On 26th September 2014 ‘Umbrella Revolution’ erupted. Hong Kong finally went to war with the government. We fought - for the first time.
“I hereby announce Occupy Central start now and we will never stop fighting.” Said Benny Tai, a Law Professor on that day.
I remember how my friends and I cheered, how Hong Kong people in the live stream video chanted passionately. We all had one purpose – justice. We could not stand how activists like Liu Xiao Bao, Li Wang Yang were ‘being committed suicide’. We could not tolerate China depriving us of our freedom chunk by chunk.
We fought for three days. I was in the UK sharing information about it online, updating my friends who were in the movement about the police and the general situation. As hours passed by, it got more violent. Vulnerable students were defending the police only with their fragile yellow umbrellas. The police, on the other hand, was using pepper spray and tear bombs; some even beat the student with their batons. The students, who held umbrellas for them in the rain and gave them food, were traumatised.
Last year, three Umbrella Movement leaders, Joshua Wong, Nathan Law and Alex Chow, were sentenced to six to eight months last year on ‘illegal assembly’. Our hearts sank when we heard the news, we felt like there is no hope of justice. When even the law – the ‘fair and impartial’ law, is not on our side, what is the point in fighting?
The United Nations and the European Union have criticised the decision of the court and have urged Hong Kong to uphold human rights and democracy. The Umbrella Movement was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
David Kaye and Michel Forst are the U.N special rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression and human rights. They said in Geneva last year, “The right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly protects people, especially those sharing dissenting opinions,”- According to Reuters.
At first, we were thrilled when we got international attention. We thought other countries are going to help us. But eventually, we realised that no matter how many international authorities gave us their voices, China will only ignore them.
Three days ago Theresa May paid a visit to Xi Jing-Ping, China’s president. I hoped for a change on that day, I hoped Theresa May would demean, or at least bring up, the violation of human rights and democracy in Hong Kong. Joshua Wong wrote to the Guardian to urge Theresa May to uphold the pledge of ensuring Hong Kong’s freedom and its autonomy. Chris Patten, the last governor of Hong Kong and Paddy Ashdown, a former leader of Liberal Democrats, also urged Theresa May to bring up the human rights problems in Hong Kong. She did bring it up briefly, but of course, like any other time, China ignored it. Even more infuriating is that The Global Times, a newspaper organisation in China, congratulated Xi Jing-Ping on ‘sidestepping’ the issue, which they described as ‘radical public opinion’.
We have been protesting on the 1st July every year, we have been mourning the deaths and demanding justice on 4th June every year for the Tiananmen Square protesters, we have been demanding justice and democracy for so long. Anti-government politicians, Leung Kwok Hung and Wong Yuk Man have been fighting for Hong Kong for over 20 years. However, all these fights don’t seem to have achieved anything.
China sees us as a bunch of frivolous rats squeaking as we lose blood and tears fighting for our rights. They continue to deprive us of our freedom, engulfing us into their country, and making us become one of them.
Lam Wing Kee, Causeway Bay Bookseller, who was selling so-called ‘forbidden books’ was detained by the Chinese government for eight months. One of our politicians, Agnes Chow, has been disqualified for the by-election because of her political stance. As autonomic as we are, we do not have ‘real’ universal suffrage. Although we got to elect representative parties in our area, the chief executive candidates have to be vetted by the Chinese government beforehand so whoever we vote for, they still cannot represent us.
All these time, we could only stand there and watch them being taken away and watch how our freedom is being weakened every day. We are helpless and furious. We want to fight but we know this is delusional.
“You have to stand up together, then you will succeed.” They say. Like Catalonia, the people fought for independence. When the government stopped the referendum, they protested as one. All we could do is envy.
It is just painful to see how much we suffer fighting for what belongs to us.
A friend of mine who participated in the Umbrella Movement said to me “The Umbrella Movement is kind of a failure, our objectives – political reform, withdrawing 8.31 NPC standing committee’s new requirements for HK chief executive, did not happen.
I feel hopeless, the things we did do not work, getting us into legislative council is useless.”
The most irritating thing among all, is not the opposite side of us. It’s the middle, the ‘neutral’, the ‘apathetic’. My relatives say, “You are disrupting the economy.” “You are disturbing the innocent people who just want peace.”
You can have your peace while our democracy is chipping away. You can have your peace while the ones who fought for all of us are in jail.
The peace will soon stop - when China officially rules over Hong Kong and don’t come crying to us when the time comes.