Protesting? Take A Look at What Hong Kong Has Done

Katherine Wong/Staff Writer

In 2014, I wasn’t afraid to walk the streets of Admiralty, Hong Kong, which protesters peacefully blocked for months on end. Today, I would gladly go out and protest in Miami, only I am afraid of being beaten by police or shot by a rubber bullet. 

In my limited experience, the difference between protesting in Hong Kong in 2014 and in the United States in 2020 is that there is a juxtaposition between civil disobedience and civil unrest. 

There is no definitive way to protest, and as we’ve seen in recent weeks, protesting can leave a country very divided. But what does protesting look like? Is it a group of people marching down the streets peacefully? Or is it something as radical as enacting violence? Ultimately, it comes down to a lot of factors, and there is no clear answer on how it should be done. 

With the political unrest that has enraged the U.S. following the death of George Floyd, protests have been staged not only at a national level, but globally as well. Thousands have flocked to the streets, and those who can’t have taken to social media to express their disgust.

These aren’t the protests you should be taking advice from.

I find myself in the latter category. I can’t leave my house because I’m at risk of COVID-19, but believe me—I’d be out there protesting if I was able to. Because of my inability to be physically present, I’ve shared countless posts with resources on social, and donated to multiple organizations like FempowerMIA and the Minnesota Freedom Fund

With engaging in virtual protesting, I’ve seen countless posts referencing the current protests in Hong Kong, and why people should be following them. At first glance, these can offer great advice to those new to protesting, from how to dress for a protest, to how to put out tear gas like a pro. But, this shouldn’t be the only advice you follow.

Many are currently looking towards Hong Kong for advice, and understandably so. Protesters have been marching the streets since March 15 of last year—only taking a two month hiatus to curb the spread of Coronavirus. These protests are successive of the ones born in 2014, which focused on the fight for Hong Kong’s democracy. 

But, as much as it pains me to say this, these aren’t the protests you should be taking advice from.

I am a Hong Konger. I stand by the protests in Hong Kong, and I’d be out there protesting in Central, Causeway Bay, Festival Walk, IFC, Sham Shui Po, Tsim Sha Tsui—everywhere—if I still lived there. I was born and raised in Hong Kong, and it absolutely tears me apart that I can’t be there. I want a Hong Kong free from Chinese rule, but I don’t want it in the way the current protests are taking place.

As protests in Hong Kong have been going on for over a year now, I can’t help but reflect on the ones that started it all. The 2014 protests, dubbed the “Umbrella Revolution” marked the beginning of the end for Hong Kong. Started by Joshua Wong in 2011, these protests were initially against the implementation of nationalist education in Hong Kong. Then 2014, these protests evolved into a fight for democracy.

The Umbrella Revolution saw over a quarter of the population take to Central and Causeway Bay, protesting for 79 days straight. I was 13 at the time, and this was my first real introduction into politics.

13 year-old me at the Lennon Wall in Central, Hong Kong. Photo courtesy of Roxanne Miller.

I found myself in Central, where all the main protests took place. When I attended, this was known as “Occupy Central With Love And Peace,” and not the Umbrella Revolution. I was surrounded with art installments, volunteer groups with aid, protest camps and the infamous Lennon Wall. People of all different nationalities and backgrounds came together. Students skipped school. Professors like my own mother quit teaching in universities and started teaching in the streets. People worked remotely from the now infamous Harcourt Road. 

What I witnessed after the teargas was nothing short of what a protest should look like—people unified to fight for the greater good. 

Fast forward to 2020, and the protests in Hong Kong are still going on over six years later. Only now, instead of the peaceful protests I found myself in, it’s turned into metro stations being set on fire, bricks killing people and police brutality including rape, among other atrocities. Now, with the handover back to communist rule officially being declared, the state of these protests have escalated even further. 

While I am not going to downplay the situation that is at hand in Hong Kong, it is vital that those in the U.S. steer clear of following everything that is happening in the region exactly.

The peaceful protests that I knew grew into the anarchy it is today, and I fear that the state Hong Kong is currently enduring is going to become reality for us in the U.S. Between Hong Kong’s abolishment of “One Country, Two Systems” and the potential militarization of America, it’s only a matter of time before both countries reach the same reality.

Research into what has happened since 2014, and use your findings at your own risk. While there is solid advice that could be followed regarding clothing and protection from the 2019 protests, do so at your own discretion.

As I said before, there is no definitive way to protest. The best thing you can do is keep yourself and others safe while making sure your voice is heard.

Featured image by doctorho on Flickr.

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The opinions presented within this page do not represent the views of PantherNOW Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community.

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