The pro-democracy protest in Hong Kong have been labeled by an excited mainstream media “The Umbrella Revolution”, despite the organizers distaste for the name. They say they do not want a full revolution and they are a civil disobedience movement. But as this month may well show, they have every capacity to become a major transformative effect on totalitarian mainland China.
If you have never been to Hong Kong it is a bit hard to describe. I was there for a week in 1991. It was the first place i saw someone talking on two cell phones at the same time. Even over 20 years ago, this model of laissez-faire capitalism was running at 120% of the speed of Manhattan, with neon lights which more than rivaled it. It is the only developed place that i have been which has virtually no zoning controls. Sky rises host hair salons beside meat packing facilities beside student hostels. But for over a century it has been an occupied land, first by the British who installed their provincial governors, then by the Chinese who want to continue to control the slate of candidates for governor in the 2017 elections, the first elections since independence in 1997.
It is called the Umbrella Revolution for a couple of reasons. The first is that it is a collection of groups working together, starting with the Occupy Central with Peace and Love group, which was originally mostly academics and students. The second is that protesters have been using umbrellas to hold back both the seasonal rains and the pepper spray of the police.
One of the questions that rolls through the minds of some activists is “How powerful is the Occupy name?” My personal impression is that it is quite valuable, especially if you consider anyone dedicated to non-violence can use it. Besides the current important protests in Hong Kong (partly organized by Occupy Central) there are numerous other Occupy affiliated groups doing all manner things. One of my personal favorites is “Strike the Debt” which has purchased at cut rates student loans, which just paid slight me over $100K to cancel over $2 million in US student debt. I’ve written about the San Francisco’s Occupy Housing which reclaims foreclosed properties for the original tenants.
The mainstream media often dismisses the Occupy movement as failed and chaotic. What is actually true is that Occupy has inspired actions around the world, some of which are collapsing repressive regimes. Let’s hope the Umbrella Revolution can wrestle control from the plutocrats in Beijing.
Crowds swelled to over 100K people despite the often challenging weather and challenging reprisals.
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