The Ongoing Umbrella Revolution

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Could we be seeing the beginning of true democracy for Hong Kong? Though unlikely, this is the goal students had in mind when they began a week long boycott of classes on September 22. Lead by several student organizations, mainly Occupy Central, Scholarism, and the Hong Kong Federation of Students, these peaceful protests spiralled into one of the largest anti-government protests since Tiananmen in 1989.

After being handed over from Britain to The People’s Republic of China in 1997, Hong Kong was promised special rights and semi-autonomy as a “special administrative region”, and is currently governed under the “one country, two systems” method. They have their own legal system, have retained their capitalist economy, and enjoy many rights that mainland China does not, such as freedom of speech and assembly. China has also promised that Hong Kong will eventually transition to full democracy, as written in the city’s constitutional document, the Basic Law. However, a specific timeline has not been set, and on August 31 Beijing announced that the candidates for the upcoming 2017 election for Chief Executive must be chosen by a “nominating committee”. This sparked the beginning of the protests known as “Occupy Central” or the “Umbrella Revolution” (a reference to the umbrellas being used by protesters to help shield them from teargas).

Though protests have been good natured and peaceful, with protesters even cleaning up trash and apologizing for any inconveniences they may cause to members of the public, police have fired upon crowds with tear gas and rubber bullets, and there have been violent clashes between pro and anti-democracy groups. Talks between student leaders and the Hong Kong government that started October 12th have since broken down.  What lies ahead for Hong Kong, is uncertain at best.