. The group guiding the current protests threatened to paralyze the city’s central business district if Beijing broke its word.

In August 2014, Beijing passed a reform to stipulate universal suffrage on its own terms – only two or three committee who “love the country” would be allowed to run. Activists considered this the last straw. Students began a class boycott, and had an active participation during those sit-in streets protests such as JOSHUA WONG.

The violence of Police

Rather than calming down the demonstrations, the authorities decided to use pepper spray and, tear gas. Here we can see how activist had to protect their head in the street.

The fight to save Hong Kong with art

Art is often held to be an integral part of activism. For the students involved in the "Umbrella Revolution", their art is a primary vehicle of expression and a method of documenting what occurs. The use of umbrella – an everyday item that protects users against the rain and the sun – by the protesters to deflect pepper spray and tear gas of the police, has given the object an iconic status at a political level, symbolizing resistance and the underlying social grievances. The occupied streets of Hong Kong have been transformed into an extended canvas of artistic creativity.

In stark contrast to the upsetting images of tear gas, pepper spray and police brutality, Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests have inspired both digital creativity and street art.

The umbrella motifs whipped up by the hands of the city’s graphic designers, were shared far and wide over the art gallery that is the internet, while everything from sticky notes to bunk beds, banners, and, of course, umbrellas made the rainbow of this color-coded movement glow vividly on the streets.

.......................Origami umbrella.................................................Lennon Wall.............................

The protesters add their neon messages of hope to the now-renamed “Lennon Wall” – belonging to the government headquarters – and yellow origami umbrellas everywhere , and no one thought to where their work will end up when the streets would finally be cleaned, they just wanted to express themselves!

The Umbrella Man statue

Rapidly becoming an icon for the occupation movement upon its appearance on the demonstration site on 5 October 2014, Umbrella Man is a 10-foot (3 m) high wooden statue created by a 22-year-old artist using the name "Milk" during the protests. The inspiration for the woodblock statue, symbolizing freedom and peace, was a photographer holding an umbrella to protect himself against a police officer.

“He truly represents the spirit and the sentiment of the students, he is standing tall, with his chest straight, and holding up the umbrella to protect the city.” “Umbrella Man”, as the statue has become known, tells the story of Hong Kong’s protests. His face is white - like the faces of those activists who were tear-gassed and pepper-sprayed by police. His yellow umbrella was the first symbol of the pro-democracy movement. “This statue is a remarkable manifestation of the artist’s inner spirit.”

Installations

A number of installations and sculptures were created at occupation sites, of which one of the largest is a patchwork hanging in the middle of Umbrella Square made of fabric taken from more than a hundred broken umbrellas which were sewn together. Baptist University art students, to bolster the movement in the early days, developed the concept. A group of about ten other students stripped the fabric from umbrellas that were broken and had been stained by tear gas in the police bombardment of 28 September, and wove them together and deployed it above what is now referred to as "Umbrella Square". The project leader, hoped that the umbrellas broken by the police, fashioned into canopy, symbolises an extended physical protection for citizens that also serves as a reminder of the presence of other citizens who are behind to support, in other ways. At Admiralty, large yellow umbrellas have been installed at many lampposts; Happy Gadfly concept by mainland artist Miso Zo inspired by The Gadfly, by Ethel Lilian Voynich. Made from discarded umbrellas, plastic bottles and other discarded materials, the project's originator says the installation symbolises how "They can destroy the movement, but like the fly it will come back." Other sizeable installations include a pepper spray installation at Causeway Bay, a shrine to Kwan Yu at Mong Kok.

THE CONSEQUENCES OF THE REVOLUTION

One year later, the debate is still present in the minds.

In politics, they lost on both counts because first the Chinese government did not established a full and complete universal suffrage for the 2017 elections in Hong Kong.

Indeed, Beijing only permitted a direct popular vote and left the appointments in the hands of a pro-establishment committee of 1,200 members. The problem is that this framework offers few significant improvements to the system that is already in place, where it is the committee itself who selects the CEO. Worse still, the Beijing plan would give false legitimacy to the head of the elected executive and make future changes to the electoral system unlikely. All this means that the next chief executive will be chosen by the same committee, and the prospect for future changes to election rules is uncertain.

Furthermore, the protesters wanted the city's chief executive to resign but Leung Chun-ying survived the protests, although its popularity is very low and didn't rule out re-running in 2017 for a five-year term.

Most of people from Hong Kong felt a sense of pessimism over the next few years which is due to the opposed views of pro-democrats and pro-establishment camps, both within the Legislative Council and those outside it. Respondents agreed that the chances of democratization in Hong Kong society seem bleak and that this would not happen unless democratization occurs in China first. They also felt that the regime was very concerned about internal issues and that their behavior towards Hong Kong would depend in part on what was happening in Mainland China.

Concerning the economy, many serious economic damage has been caused by the protests and it touched Hong Kong’s and China’s economies which are linked to each other as well as to the global economy.

The sector that was hit first was the transportation sector as protest camps in the Admiralty, Mong Kok and Causeway Bay areas caused disruptions, blocked bus and tram routes and slowed down traffic on certain roads. Some stores located on or near the protest sites experienced significant closures and customer downturns. The most affected stores were the jewellery stores and pharmacies in Mong Kok that supplied Chinese mainland tourists.

The overall effect on growth and the business environment has changed. But, last October, the World Bank said that Hong Kong was the third-easiest place in the world to do business and that demonstrations had not affected the key components of the rating, such as transparency, Administrative formalities or equitable application.

In November, the Hong Kong government lowered its forecast of gross domestic product growth to 2.2 percent, down from 2.3 percent, citing the impact of the protests. John Tsang, the city's financial secretary, warned that the rate of growth could go down even further due to unrest. But in February, the government announced that the economy had increased by 2.3 percent in 2014.

Technology has had two major influences on political communication. Indeed, on one hand, technology has made information more accessible by increasing the supply through websites, blogs, and politically oriented social media and on the other hand it has given people choice through making more channels and sources available.

Technology had given the opportunity for young and ordinary people to become opinion leader who influenced and guide the revolution. The teenager, Joshua Wong, for example, was only 17 years old when he spoke up for his beliefs and became the voice of a generation.

THE IMPACT OF SOCIAL MEDIA

This revolution in Hong Kong has been fueled by tweets and hashtags from demonstrators and supporters worldwide. The Umbrella Revolution had more than 1.3 million tweets between the 26th and 29th of September which represented over 1.3 million opportunities to be heard, persuade someone, and advocate for change.

Through access to sites like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, protesters were willing to set up mass communication. Social media, in this case, are tools that can be used to spread the word and draw global attention to what is happening in Hong Kong. All around the world, people were appalled at the way the Chinese police and Chinese government are handling these young people.

Protestors in Hong Kong were using the “#Ferguson” to compare and sympathize with the situation across the globe in Ferguson, Missouri. This strengthened their campaigns and drew the attention of Ferguson tweeters.

In today's media atmosphere, it seems that anyone with access to the internet, and the basic technical knowledge of how to make a Facebook, can influence politics.

Sources

https://www.rsis.edu.sg/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/PR151210_Hong-Kongs-Political-Future.pdf

http://www.ccs.org.za/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/CCS_Commentary_Hong-Kong_Indiana-and-Daouda_.pdf

https://sinosphere.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/09/25/hong-kong-umbrella-revolution-anniversary/

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/sep/30/-sp-hong-kong-umbrella-revolution-pro-democracy-protests

https://storify.com/aperot2/the-umbrella-revolution-how-social-media-fueled-th

https://mobile.nytimes.com/blogs/sinosphere/2015/09/25/hong-kong-umbrella-revolution-anniversary/?referer

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/sep/30/-sp-hong-kong-umbrella-revolution-pro-democracy-protests

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/hongkong/11145726/The-public-artwork-of-the-Hong-Kong-protests.html

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