Faces Behind The Movement
University Students Join Hong Kong’s ‘Umbrella Revolution’
By Season Ho
University students kicked off their class boycott for democracy and universal suffrage on September 22, launching a week-long protest that became known as the ‘umbrella revolution’. The protests were followed by chaos between police and protestors and the blocking of major roads around Hong Kong.
The movement made front-page headlines and was covered widely by international and local media, and was documented through social media platforms such as Facebook.
The class boycott on September 22 started with a kickoff ceremony at the Chinese University of Hong Kong’s main campus in Sha Tin. The organizer, the Hong Kong Federation of Students, estimated that over the course of the week a total of 13,000 people joined the protest, including secondary school pupils, foreign exchange students, teachers and the public.
“We have to tell the government that Hong Kong people are willing to sacrifice much more,” Alex Chow Yong Kang, the secretary general of the Hong Kong Federation of Students, said. “These 13,000 students are the future pillars of society, and they are willing to take risks even though they know that the mainland government might not respond to them. Can C.Y. Leung hear our voices?”
As a symbol of the campaign, students dressed in white and wore yellow ribbons. Shue Yan Action, a HKSYU committee concerned about social issues, estimated that at least 150 students joined the kickoff ceremony.
A participant from Shue Yan, Chan Yee Man ,said that just before attending the kick off she sent emails to professors, expressing her decision to attend the class boycott.
“I knew the risk and I knew that I might not
have enough of an attendance record to let me sit for the final examination, which means I have to retake some of the subjects next year,” the first year journalism student said. “But I think the democracy of Hong Kong is more important. Without the freedom to have universal suffrage, there’s no point for us no matter how educated we are.”
Earlier on September 19, members of Shue Yan Action hung banners outside the Lady Lily Shaw Hall. The Office of Student Affairs, however, sent staff to take them off within minutes. Their justification was that Shue Yan Action hadn’t submitted an application.
“We treat all student groups equally, if they have any needs, the OSA will try to help in whatever way that is within our limit,” OSA replied to Our Voice’s inquiry on the incident.
The OSA did provide the 35th Anniversary Plaza for Shue Yan Action to organize an assembly and display posters and leaflets after negotiation.
The spokesperson of Shue Yan Action, Chan Kwok Hin, said that throughout the week, volunteers at Shue Yan Action have been going to different lectures to promote the class boycott, and most professors welcomed their short presentation. Chan said he was optimistic about the emergence of political discussions in SYU.
“We are surprised by the supportiveness and open mindedness displayed by the University, knowing that they were quite conservative politically in the past…the emergence of political discussions is definitely a breakthrough in Shue Yan,” he added.
Within the six-day class boycott at the Central Government Offices, students and the public occupied the streets of Hong Kong at Admiralty, Causeway Bay and Mongkok. There were incidents where police used pepper spray and tear gas. Huge crowds continue to surge onto the streets and at press time the protests continue.