Monday, October 27, 2014
1. That Occupy quickly became the Umbrella Revolution has to do with the way the CCP has repeatedly angered Hong Kongers. From the White Paper of June 10th to the decision on August 31st; to the Hong Kong government’s sudden cancellation of scheduled talks—the effects of these retrograde moves have had a greater mobilizing effect than anything Hong Kong’s political activists have done.
2. The democracy movement itself has been brewing for a long time. Along with enormous potential, it carries the social experience of Hong Kongers: both their individual and collective memories of grievances. It carries the blood flowing from wounds; the poetic grace of the revolution and the community’s imagination of the future. All of these things seethe with vitality; and together, they are now bursting forth. In another respect, the movement reflects the characteristics of the Information Age and what we call Web 2.0: decentralization of organizing methods; the timely dissemination of information coming from the Internet and other media; and the pooling of information by both those present and those who aren’t. A multiplicity of leaders is combined with public will; organized action combines with spontaneous action; and the element of planning in the actions has combined with a willingness to follow trial-and-error at a moment’s notice. This kind of open, decentralized, and flexible social movement—which respects public opinion and inspires creativity is the very thing that is valuable and fascinating about liberal democracy. All of these things affect where the movement is headed and the possibility that it will bear fruit.
3. Both the protesters and the Communist government have very limited room for compromise. It’s easy to imagine the movement will have a rough ending, and the possibility of a violent escalation still exists. But regardless of how the Hong Kong democracy movement is suppressed, it will continue to present a stalemate. Hong Kong’s society will be torn a little more. If the municipal government fails to cooperate with the movement, the citizens’ non-cooperation movement will grow and acts of disobedience will become more frequent. Both the movement and the resistance that follows it will produce far-reaching effects on Hong Kong’s political ecology, its social psychology, its economy and finance and its relationship with China.
4. What this movement reflects is the conflict between two fundamental political systems. Under totalitarianism, a liberal system cannot be allowed to exist. If Hong Kong is allowed a genuine form of universal suffrage, it will crack totalitarianism’s dykes and dams, and the cracks will cause totalitarianism to collapse. Without realizing it, Hong Kong has become, after the Arab Spring, the next eye in the storm of global democracy. Millions of people stand transfixed. Hong Kongers are not only fighting for democracy on behalf of Hong Kong: objectively speaking, they’re also fighting on behalf of China. For Hong Kongers who are slowly becoming more conscious of their city’s identity, and becoming increasingly de-Sinicized, this is a strange circumstance. They derive their self-identity from a dynamic and complicated set of political, cultural, historical, and other factors. And the degree to which they, and especially the young people among them, identify with China—and not just the Communist Party—declines even as we speak. But whether we are discussing theory or reality, if there is no democracy in China, then there is no democracy in Hong Kong. Those on the Chinese mainland who have awakened—those who take action—have never abandoned the effort needed in this fight for democracy. If they aren’t in prison already, then they’re on the road to prison. In a cruel environment they have paid a heavy price. Now, it is Hong Kongers who have assumed the unbearable weight of the revolution; Hong Kongers who will fight on behalf of mainlanders. And the majority of mainlanders, who have not yet woken up, will mock and scorn Hong Kong’s street warriors; they will heap abuse upon them. And perhaps this is the thing that lies at heart of the movement, that makes people feel conflicted, and that makes them sigh.