Explainer: What’s Going on with Hong Kong’s ‘Umbrella Revolution’?
Religion & Liberty Online

Explainer: What’s Going on with Hong Kong’s ‘Umbrella Revolution’?

hong-kong-44What is the protest in Hong Kong?

Pro-democracy activists in the city are protesting the Chinese government’s decision ruling out open nominations for the election of Hong Kong’s leader in 2017. According to the BBC, China’s leaders had promised direct elections for chief executive by 2017, but last month the top legislative committee ruled that voters will only have a choice from a list of two or three candidates selected by a nominating committee. This committee would be formed “in accordance with” Hong Kong’s largely pro-Beijing election committee and any candidate would have to secure the support of more than 50 percent of the nominating committee before being able to run in the election.

Who is leading the protest?

Various groups, though Occupy Central with Love and Peace — an organization that promotes universal suffrage — seems to be the most prominent. Occupy Central, led by Hong Kong law professor Benny Tai Yiu-ting, organized the unofficial referendum on political reform held in June.

Is Occupy Central connected to the Occupy Wall Street protests?

Yes. Both are part of the Occupy movement, an international protest movement that has promoted protests on six continents.

Why is the protest sometimes referred to as the “Umbrella Revolution”?

Many protestors have used umbrellas as shields against the pepper spray and tear gas used against them by Chinese security forces.

Where is Hong Kong?

hongkongHong Kong, officially known as Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China, is an autonomous region situated at the south-eastern tip of the mainland of China. Hong Kong has a total area of about 1,104 square kilometers covering Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and the New Territories and Islands, which are enclosed by the Pearl River Delta and South China Sea

How is Hong Kong “autonomous”?

China ceded Hong Kong island to Britain in 1842 after the First Opium War. Britain later added parts of the Kowloon peninsula and the many smaller islands surrounding Hong Kong to its holdings. Britain’s 99-year lease expired in 1997, after which the area became a “special administrative region” of China.

Hong Kong is governed under the principle of “one country, two systems”, under which China has agreed to give the region a high degree of autonomy and to preserve its economic and social systems for 50 years from the date of the handover.

China controls Hong Kong’s foreign and defense policies, but the territory has its own currency and customs status. Hong Kong’s constitution, the Basic Law, provides for the development of democratic processes. However, the Chinese government can veto changes to the political system and pro-democracy forces have been frustrated by the fact that Beijing is not abiding by the agreement in the Basic Law mandating “universal suffrage upon nomination by a broadly representative nominating committee in accordance with democratic procedures.”

Are the protestors using the “hands up, don’t shoot” gesture from Ferguson?

Probably not. Despite the claims made by left-leaning websites and Twitter feeds, putting one’s hands in the air is a near universal sign to show an opposing force that you are unarmed and pose no threat of violence. As Quartz notes,

Most Hong Kong protesters aren’t purposefully mimicking “hands up, don’t shoot,” as some have suggested. Instead, the gesture is a result of training and instructions from protest leaders, who have told demonstrators to raise their hands with palms forward to signal their peaceful intentions to police.

Asked about any link between the gesture and Ferguson, Icy Ng, a 22-year-old design student at Hong Kong Polytechnic University said, “I don’t think so. We have our hands up for showing both the police and media that we have no weapons in our hands.”

Other posts in this series:

Ebola Crisis •  Scottish Independence •  Obamacare Subsidies Ruling •  Border Crisis • What’s Going on in Iraq? • EPA’s Proposed New Climate Rule • VA Scandal • What is Going on in Vietnam? • Boko Haram and the Kidnapped Christian Girls • The Supreme Court’s Ruling on Government Prayer • Earth Day? • Holy Week? • What’s Going On in Crimea? • What Just Happened with Russia and Ukraine? • What’s Going on in Ukraine • Jobs Report • The Hobby Lobby Amicus Briefs • Net Neutrality? • Common Core? • What’s Going on in Syria? • What’s Going on in Egypt?

Joe Carter

Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).