The Umbrella Movement and Occupy Central with Love and Peace face new challenges now that the occupation seems to have reached its conclusion. First among the challenges is, what to do next? How to keep the movement going in the absence of the tactic that made it a movement at all? I will speak to this issue from the perspective of my research on two other Chinese protest movements that flourished during direct and dramatic confrontations with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and then later faced the dilemma of how to keep each movement going after confrontation ended. These two movements are the Chinese democracy movement of 1989, and especially its diaspora counterpart that mobilized after June 4th, and the religious group Falun Gong, which also mobilized outside of mainland China after homeland repression drove supporters underground. From these two cases, I draw the conclusion that unless Umbrella activists depart from the historically specific tactical repertoire of Chinese democracy activism, the uprising may go the way of June 4th: a wonderful flash in the pan of liberal spirit but ultimately a failure. Continue reading
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While the Umbrella Movement may ultimately prove lacking in results, it certainly has not lacked in drama. Part of that drama comes from the attempt to locate the Hong Kong protests into a broader legacy of social movements. The image of young Hong Kong students calling for expanded democratic rights drew immediate comparisons to the 1989 Tiananmen protests and the “Occupy Central” part of the movement seemed a clear nod to the Occupy Movement in the United States. Both of these links reflect the transferable nature of protest legacies and the importance of legacy mobility for contemporary protests in China (and beyond). Yet protest legacies can mean very different things to activists and their targets, giving shape to how a movement is understood culturally and structurally, as well as how activists and state agents act. To illustrate this point, I will consider four movement legacies that serve as significant sources for the Umbrella Revolution and their implications for how the Hong Kong protests have unfolded. Continue reading
A Hong Kong student leader, Yvonne Leung, said, “The Hong Kong government needs to take lots of responsibility for what’s going on.”1 She was referring to the government’s responsibility to offer genuine universal suffrage and end the impasse.
Unknown to Leung, her statement echoes the state-centered theory of contention — that it is state policies that inadvertently “construct”2 movements. The Umbrella Movement is no different. At every step of the way, the Chief Executive C. Y. Leung’s policies have backfired, first giving rise to the movement and then fueling it for two months and beyond. Continue reading
This guest essay is written by Dr. Doron Shultziner, an interdisciplinary scholar who studies non-violent struggles for democratic progress, and Kirby Hung, a participant in the umbrella movement in Hong Kong.
Since late September, a historic movement is taking place in Hong Kong which became part of China in 1997. Following a long-awaited period and delays, the Chinese government announced its political reform to allow universal suffrage to Hong Kong citizens but only for 2-3 candidates who will be selected by a pro-Beijing council of 1,200 members. Angry students started a class boycott, which culminated in the storming of the main government building in downtown Hong Kong. Police use of teargas and pepper spray against students who used umbrellas to protect themselves backfired into a huge demonstration of about 100,000 citizens. Several weeks have passed since that event climax and the umbrella movement maintains its momentum.
In this context, a battle of great significance has been taking place in Monk Kok, the second largest protest site of the umbrella movement for democracy in Hong Kong. In a surprise move between 5-9am on Friday (October 17) morning, police forces cleared protesters, tents, and barricades from the busy intersection of Nathan Road and Argyle Street, in what seemed a major setback to the movement. Yet, since Friday evening protesters regained parts of the street in what appears to be a major watershed of the struggle. Continue reading