Neon light. Berlin-Mitte, Germany. See below for the meaning of the Chinese characters. © Matt Lemon Photography. All Rights Reserved.
Female Voices of the #UmbrellaMovement
As the Umbrella Movement made global headlines in the second half of 2014, reports mostly featured male voices from Hong Kong. Therefore, I spoke to several female friends in Hong Kong to learn about their views of the situation there. With one exception, the quotes below were kept anonymous, in accordance with their wishes, and the very first one combines statements from two of them into one paragraph.
(1) Movement vs Revolution
“The talk here is against calling it a revolution. It’s a movement. It’s about electoral reforms, not about overthrowing the government. Whereas ‘movement’ has a more neutral ring to it, ‘revolution’ is a term with specific meanings in Chinese history.”
(2) Freedom of Opinion
“These days, if you express something neutral, you will quickly be criticised by many protesters. I feel bad about that because everyone has a right to one’s opinion. I really dislike personal attacks or people unfriending others on Facebook because they disagree with one another. Maybe in other countries, it’s more common for family members or friends to have different political views and still remain on speaking terms? I am not sure.
The issue is very complicated and the media very subjective, so forming an opinion is not easy. For now, I prefer to stay quiet to avoid destructive arguments that are of no use to fight for anything. It’s not because I don’t care, it’s because I really need more time to think about it all. I think it’s problematic that the actual issue, electoral reforms, is now not talked about enough. I just feel bad about what’s happening these days. I feel sad for Hong Kong.”
(3) Structural Violence
“The meanings of the protests keep changing for me. It has significant meaning how we can preserve Hong Kong’s autonomy under the ‘one country, two systems’ model. It has significant meaning on how we can fight for an electoral system that does not make a mockery of democracy. It has been important to create an atmosphere of mass civic and political participation – and I partly thank the tear gas for that. The blatant display of police violence and the disregard for basic rights has woken many people to the structural violence of the Hong Kong government under Beijing’s rule. The government seems set to make an enemy out of its own people – especially the young people who will make up the pillar of HK society in the near future.
Most importantly, however, the students’ commitment to fighting for universal suffrage and their well-organised efforts, discipline, and self-restraint have been most impressive. They are the generation that will bring Hong Kong out of this dark tunnel we are entering. We see hope in them, and we are ready to support them however we can.
I wish there was a broader critique of the systemic violence perpetuated by a preoccupation with profit-making and corporatisation. HK has the highest Gini Coefficient in the world – I wish there were more critique of the normalisation of poverty in Hong Kong.”
“I feel proud of Hong Kong protesters as they are controlled and calm, peacefully fighting for what they believe in. However, as the movement continues, more and more protesters take to the streets with their own reasons and beliefs, and I am not sure if this is still a fight with a common goal. Together with the chaos caused by organised gangs, and in the absence of a dialogue between the government and the students, I cannot see what is going to happen.
The media are not reporting objectively, and people attack those who hold different views, even among their friends. They forget to respect different voices. Occupying the main roads affect some people’s lives and businesses. Rumours keep popping up hinting at actions that might be taken to clear the streets. All these uncertainties are exhausting. I am against the chief executive selection plan, but can this movement really make a change? I don’t know.”
“The Umbrella Movement is really important for us in Hong Kong. Although I am not interested in politics, we must stand up and raise our voices this time to defend our freedom now and in the future. Following the 9/28 tear gas attacks by the police, many of my friends got very angry and had arguments on Facebook. It’s really sad to see that happen. Actually, we all just want peace.”
(6) Yellow vs Blue
The words 共色．共識 underneath the umbrella photo – both are pronounced ‘gung sik’ in Cantonese – mean ‘same colour ° compromise’. The words and the colours symbolise the hope expressed by one of my friends with regards to the supporters of the yellow and blue factions among the people of Hong Kong. While the former show their solidarity with the protests and demand electoral reforms, the latter sympathise with the police and demand a return to public order.
“I hope the Yellow and Blue will merge into a peaceful Green soon. I hope people will listen to each other, and as they understand and accept one another, merge the yellow and blue into green, ease the pressure and stand together in peace.”
To show my support for the peaceful Umbrella Movement, I once again swapped the colours in this photo, which I took several years ago in Berlin. The neon umbrella was actually green but I previously swapped it for red to blog about the Red Umbrella, the international symbol for sex workers’ rights. The added Chinese title for this photo was created by one of my friends in Hong Kong. She intends to convey two meanings: firstly, that the Umbrella Movement is putting a spotlight on human rights, and secondly, that the movement itself is the light.
I would like to express my deepest gratitude to all friends who helped me to create this blog post within a day. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me and allowing me to share them with others. You, too, are the light.
Hong Kong visual artist Kacey Wong launched a mock competition online for the best logo design for the Umbrella Movement.
“Social media has changed the way one participates in social movements, such as a revolution. I started the contest as a disguise to generate more concern for our cause. The objective is to create a ‘safe platform’ for everyone to participate. It is through this kind of participation that we can generate enough awareness.” – Kacey Wong in an interview with artnet
“The top 3 prizes for this competition will be JUSTICE, DEMOCRACY, and FREEDOM. If you have an entry of your own please message me I will post for you. If you see me posted your design without crediting you, it is because I don’t know who did it, please let me know. I will also try my best to put the credits in your name unless otherwise instructed. If you see a post that seems cool and you want it to be included please let me know as well. All entries will be an open source for everyone to use for the next revolution.” – From Kacey Wong’s Facebook page
The images on the left are a selection of entries submitted by women. Click here to see all entries on Facebook (no account required).
Raise the Umbrella 撐起雨傘
Award-winning lyricist Lin Xi (Albert Leung 林夕), who also composed the lyrics to the song “Beijing Welcomes You” for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, has written an anthem for the Umbrella Movement. The lyrics were translated by Jason Y. Ng (關於作者), a writer and lawyer who blogs at As I See It. (see lyrics below the video)
Sitting quietly in the crowd, we are filled with fear
Of what is to befall us
But we have come to a juncture in our destiny
Where the real fear is silence
Standing on the frontline, we are filled with courage
Even though the future is grim
Who would have guessed, that to see through the lies
We must open our eyes in smoke and gas
Together we raise our umbrellas
We may be anxious but we are not alone
Together we raise our umbrellas
We ask for no more than what was promised
Heavy rains fall, but not our spirit
Umbrellas are in full bloom
Like flowers that refuse to wilt
We must remember today for the sake of tomorrow
We shall meet what lies ahead with calm
For if we miss our chance to speak up tonight
There won’t be another one in our lifetime
After blogging this entry, I came across a video titled Mothers Support Umbrella Revolution 旺角媽媽聲援雨傘革命, which I thought would be a good addition.