By now I’m sure you’re aware of what’s happening in Hong Kong – news and images of the pro-democracy protests have spread across the world (unless of course you happen to live in mainland China where any mention of the events are heavily censored by the state).
The movement, led by a group known as Occupy Central With Love and Peace, is demanding fully democratic elections in the selection the next Hong Kong Chief Executive in 2017, while Beijing has decreed that only their vetted candidates are eligible for the position. After a week of student strikes and confrontations at government offices, broader action of civil disobedience started 3 days ago. That in turn resulted in police attempting to clear the streets with pepper spray and teargas, and protesters defending themselves with nothing but umbrellas and safety goggles. And thus the “Umbrella Revolution” was born.
The heavy handed approach by law enforcement only seemed to galvanize the protesters, and more ordinary citizens joined the crowds. The downtown Central business district, and adjacent Admiralty where the government offices resides, have been effectively shut down by a mass sit-in. The busy shopping districts in Causeway Bay, Mong Kok, and Tsim Sha Tsui have also been affected.
Today, October 1, is a national holiday and the start of the National Day Golden Week in mainland China. This is typically a very busy time in Hong Kong where throngs of tourists visit the city. It remains to be seen how these events will affect the tourism industry – certainly the crowds at Central and Admiralty are swelling but mostly with locals, it seems.
The protests have been spontaneous and so far very peaceful (early police confrontations notwithstanding). There have been no acts of vandalism or violence – volunteers are picking up trash, giving out water and food, and managing the crowds well. The pictures you see here were taken at Admiralty, at the epicenter of the protests. I did not see a single police officer around.
How all this will end, no one knows. I sincerely hope it will be peaceful resolution. Most of the young people here were not around during the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989, when pro-democracy students protests were violently suppressed by the Chinese government resulting in hundreds of casualties and a severe crackdown on civil liberties. I hope history does not repeat itself in Hong Kong.