Hong Kong is known for many things - Its thriving economy, its stellar reputation in the financial markets, unique currency, and most importantly, its ability to remain detached from all politics. However all that changed on September 28th, 2014, when tens of thousands of residents took to the streets calling for "true democracy", marking the start of what is being called the "Umbrella Revolution" thanks to the images of protestors using the parasols to shield themselves against the police pepper spray.
The chain of events leading to these unprecedented protests can be traced all the way back to 1997. When the United Kingdom handed over Hong Kong, which had been a British colony for 156 years to China, the city was given the status of "special administrative region". This allowed them to have a high degree of autonomy. In addition, the government had also promised that the people of Hong Kong would have the right to choose their own leader during the city's first democratic elections, which are scheduled for 2017.
However on August 31st, the officials in Beijing reneged on their agreement and announced that all potential candidates would be vetted by Chinese officials, before being allowed to stand for elections. This decision angered many, especially high school and University students who had hoped that Hong Kong residents would finally be allowed to pick a leader of their choice.
Among the most vocal is 17-year-old Joshua Wong, the co-founder of Scholarism, one of the three main organized groups leading the protests against the government's decision. On Sept 27th, he along with a few other students, decided to climb over a fence and stage a peaceful protest inside the city's Civic Square, home to all central government buildings. Not surprisingly, the youngsters were arrested and though they were kept in custody for just over day, it did not go down well with the majority of residents who came out in droves the following day, starting the "Umbrella Revolution". While the protests were peaceful at first, things really escalated after Sunday, September 30th, when the police resorted to using tear-gas to try break up the crowds.
As the days have passed, the crowds have become increasingly larger and more vocal. They demanded that Hong Kong's chief executive Leung Chun-ying or C. Y. Leung as he is commonly known, resign by midnight Thursday, October 2nd, 2014.
While Leung who has the full support of the Chinese government refused to step down, he did offer up a subordinate to meet with the student leaders and discuss their demands. Though the students initially agreed, they called off the negotiations on Friday, October 3rd, after supporters of the Beijing rule clashed with the "Umbrella Revolution" protesters. Chanting "We're taking back Hong Kong" they tried to disperse the pro-democracy protestors who have been blocking the city's busy Mong Kok district, by toppling down their tents and attacking them.
This violent turn of events was followed up by stern warning by C.Y. Leung on Saturday, October 4th. The chief executive said that the protestors that are occupying three of the city's neighborhoods had 48 hours to clear out. If they are still there by Monday, October 6th, he threatens to "take all necessary actions to restore social order.” What that means is anybody's guess. But given that neither side seems to be willing to compromise, Hong Kong's 'Umbrella Revolution" is guaranteed to create many more ripples, before it's done - So stay tuned!
Resources: cnn.com,cbc.ca, huffingtonpost.com,washingtonpost.com, nbcnews.com