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Day Four of the “Umbrella Revolution”
As today was Chinese National Day, the day on which the People’s Republic of China celebrates its founding, there was some contention within what has now come to be known as the “Umbrella Revolution” in Hong Kong about what should be the correct response. As it was widely known that international media would be watching carefully to note what the response would be with the expectation of mass protest, organizers as student activist group Scholarism’s Joshua Wong urged calm and respectful forms of protest, stating, “No matter how much you dislike a country, disturbing its flag-raising ceremony will only be disrespectful.”
As such, Scholarism and other activists protested silently, by turning their backs to the flag raising ceremony at Golden Baihinia Square and crossing their arms. Despite heavy rain the previous night, crowds continued to be large, with several netizen commentators remarking upon the irony of that the umbrellas that protestors had previously used to block tear gas canisters fired upon them by the police were now being used for their intended purpose.
It remains a question what is next for the movement. Lester Shum, vice-secretary of the Hong Kong Federation of Students, declared that students will escalate by occupying government buildings if current Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying does not resign by the end of Thursday. While students have been at the forefront of leading the movement from the beginning, leadership is increasingly becoming a question.
Dissatisfaction towards Occupy Central and its leaders comes from many sides for their perceived attempt to co-opt the movement in their late declaration of involvement during the early morning hours of September 28th, for their emphasis on peaceful civil disobedience at all costs, occasional demands of authority in managing protest actions, and hesitancy to disrupt everyday life in through protest actions that could affect Hong Kong’s business activity. However, Scholarism spokespeople had mentioned joint planning with Occupy Central in regards to the next step of activity before Shum’s ultimatum, likely referring to joint discussion regarding possible occupation attempts.
Yet if negotiations are to be opened with China in the near future, it is feared by some quarters that Occupy Central may take the lead and pose a more conciliatory set of demands. On an interview with CNN today, Occupy Central leader Benny Tai spoke of wanting democracy for only Hong Kong and not being inherently opposed to the Chinese Communist Party, to some backlash.
Nevertheless, if escalatory activities are planned, whereas the threat of violent has been ever present—the most infamous example being that Hong Kong police had written warning of opening fire on the back of the their banners warning of firing tear gas—the situation remains highly tense. Indeed, preparation for the possibility of violence that might necessitate a number of blood transfusions, the Red Cross in Hong Kong put a call out for donations of blood today.
It may be that, less dramatically, the government strategy might be to simply wait it out until protestors become tired and the momentum of the movement fades. Certainly, the news cycle has a way of sensationalism in an attempt to drum up attention. Much is up in the air. But another uncertain night falls on Hong Kong.
Brian Hioe (丘琦欣) is an M.A. student at Columbia University, a freelance writer on politics and social activism, and an occasional translator. He is formerly a resident of Taipei, Taiwan.
Photo credit: Unknown, image circulating widely on social media