Press "Enter" to skip to content

Remembering Occupy Hong Kong – reflections of a student protest organizer in Umbrella Movement

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinmailFacebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinmail

Tommy Cheung

(On the first anniversary of the start of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests, student organizer Tommy Cheung, a 21 year-old studying at The Chinese University of Hong Kong, reflects on the remarkable events of last year, the role young people played and what the future holds for Hong Kong.)

One year on from Occupy HK, it is still hard for me to go back to the protest area in downtown Hong Kong. Our memories, our history are there. But the trajectory of democratic movements elsewhere tells us victory is rarely won in the first battle.

These days, I am more pessimistic about the power of protest alone to bring about change but I remain completely optimistic about the future of Hong Kong. I have faith in Hong Kong’s people if not our leaders. There is a shift in our mind-set, a resolve to preserve the autonomy of our city, to defend our freedoms and the rule of law. Young people feel they need to act to prevent Beijing interfering further in Hong Kong’s affairs. There is a resolve to preserve the autonomy of our city, to defend our freedoms and the rule of law. Young people feel they need to act.

While the struggle for genuine democracy in Hong Kong goes on, we can take solace that Beijing’s proposal to elect Hong Kong’s leader in 2017 was ultimately defeated when our legislature voted on it in June. This was a victory for everyone that took part in the Umbrella Movement.

The movement was unprecedented. For the first time tens of thousands of Hong Kong people took part in civil disobedience. When students across the city began the week-long class boycott to protest against Beijing’s proposal, I never imagined events would unfold as they did.

There was panic and anger on the first Sunday, [28 September 2014], when police tried to clear the streets by firing dozens of rounds of tear gas. Most of us had never experienced our eyes stinging, or knew how to protect ourselves. My instinct was to run.

Since Occupy, many young people no longer trust the police. They are seen as serving the government rather than the people. We could not believe they used such force against an overwhelmingly peaceful protest. People used umbrellas to protect themselves from pepper spray and baton charges, and that is how the movement got its name.

The young people taking part were more fearless than the older generation, for whom the bloodshed of 1989 Tiananmen crackdown in Beijing was still vivid. My generation are not haunted by such memories.

Dancing to Beijing’s tune
A few days in, we were all exhausted but we hoped that the huge outpouring of support would force the Hong Kong government to listen to us.

Yet, it was obvious the government was dancing to Beijing’s tune and early on there was a genuine fear the People’s Liberation Army would be deployed to clear the streets. This was one of the darkest moments for me. As a student organizer, I felt the weight of responsibility to protect fellow protesters. We had to think of the worst-case scenario, numbers of casualties and how to protect people.

One of the challenges of a genuine grassroots movement is there are so many voices and it can be difficult to make decisions or find consensus. Some students wanted to escalate the protest, but others argued we should retreat while the momentum was with us.

When talks with the government took place in late October, they offered no olive branch. People could see the government were just the puppets of Beijing. Looking back, this was the moment we should have escalated the protest.

I felt dejected and frustrated, but we kept looking for ways to inject new energy into the movement. Some of us attempted to travel to Beijing to try and meet the real decision-makers. We knew we would be prevented from leaving Hong Kong Airport but it was important that we tried.

Final days
November and December were extremely difficult, as the protest dragged on with no breakthrough. There were many opinions inside the movement as to what our next move should be. The wider support from Hong Kong people appeared to be dissipating.

My biggest regret is the night of Sunday 30 November, when some protesters wanted to occupy government buildings, in an effort to regain momentum. We failed to convince enough people to join the action, leaving those who took part to face police beatings. If I could change one night it would be that.

When police finally cleared the main protest site on 11 December it was hard to watch them arrest my friends. A year on, most still have charges hanging over them.

Moving forward
The biggest lesson I learnt from Occupy is the need to play the long game. We need to look past the 2017 election and a narrow focus on reforming the Basic Law [Hong Kong’s mini-constitution]. We need to gain the support of all parts of Hong Kong society – protest is not the only way to do this.

The genuine participation of young people is crucial to achieving this. We are confident about our identity, our values and our place in the world. We look beyond Beijing.

We have instilled a belief in liberal values and democracy in the next generation. Beijing can never take that away.

We must link up with other social movements across the world. In the face of a backlash from authorities in many parts of Asia and the wider world, young people are leading the way in bringing about social change. We only have to look to our peers in Taiwan, Japan, and Malaysia, to see this.

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinmailFacebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinmail

Leave a Reply

29 Comments

  1. minecraft October 4, 2018

    If you are going for finest contents like I do, only visit this web site everyday since it presents quality
    contents, thanks

  2. minecraft October 5, 2018

    Thanks for finally writing about >Remembering Occupy Hong
    Kong – reflections of a student protest organizer in Umbrella Movement
    – THE SABHA <Loved it!

  3. minecraft October 5, 2018

    What’s up, for all time i used to check website posts here in the early hours in the daylight, because i love to gain knowledge of more and more.

  4. minecraft October 5, 2018

    Simply wish to say your article is as surprising. The clarity in your post is simply cool and i could assume you’re an expert
    on this subject. Fine with your permission let me to grab
    your RSS feed to keep up to date with forthcoming
    post. Thanks a million and please continue the gratifying work.

  5. minecraft October 6, 2018

    Hi, just wanted to mention, I loved this article.
    It was practical. Keep on posting!

  6. minecraft October 7, 2018

    Excellent article. I absolutely appreciate this site.

    Continue the good work!

  7. minecraft October 7, 2018

    When someone writes an paragraph he/she retains the plan of a user in his/her
    mind that how a user can know it. So that’s why this post is great.

    Thanks!

  8. minecraft October 7, 2018

    This is a really good tip especially to those fresh
    to the blogosphere. Short but very accurate information… Thanks for sharing this one.
    A must read article!

  9. minecraft free download 2018 October 10, 2018

    Thank you for sharing your info. I really appreciate your efforts and I
    will be waiting for your further post thanks once again.

  10. minecraft free download 2018 October 10, 2018

    you’re really a excellent webmaster. The site loading speed is amazing.
    It sort of feels that you’re doing any unique trick.
    Moreover, The contents are masterwork. you’ve done a great job in this subject!

  11. minecraft free download 2018 October 11, 2018

    Spot on with this write-up, I absolutely believe this website needs a great deal more attention. I’ll probably be
    returning to see more, thanks for the info!

  12. Coconut Oil October 23, 2018

    It’s in reality a great and useful piece of info.
    I am satisfied that you simply shared this helpful info with us.
    Please keep us informed like this. Thanks for sharing.

  13. Coconut Oil October 23, 2018

    Fantastic post however I was wanting to know if you could write a litte more on this subject?
    I’d be very grateful if you could elaborate a little bit further.
    Many thanks!

  14. Coconut Oil October 26, 2018

    Simply want to say your article is as surprising.
    The clearness in your post is just nice and i could assume
    you are an expert on this subject. Well with your permission allow me to grab your RSS
    feed to keep up to date with forthcoming post.
    Thanks a million and please keep up the gratifying work.

  15. Benefits of Coconut Oil October 28, 2018

    What’s up to every , since I am truly eager of reading this blog’s post to be updated on a
    regular basis. It carries good data.

  16. Benefits of Coconut Oil October 28, 2018

    I am regular reader, how are you everybody?
    This paragraph posted at this web page is actually pleasant.

  17. Benefits of Coconut Oil October 29, 2018

    Attractive section of content. I just stumbled upon your web site
    and in accession capital to assert that I acquire in fact enjoyed
    account your blog posts. Any way I will be subscribing to
    your feeds and even I achievement you access consistently rapidly.

  18. Coconut Oil October 29, 2018

    When I originally commented I clicked the “Notify me when new comments are added” checkbox and now each time a comment is added I get four e-mails with the same comment.
    Is there any way you can remove me from that service?

    Thanks!

  19. Benefits of Coconut Oil October 30, 2018

    Hey! Quick question that’s completely off topic.
    Do you know how to make your site mobile friendly?

    My site looks weird when viewing from my iphone 4.
    I’m trying to find a theme or plugin that
    might be able to correct this problem. If you have any recommendations, please share.
    Cheers!

  20. quest bars cheap November 4, 2018

    What’s up colleagues, how is everything, and
    what you wish for to say about this post, in my view its truly awesome in support of
    me.

  21. quest bars cheap November 4, 2018

    Wow, this paragraph is nice, my sister is analyzing such things,
    thus I am going to tell her.

  22. We stumbled over here from a different web page and thought I might
    check things out. I like what I see so i am just following you.
    Look forward to looking into your web page for a second time.

  23. Wonderful post however , I was wondering if you
    could write a litte more on this subject? I’d be very thankful if you could elaborate a little bit further.
    Many thanks!

  24. Wonderful blog! I found it while browsing on Yahoo News.
    Do you have any suggestions on how to get listed in Yahoo News?
    I’ve been trying for a while but I never seem to get there!
    Thank you

  25. Sling TV November 14, 2018

    naturally like your web site but you need to take a look at the spelling on several of
    your posts. Several of them are rife with spelling issues and I in finding
    it very troublesome to inform the reality nevertheless I will certainly
    come again again.

  26. sling tv coupons and promo codes for november 2018
    It’s difficult to find educated people about this topic, however, you seem like you know what you’re talking about!
    Thanks sling tv coupons and promo codes for november 2018

  27. Your style is really unique compared to other people
    I’ve read stuff from. Thanks for posting when you’ve got the opportunity,
    Guess I’ll just bookmark this blog.

  28. Having read this I thought it was very enlightening.

    I appreciate you taking the time and effort to put this short article together.
    I once again find myself personally spending way too much
    time both reading and commenting. But so what, it was still
    worth it!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *