Umbrella Movement Shows Reasons Why Hong Kong Cannot Keep Its Autonomy

Photo by Vincent Loy —

Have you ever cheated on a test or someone you love? It is not a shame to admit that. We have all done it at least once in our lives since it is human nature. Sometimes, cheating can be innocuous; however, in many instances, it is infuriating, and even wounding. In late September 2014, thousands of people were protesting in Hong Kong due to the fact that Hongkonger are “cheated” by Beijing. Hong Kong’s Basic Law, which was drafted according to the Sino-British Joint Declaration signed in 1984, declares that Hongkonger will have universal suffrage to elect their own Chief Executive. Nonetheless, on 31 August 2014, Beijing announced further restrictions to the election which stated there would be no change to the structure of the 1,200 people Election Committee which will nominate CE candidates and only candidates supported by half of the committee can be nominated. Not only did the Election Committee become less democratic; more importantly, not all people have the right to be nominated. This is an unacceptable regulation to people in Hong Kong since it violates what is meant by “democracy”; therefore, Hongkongers decided to strike and protest, which people named it as the “Umbrella Movement.” Nowadays, while people have a vested interest in Hong Kong’s continued stability and prosperity after the “Umbrella Movement,” the intervention that China’s government has done to Hong Kong is the key to why Hong Kong cannot keep its autonomy and core values.

Although China has tried to conceal the news of the “Umbrella Movement” in the media, the impacts of this event still exist in social media nowadays and have since 2014. For instance, according to Yi-zheng lian, author of The New York Times article “The Umbrella Movement Fights Back,” Yi writes, “For the first time, a crop of fresh-faced candidates who cut their political teeth during the pro-democracy Umbrella Movement in 2014 are hoping to bring to the lawmaking body their battle to emancipate Hong Kong from Beijing’s increasingly authoritarian control.” Yi indicates that a group of young candidates have the qualifications to enter the Legislative Council of Hong Kong and practice the promises of the “one country, two systems” principle which was set out in the Basic Law. These fresh-faced candidates are eager to rewrite the Basic Law in order to utilize Hong Kong’s autonomy or even outright secession from China.

Seeing high-profile pro-independence politicians have increasingly entered the Hong Kong’s Legislative Council, China recklessly wants to change the election results. For example, in another New York Times article, “Beijing Tightens Its Grip in Hong Kong Again,” which is also written by Yi, Yi notes, “For in the run-up to the September election, the Hong Kong government had already used highly improper pretexts to disqualify several of these activists.” Yi implies that two members from the Hong Kong independence group were disqualified over the oath of office process since, during the oath, they mispronounced the word “China” as “Shina,” which was a word that was used by the Meiji period Japanese to strip China of its own heritage. Everybody makes mistakes, and we all should allow second chances. Regrettably, China uttered a declaration and indicated that these two elected Hong Kong lawmakers could not retake the oaths.

Seeing that the core values of Hong Kong, which include freedom, human rights, democracy, the rule of law and clean governance, are beginning to lapse urges me wants to learn and dig deeper into Hong Kong’s politics. Not only the topic “Umbrella Revolution” hooks my interest the most, but the significance behind this event is crucial for me, as a Hongkonger. As a kid who grew up in cram-schools, I did not know that politics can have a tremendous social impact on things like our daily lives, government, or even culture. However, coming to the United States and receiving a college education gives me a chance to expand my ability to think critically and independently. While people debate on whether the Pan-democrats, who generally embrace liberal values such as rule of law, human rights, civil liberties and social justice, or the Pro-establishment, who refer to a political alignment in Hong Kong which generally supports the policies of the Beijing government towards Hong Kong, will benefit the prospect of Hong Kong, not only would I like to comprehend the “Umbrella Movement” with my independent point of view in order to avoid bias, but more importantly, to understand the reasons behind the “Umbrella Movement” since the protest, which faced its biggest political unrest in decades as tens of thousands of protesters defied a police crackdown to demand greater freedom from China, was one of the biggest protests in Hong Kong.

Although researching and writing about this topic will not benefit myself in my major, I think it is important to know about my country’s history because history is not merely a summation of previous events, but instead, its purpose is to show reasons for why and how these events happened, help us understand the basic concepts, teach about cause and effect in relationships and human nature. Questions like: “Why the umbrellas?,” “Who are the main players?,” “ What do Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protesters want?,” “Why doesn’t China just let Hong Kong have more freedom?,” “Does everyone in Hong Kong support this movement?,” and “What have happened after the protest?” are some questions that I would like to discuss and research in this project.

Americans may be interested to this topic due to the fact that through studying the “Umbrella Movement,” the Americans may take this opportunity to learn from China, and Hong Kong in particular. America is well known for its democracy since every American has the right to vote for everything which they support and care about. Nevertheless, the electoral system in Hong Kong is so different from the U.S., not everyone has the right to vote. Universal suffrage is a demand that Americans largely take for granted, even as a corporate finance-dominated mid-term election has again exposed the flaws in their system. Through working on this topic for the entire semester, I hope that I not only can gain an understanding of the relationship between China and Hong Kong, but also be able to explain the “Umbrella Movement” and the opposing viewpoints in detail to people.

Work Cited

  1. Lian, Yi-Zheng. “Beijing Tightens Its Grip in Hong Kong Again.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 13 Nov. 2016. Web. 16 Feb. 2017.
  2. Lian, Yi-Zheng. “The Umbrella Movement Fights Back.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 16 Aug. 2016. Web. 16 Feb. 2017.
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