The Umbrella Movement In Hong Kong: We Were There.
Of course we knew about the Hong Kong protests when booking our flight, yet our main agenda for the trip was to document as many (wet) markets as possible. The Umbrella Movement was not at the top of our priority list. It was actually by accident that we found ourselves in the centre of a large group gathering on 26 October 2014.
How it all started.
The Hong Kong protests (or Umbrella Movement) began in September 2014. Activists protested outside the Hong Kong Government headquarters and occupied several major city intersections. The reason for this was because of China’s Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress decision on the proposed election forms, which states that a committee out of 1.200 people would elect two to three electoral candidates before the general public could vote on them.
The Hong Kong Federation of Students, lead by Joshua Wong started protesting against this decision on 22 September. Their demand: A full democracy; protesters want the right to nominate and directly elect the head of the Hong Kong government.
My Encounter With The Protests.
We arrived in Hong Kong at the end of October, and even though things have calmed down a bit, major streets were still occupied. We got to realize this immediately, since on the way from the airport to the city, the bus had to take a detour due to the fact that Nathan Road up in Monk Kok was occupied by protesters who camped in the middle of the street.
As Monk Kok is one of the best areas to explore (Goldfish street, Bird market, etc.), it didn’t take long to experience it with our own eyes. On the other hand, we were suddenly right in the centre of a huge gathering on Hong Kong Island; Admiralty to be precise. Let the photos below speak for themselves…
Some Q & A’s.
Why the umbrellas?
- The protesters use umbrellas to protect themselves from police pepper spray. The umbrellas became a symbol of the movement and gave it its nickname.
Does everyone in Hong Kong support this movement?
- No. Especially the older generation is actively opposed to the protests because they are afraid of antagonizing China.
Why doesn’t China just let Hong Kong have more freedom?
- The Communist Party insists on maintaining political control of Hong Kong. It isn’t about to let the most international city choose its own leader. In case an opponent of the Communist Party gets elected, this person might become an advertisement to the rest of China and the possibility of a democratic change is not on their agenda at all.
What happens next?
- Nobody really knows for sure. But one thing is certain: Hong Kong’s democratic movement has only just started. The Umbrella Movement has morphed into a defining generational moment, and the impact will be felt even stronger in 2027 than in today.