Umbrellas, occupied streets and the cry for universal suffrage

For the past four weeks, I have been following the progress of the protests in Hong Kong, the Umbrella Movement, so called because umbrellas were the only things the students had to hand as the police showered them with pepper spray in the early hours of 27th September. I have been watching events closely on Twitter, because it is often the most reliable source of information, and it is certainly the quickest.

Universal Suffrage

Thanks to Kris Cheng for this image

So far, no one has been killed, although there has been violence. From what I can tell, most of that violence has been perpetrated by people protesting against the Occupy Central movement, including the police and (allegedly) others who have been paid to go in and cause trouble. The less said about the Triads, the better.

There’s not much about this on the mainstream news here in the UK. This shouldn’t surprise me, but given the nature of the protests and the similarities with the protests in Beijing in 1989, somehow, it does. Now that the protests have been going on for a month, with barriers pulled down by night and hastily rebuilt the following day, repeat, repeat, repeat, I believe the Umbrella Movement has gained sufficient weight to be covered in depth by the Western media. But of course, they’re afraid to say too much. Their relationship with China is just too precious.

Anyone who knows me well knows that I’m a sinophile, and I always have been. I’ve always wanted to go to China, and I have also always wanted to go to Hong Kong (remember that until 1997, the two were not the same thing).

I was 14 in 1989 when the Beijing protests happened. I remember Kate Adie’s report on the BBC, having tripped over a young man who had fallen dead in front of her. It must have been horrific on Tiananmen Square and on the surrounding streets, Muxidi, Chang’an Avenue, Fuxingmen and Liubukou, among others. Perfectly unimaginable to those of us who weren’t there.

I’ve been reading about the protests in Beijing for years. Books, websites, anything I can get my hands on, frankly. And there are so many parallels now, with the protesters in Hong Kong, that for a while, I was genuinely terrified for them. Now, I am again, as talks between the students and the authorities have reached a stalemate. Both refuse to budge.

Umbrella postcard

Thanks to Kris Cheng for this image

I’ve been following Yenni Kwok (@YenniKwok) and Kris Cheng (@krislc) for a while, as their Twitter feeds are informative and frequent. It was Kris who sent me the templates with the Umbrella logo, as I expressed a wish to outwardly show support for my brothers and sisters in Hong Kong.

This is me reaching out to them. I hope they get the universal suffrage, the democracy, they so long for. I hope they are happy. And most of all, I hope, sincerely hope, that they are safe.

Umbrella movement

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