Sunday, November 2, 2014

The Protests in Hong Kong: Assorted Links

I have recently come across a number of fascinating/intriguing/thought-provoking pieces about the continued protests in Hong Kong. Here are just a few of them:

1. For an eye-catching overview, see "30 Days Later: A Month of Hong Kong Pro-Democracy Protests in Photos" by Zhang Xuejian and Te-Ping Chen.

2. The South China Morning Post visited a university in Guangzhou to see how Hongkongers discuss the protests while studying in mainland China. One student said:
Many of us [Hongkongers] support and understand the students who remain in Admiralty, Causeway Bay and Mong Kok. So far, we haven't felt a taboo on talking about it on campus. But the conversations are usually only among the Hong Kong students. . . .

Some [mainland Chinese students] are curious and come to ask what's happening in Hong Kong when they see the pictures we spread through WeChat. But they just view the movement as useless political and social unrest. They say 'take care', but that's it. Few want to know anything more about why so many young Hong Kong people have taken to the streets.
3. Gwynn Guilford looks at the pragmatic and symbolic implications of Hongkongers' Cantonese language setting them apart:
In short, when a Mandarin-reader looks at the Cantonese words for “Umbrella Movement,” she sees a fairly innocuous and somewhat nonsensical phrase. When a Cantonese-reader looks at them, the same set of characters are a play on words meaning both “Chater Road Movement” and, literally, “Umbrella Fight Movement”—or, more abstractly, “Umbrella Fight-Against-CY Leung Movement.”
4. Jamie Kenny considers how the dynamics of the protests in Hong Kong may differ from those elsewhere in terms of the "enchantment" factor:
The protesters’ vulnerability has in fact been re-engineered as a force multiplier. On an average day, attendance does not exceed a few hundred, with crowds swelling in the evening, after part-time supporters are done with work or school. But numbers grow at moments of crisis and at any time the camp is believed to be under threat from the authorities. The effect is to make the camp untouchable, at least for now.
He also asks "How did people so young get to be so good at protest?". For his answer, which does not mention manipulative “external forces”, and more about the various dynamics at work in the protests, see here.

5. Finally, Julie Makinen focuses not on the protestors but on another key group:
When the demonstrations erupted in late September, many people — particularly leaders in Beijing — expected power brokers like [Asia's richest man, Li Ka-shing,] to come out firmly and forcefully against the sit-ins and call for a quick return to the status quo. After all, the territory's business elite has enjoyed a cozy and profitable relationship with government officials since the former British colony reverted to Chinese rule 17 years ago, reaping massive windfalls as closer ties with the mainland set the city's property market on fire and supercharged other sectors of the economy.

But that calculation may have underestimated the tycoons' support for Hong Kong's more Westernized traditions, and their distaste for its government leader, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying.
See here for more about how Hong Kong's tycoons have largely kept silent about the protests and how they may not be united in their hopes.

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