Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Umbrella Revolution

I haven't blogged for over a month, I know, which is sort of considered a crime in the blogging world. In light of recent events, however, I feel compelled to write.

On Sunday, a group of university students in Hong Kong - after a week of going on strike - finally pushed HKU professor Benny Tai to launch his Occupy Central movement three days before its official launch date, October 1st (the Chinese National Day).

First proposed in March last year, the Occupy Central with Love and Peace movement is a plea for true democracy in Hong Kong. Our current voting system only presents the illusion of choice: not only have all the chief executive candidates been carefully screened by the authorities in Beijing, only a hand-picked group of powerful figures in Hong Kong have the right to vote.

Personally, I don't see why China is so uptight about the idea of a democratic Hong Kong. After all, how anti-Beijing would our next leader truly be? It is common knowledge that China is the economic giant of Asia and Hong Kong's lifeline; we're not about to elect someone who would severe that connection - we just want our basic freedom of choice. 

So, I wholeheartedly support Hong Kong's fight for universal suffrage. Nothing would be more heartbreaking than to see Hong Kong, an international city that places so much value on liberalism and freedom of expression, swallowed under communist China's iron fist. Our economy, culture and people demonstrate that we are not China and therefore have every right to remain a special administrative region.

Tragically, Hong Kong's future is looking quite dire in China's hands. Having already refused to give Taiwan - a country that is perfectly self-sufficient - the independence she deserves, China will surely be unwilling to grant Hong Kong the right to democracy.

But do such bleak prospects and a "fool's hope" deter Hongkongers from fighting for the human rights they deserve? From the images and videos I have seen so far on social media, the answer is a brave and resolute no. 

Most incredibly, the Occupy Central with Love and Peace movement is exactly what its name suggests: a mass-led and civil occupation of Central, Hong Kong's busiest business center. The students are mature, well-organized, responsible and have even taken to cleaning up after themselves. Hence the name "Umbrella:" the emphasis is on defence, not attack. The support system that the wider HK community has given the protestors is also heartwarming: free lunchboxes, donations, food... the Occupy Central movement truly shows what sets Hong Kong apart from China. We are people who can speak up for ourselves and do so while having each others' backs.

Of course, the police's use of force (guns in Central?!) has been shocking and uncalled for. Yet the overwhelming majority of the police are victims of China's unbendable authority, forced to succumb to a higher power. I hope that Occupy Central can, to the best of its ability, bend that authority and continue to provoke an international response. The world should be watching.

Maybe I'm being an idealist - maybe the students are being exploited by the authorities in China who are only concerned with making ends meet in their power struggle. However, the occupiers clearly have their drive and united goal for democracy and transparency. That should not be a judicial right reserved to China.

Long live the Umbrella Revolution!