Archive | October, 2014

“Finding light in China’s darkness”

24 Oct

A poignant commentary by Chinese writer Yan Lianke about “finding light in China’s darkness.”

Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement overview

17 Oct

For the past month, Hong Kong has experienced an incredible street movement that sprung up to demand open candidacy for the 2017 chief executive election. It started with a week-long student boycott and protest, then continued into a public occupation that took place in several key sites including outside the main government offices. It captured the world’s attention and admiration and China’s disdain and heavyhanded censorship, but more importantly it seems to have forced Hong Kongers to think deeply about their society and its problems. The movement seems to have decreased in the past few days with HK’s chief stating his administration will meet with the protesters, though the latest controversy involved police brutality earlier this week. The protesters, many of whom are university students, may not be victorious in getting what they wanted in the short term, but they have proved an inspiration to many and shown that a new generation of HKers do care a lot about society rather than shopping.

Here are a few key links to help you understand the protests and some interesting aspects.

The BBC covered the protests quite well, providing a lot of indepth reporting and analysis.  Actually they covered it so well that they were blocked in China just this week, while Instagram was blocked from the very beginning of the protests. On the mainland, the HK protests were first ignored, then censored, and finally covered but in a very slanted way. In addition, mainlanders who expressed support for the protests were also arrested and detained.

Political reform and full democracy are widely known to be the main stated goal of the protesters, but the problems with Hong Kong lie beyond politics and this article provides a very good take on the property curse that afflicts HK. Home prices have skyrocketed, while good jobs are inadequate and the economy has not diversified enough, meaning that many young HKers see a dismal future, one that is reinforced by the current political system where business and property tycoons have enormous influence.

The protests became famous worldwide, helped by the use of a popular symbol – the humble umbrella. As a result, the protests have been termed the Umbrella Movement or Revolution (the latter I don’t quite agree with).

While the main sites were led by students outside the HK government offices in Admiralty, protesters in Mongkok, a working class district in Kowloon, created their own feisty protest zone, one which involved a more diverse mix of people than the Admiralty site.

A lot of Western media, politicians and observers showed support for HK protesters, but so did Taiwan where members of the public and even the president himself spoke out about democracy. This cross-strait support is not surprising in a general context, as ties have grown between young activists who detest and fear China’s government and its increasing influence. For many Taiwanese who cherish their democracy and abhor the mainland’s system, it was natural to support and be sympathetic towards HKers striving for democracy as well in the face of mainland opposition.