Last October, the Admiralty protest zone in Hong Kong was flooded with a sea of umbrellas as thousands of protesters stood in silence, each holding the item that would later become a symbol of their call for democracy.
Part of a larger movement demanding more democratic rights for Hong Kong, the 87-second umbrella demonstration served to criticize the 87 times the Chinese government used tear gas on Hong Kong protesters. The Occupy Central movement–also informally dubbed the Umbrella Revolution because many protesters brought umbrellas to protect themselves from police pepper spray–has increased conflict between protesters in Hong Kong, who are calling for more democratic elections, and the Chinese government. The protestors attempted to peacefully occupy and block off Hong Kong’s financial district, setting up roadblocks and tents in an effort that has captured international attention.
Protesters are calling for universal voting rights and the ability to choose their own candidates and officials in the 2017 Hong Kong elections. The Occupy Central movement began in response to Beijing’s decision to maintain their policy of closed nominations in the Hong Kong elections. This means that China would choose the candidates running for election, and Hong Kong could only vote for these pre-approved candidates. This decision contradicted China’s previous promise to allow the first open election in Hong Kong in 2017.
“Hong Kong should have the right to run its government the way it wants to. The city has not strictly been a part of China for a long time, and it has already developed its own political process. They were given special rights when they joined China in 1997, but they have not been able to exercise them,” Senior Justin Kim said.
People in Hong Kong have mixed opinions of the protests. A poll conducted by the Chinese University of Hong Kong found that 37.8 percent supported protests, 35.5 opposed them, and around 25% of those interviewed had no opinion. The poll also found that much of the support for protests comes from younger citizens, especially college students.
Some claim that protesters in Hong Kong harbor unrealistic goals, and that Beijing will likely ignore their calls for democracy. The U.S. government has settled for cautiously supporting the protestors, calling on Chinese and Hong Kong security forces to restrict the use of force but also reminding protestors to remain peaceful.
“If China wants to call itself a ‘republic’ then it should be fully representative of its people. That means that the people in Hong Kong should be allowed to enjoy a full democracy if that’s what they want. In the future, these necessary rights in Hong Kong should be exercised throughout China,” Sophomore Charles Haiwan said.