Is the Umbrella Revolution over? An update on Hong Kong’s 51-day ‘occupation’ parallel to APEC

It all started one day, almost two months ago, when listening to the radio. Hong Kong, a very far away region from my side of the hemisphere, had been literally taken by young students, acording to a Peruvian correspondent in China. What did they want? Apparently, democracy. I asked myself what Rafael, a friend from Hong Kong I met last year, would be doing in his home country.

What the city of Mong Kok looks like currently (South China Morning Post)

What the city of Mong Kok looks like currently (South China Morning Post)

Fifty one days have passed since that day, September 27th, and the ‘occupation’ of Hong Kong’s main cities is now a landscape of new communities with its own means of communication and supplies, filled with young protesters defying three High Court injuctions requiring them to leave the streets. Recently, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum gathered world leaders and representatives from not-so-strong economies, like Peru’s President. Of course, it was expected for the agenda to include only economic issues and completly ignore the so-called Umbrella Revolution. Not that the protesters really cared, according to The Wall Street Journal, although a group of pro-democracy leaders did announce planning a trip to Beijing during the APEC forum.

What has happened so far? Tons of students got detained, hundreds got injured from clashes with the police, corruption behind the protesters attacks was unveiled, the dialogue between the government and protest leaders failed, but most importantly, a long-standing pro-democracy movement has proved to be possible in Chinese soil. And it has probably reshaped the laison between political discontent and economic loss in Asia. I bet that idea never even crossed the minds of protesters’ parents. Asking myself about Rafael led to get in touch with him and to (virtually) meet several of his friends supporting the movement. They were kind enough to share some of their time, while going to school, work and protesting, to help me understand why the Umbrella Revolution —although not yet a real revolution— is historically important.

Thanks to Skype and Facebook, a story with their testimony was made possible. I originally posted this story in Spanish on October 20th, after almost two weeks of interviews. Currently, there’s a lot of critique in the Web about what this movement has left for Hong Kong and China, and the conclusions seem to point out the lack of strategy for its success, even though they praise its endurance.

I’ll keep one of my interviewees lines in response to that: “The movement needs to scalate to China. Now we have the occupation, but what is the next action? So far it seems the occupation is the most we can do,  so it will take time and failures to make people understand this.” (Pa Sha, 26-year old translator) Occupy Central hasn’t accomplished anything it set out for (yet): nothing guarantees democratic elections for 2017. But failing at it might the very first step to achieve victory. Here’s the translation of the exclusive testimony from three protesters who have contributed to taking that step. Sigue leyendo