Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Aleteia
Tuesday 21 September |
The Feast of Saint Matthew the Apostle
home iconNews
line break icon

How Will the “Umbrella Revolution” in Hong Kong End?

AFP PHOTO / AARON TAM

CHINA, HONG KONG : Police fire tear gas upon pro-democracy demonstrators near the Hong Kong government headquarters on September 28, 2014. Police fired tear gas as tens of thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators brought parts of central Hong Kong to a standstill Sunday, in a dramatic escalation of protests that have gripped the semi-autonomous Chinese city for days. AFP PHOTO / AARON TAM

Steven W. Mosher - published on 10/03/14 - updated on 06/07/17

This betrayal of their hopes of eventual self-governance is what led the people of Hong Kong, umbrellas in hand, to take to the streets in protest.

A Flash Mob of Democracy Protesters

The demonstrations are the biggest challenge to Beijing since the Tiananmen demonstrations of 25 years ago, and they may be even harder to put down. In part this is because the umbrella revolution is digital. The young demonstrators communicate at the speed of light, texting instead of faxing, posting instead of typing, and instantly picture-sharing with their smartphones. Believe it or not, they even have drones flying overhead to monitor the situation from the air.

The authorities have fought back by slowing down the Internet and, rumor has it, preparing to shut down the city’s cell phone networks. But the demonstrators, more tech savvy than the authorities, are one step ahead. The smartphone users among them all downloaded a “Firechat” app that allows them, using Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, to talk to one another “off the grid.”

Beijing, acting through its tough-guy governor in Hong Kong, first tried to threaten the student demonstrators into surrendering the streets. This tactic failed. Then it tried to overwhelm the protesters with tear gas and pepper spray and only bolstered the ranks of the umbrella uprising. Given the broad public support enjoyed by the young people, it is hard to see how Beijing disperses the protesters without making major concessions to local democrats — or shedding blood.

The Chinese government has been more successful at stopping the umbrella revolution from spreading throughout China. Chinese Internet censors are working overtime, scrubbing photos and comments about what is happening in Hong Kong from sites like Instagram and Sina Weibo, a Chinese version of Twitter. The government-controlled media has ignored the protests, except for the occasional editorial blaming the unrest on devious foreigners.

Still, word of what is happening in Hong Kong is getting through to China’s own dissidents, some of whom have spoken out in support of the demonstrators. “The outcome of this battle for democracy,” says Beijing dissident Hu Jia, who is now under house arrest, “will also determine future battles for democracy for all of China.”

Beijing’s greatest fear is that the unrest will spread beyond Hong Kong to China’s other major cities in a kind of “democracy contagion.” So far that hasn’t happened on any scale. A few protesters have gathered in Shanghai’s People’s Square, in the center of that city, to show their support for Hong Kong’s students and to ask for the vote. But China’s other major cities remain calm, at least for the moment.   

What Will Communist Party leader Xi Jinping do?

Chinese President Xi Jinping is said to have remarked that the reason the Soviet Union fell apart in 1991 was that no one “had the balls to stand up for it." It is unlikely that he would stand idly by while China unraveled in the same way.
China’s state-run media has reported that, if the demonstrations continue, that Beijing may send in the People’s Armed Police into Hong Kong to restore order. Others fear that martial law may soon be declared.

President Xi may believe that such threats may convince the protesters to fold up their umbrellas and go home. I am afraid that it will only strengthen their resolve to continue to occupy the financial district.

It is hard for me to imagine a peaceful ending to this stand-off. Even if Xi is able to keep the lid on democracy protests in China, he still will not allow the people of Hong Kong to vote in real — rather than staged — elections. If he did, the contagion of democracy would still spread, albeit more slowly, across China. Chinese in other cities would surely demand the same privilege as their compatriots in Hong Kong.

My friend Cardinal Joseph Zen, the 82-year-old retired bishop of Hong Kong, is with the protesters every day. “I’m praying that the situation in Hong Kong won’t become another Tiananmen,” he says.

I am too.

Steven W. Mosher is the President of the Population Research Institute and the author of Population Control: Real Costs, Illusory Benefits.

  • 1
  • 2
Tags:
China
Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read Aleteia.org every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...




Top 10
1
ANMOL RODRIGUEZ
Domitille Farret d'Astiès
Attacked with acid as a baby, Anmol Rodriguez overcomes and inspi...
2
ARGENTINE CHILDREN
Esteban Pittaro
Argentine “Mother Teresa” was a former model and actress who embr...
3
RESURRECTION
Philip Kosloski
Your body is not a “shell” for your spirit
4
Our Lady of La Salette
Philip Kosloski
How Our Lady of La Salette can give us hope in darkness
5
PIER GIORGIO FRASSATI
Cerith Gardiner
12 Habits of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati that every young adult...
6
Visalia CHURCH
J-P Mauro
The largest Catholic parish church in the US will soon be in Cali...
7
CHAPEL OUR LADY MIRACULOUS MEDAL
Zelda Caldwell
A pilgrimage to Paris’ Chapel of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal
See More
Newsletter
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.