Hong Kong Democracy: The Umbrella Revolution

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Upon first glance, the sight of demonstrations in Hong Kong is enough to take the breath away: another crystallizing moment in the territory’s rich history.  It is a beautiful thing to see; young and old united for a cause…especially one important as democracy and freedom.

Yet like Hong Kong history, the protests are just one of many layers of complexity.

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There is a very symbiotic relationship between Hong Kong and China.  Hong Kong is, and will continue to be, the Jewel of China.  Both sides have prospered and both sides have benefitted, at times, in spite of each other.

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With passions riding high in the territory, both sides can ill afford to miscalculate.  Chief Executive, C.Y. Leung and the Chief of Police found that out early Monday morning (29-Sep), with their infamous use of tear gas.

Hong Kong has never had a true democracy.  Under British rule, Hong Kong was far away from a democracy.

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One of the lesser-known stories about the handover is that the Chinese government were the ones to initially introduced the idea of democracy to Hong Kong.  This is where the complexities arise.

In 1990 when democracy became part of the Basic Law (The HK Constitution), spelling out that the Chief Executive would be elected by universal suffrage – it also contained the slightly ambiguous statement “upon nomination by a broadly representative nominating committee in accordance with democratic procedures.

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There is a very fine line being walked on both sides right now.

The issue in Hong Kong is that as China’s power and wealth has grown; there is this slight feeling that Hong Kong’s freedoms and liberties are slowly being compromised.  This is a major concern.  Yes, the strings being pulled originates from Beijing, but is this why Hong Kong should be worried?

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Beijing is not the enemy; the enemies are the Hong Kong leaders who are willing sell out the soul of the city for the right price, forgetting their roots.

C.Y. Leung this is on you and your team.

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Amid the passion and fear within the protest, it is possible for Hong Kong and China to have a tenuous but harmonious relationship.  Basically the same one it has had for almost two centuries.

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But to have this, Hong Kong needs true leaders.  In the hearts of the majority in Hong Kong, C.Y. Leung has done irreparable damage and can no longer lead effectively.

It is also time for Hong Kong leaders to look in the mirror.  Do you see in yourself the disgrace of the Chief of Police who reverted to the use of tear gas and riot police on that fateful Sunday night on 28-Sep?  The night that tore at the hearts of the people of Hong Kong?  If so, please leave.

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For the people who built Hong Kong and through their sweat, tears and toil to make it into the greatest city in the WORLD, they deserve better.

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People like C.Y. Leung and business leaders who are pro-Beijing for the sole/soul purpose of making obscene profits are our real enemy.  I use the word “our” with pride, as a decade ago when I collected my Permanent Resident HK ID Card it was an amazing feeling; a feeling similar with the pride I feel today wearing my black shirt and yellow ribbon signifying voices need to be heard.

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PEACE is the word.  It is what the protesters want, it is what the people want.

To the student leader, Joshua Wong: from all accounts, you are brave and brilliant as a co-leader of this movement.  It is important to listen to all voices in Hong Kong. Change needs to happen in peace.

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You showed your age of seventeen when suggesting breaking into and occupying the Government Offices. I am grateful you stopped, listened to those with experience.

My hope is the people around C.Y. Leung can talk similar sense into him, and he will be a true leader and listen…and understand he needs to bravely vanquish his office.

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World governments will continue their politics as usual, with satirist Stephen Colbert of the USA perhaps making the most astute political comment about the protests:

“Think hard, China.  You can either crush these protesters under your heel, or you can give them the rights you promised them, because whichever choice you make, America will still do business with you.”    ~ Stephen Colbert

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This is the harsh reality, even with the people of the world taking heart in the message, the spirit and voices of Hong Kong.

In the end, the outcome is up to the people of this territory. It is up to the leaders of Hong Kong to find their courage, to be the True Patriots they signed up to be. It is up to the protesters on the streets, and the people who are shaken by what is developing here.

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For the leaders of Hong Kong, it is time to be the brave heroes that you can be. To follow your Hong Kong ancestors: be authentic like your Hong Kong sons/brothers & daughters/sisters who look to you for guidance.

Hong Kong is united,
The People’s voice has spoken…
Voices will be heard,
Their hearts remain unbroken.

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For all leaders of Hong Kong, it should not be a secret now: Hong Kong needs democratic realists not dreamers.  Leaders who understand the situation, and not those who spew rhetoric.  Extremists on both sides do nothing but hurt Hong Kong.

Do not fight with Beijing just because “they are Beijing.” Instead fight for the betterment of Hong Kong, this is our problem, let’s resolve it.

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It is true that protesters are on edge right now. Increased skirmishes and frustrated residents along with typical political tactics on both sides will continue to test these protesters.

Have heart. We are with you.

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The greatest hope for all: the only tears to be shed will be those of happiness.

This little boy was in awe of the night ~ fascinated by all that is around him...

This little boy was in awe of the night ~ fascinated by all that is around him…


Spirits sky high at the beginning of the week, are on the edge as a new week approaches...

Spirits were sky-high at the beginning of the week, now on the edge as a new week approaches…


Drones...friend or foe?!?

Drones…and media, make this a protest watched from every angle…

The Umbrella Revolution ~ laying down the roadwork for PEACE and unity with Beijing.

The Umbrella Revolution ~ laying down the framework for PEACE and universal suffrage with Beijing.

152 Comments on “Hong Kong Democracy: The Umbrella Revolution

  1. Wonderful photography as usual, but even more appreciated is your insight from the inside, as it were. The news from HK has slowed, what’s the situation currently?

    • Thanks Lignum, the protests have mellowed… the support/respect for the HK police by the locals is great to see. Many believe the protest has ran its course and made an impact as voices were heard.

  2. Pingback: Monochrome Monday: Hong Kong | indahs: travel story & photography

  3. I am in great awe with your photography. You are writing history in great details with your photography. Is photography your profession? It should. It doesn’t have to be your main profession. Your photography “sells”. Something that belongs to a magazine, a newspaper, or a book.
    It’s a great reminder for all that despite the change in generation, when push comes to shove, people, everyone, every age, do are concerned.
    It’s a great crowd, but the standouts are actually the ones with individual focuses like the schoolchildern and the cellphone.
    Freshly Press worthy post… actually all your posts are.

    • I greatly appreciate the words, as I do enjoy photography and ‘chasing that great shot’…such a big part of photography is timing, and I suppose much of life is that way too: right place at the right time. Photography is the only thing in life where I have patience 🙂 Getting out and viewing the protest scene in Hong Kong during the week was surreal, a sense of significance and optimism. It has evolved into much frustration right now (especially with the locals), so wishing now for a peaceful conclusion. Take care and enjoy the week.

  4. Another fabulous and insightful post! The protests have been a source of great inspiration. Wishing the people of Hong Kong well.

  5. 真遺憾,真普選看來在短期內都不能實現。by the way, it is an amazing sharing Randall 👍👍👍👍

  6. Fascinating post the photos are great reflection of the event .Thank you for visiting my blog.My regards

  7. A few months ago I came across a young man who had told me that he’s from Hong kong and not China. I was a bit confused.

    • Hi Melodi, that is a bit confusing. Although it might be that since most Hong Kong people are very proud of their city they mention it first. But most are also very proud of being part of China (and Chinese).

    • That is a political statement. The young man does not agree with China’s policies; he lives in Hong Kong which has a sort of autonomy in government (not for long) and was probably born there as a British subject while Hong Kong was a British colony. Britain handed Hong Kong back to China in 1997 and many HK citizens are still adjusting to the change, or not.

  8. Landscape/wildlife photographer turned photojournalist. You’ve made the transition beautifully. Great images showing the emotion of the moment. You mention that what HK needs is true leadership. Many of us in the US feel the same. Lack of true leadership seems to be a global scourge. Great post, as always Randall.

    • Ha, ha ~ I was reliving one of my favorite movies (The Year of Living Dangerously) ~ you are so correct about ‘politics-as-usual’. It seems governments around the world are failing greatly in the leadership category. Thank you and wish you a great end to year!

  9. Wonderful photos, of course, but I enjoyed reading your commentary… that whole situation with China and Britain has always been very confusing to me.

    • It is one of those very strange situations, I had heard the return of HK was the only British colony that reverted back to original rule w/o the shedding of blood. HK is such a great city 🙂 Thank you and wish you a great December.

    • Thank you very much ~ I think it is a period of time that HK will be proud of ~ made their voices heard, and did not escalate what didn’t need to be escalated. Wish you a great final month of the year.

  10. i was also in Hong Kong recently. Your photos and descriptions are beautiful and spot on. I hope you published this somewhere.

  11. Thank you for standing witness. I wish I was there. The voices of protestors have been heard largely due to people like you. The right to speak is sacred. Let us not condemn people who risk their lives to speak up, or we become cheerleaders for tanks that will run them down.

  12. I know I’m commenting well after the events, but unlike most of the places you photograph in your travels, Hong Kong is somewhere I’ve actually visited a few times and absolutely love. As usual, you caught the spirit and feeling of the moment very well. You can see the hope, worry and exhaustion of the protestors all there in the photographs.

    I was very sorry how the whole thing ended, but I’m glad it wasn’t much worse. My sympathy was basically with the students (as it would always naturally be when one side wants greater democracy and the other side wants to deny it), but I was worried that things might get completely out of hand and end up in a bloodbath. I know it was Hong Kong and not Mainland China, but events can spin out of control anywhere. Anyway, I hope a stable long-term solution can be found.

  13. Great pictures as usual, and very informative, I confess I didn’t know much about it, now I am more informed.
    Thank you!

  14. Another heartbreaking post. Where is Joshua Wong now? And the young woman abducted by the police I sketched a while back. Of course you recognized it was HK…
    Take care dalo.

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