The Occupy Central Movement was initiated by Benny Tai Yiu-ting, Associate Professor of Law at the University of Hong Kong in 2013. The aim was to pressure the Chinese Government into granting an electoral system, which, according to Tai’s manifesto, “satisfies the international standards in relation to universal suffrage”. This summer, the central government issued a statement saying candidates should be nominated by a committee instead of people, which triggered students to demonstrate. The central government says that maintaining social stability is their main aim. As the protests in Hong Kong have destroyed stability, they are therefore regarded as illegal. They also criticize Benny Tai for pulling the strings behind closed doors.
Livy Li is a third-year English student in Hong Kong Polytechnic University. She skipped class and joined the Occupy Central protest for five days, her first experience of a demonstration. The Breaker brings together a selection of the photographs she took during the protests.
Livy said, “Students’ movement is independent and not controlled by Benny Tai. Actually, he was severely scolded by many students for treating this revolution as his own one.”
Students criticise the central government’s block of information on this issue. China’s media reported little about it in September, but after the Chinese national day on October 1st, many reports appeared in the media. On the other hand, Western media tend to support Hong Kong’s protests, and have named it the ‘Umbrella Revolution’ – a name rejected by protesters because of the violent connotations of the word ‘revolution’.
Many posters and slogans are hanging in the university. This is a famous saying of Lu Xun, a leading figure of modern Chinese literature, which means: “Originally there is no path in this world, but when there are many who have walked upon it, then a path comes into being.”
The poster reads: “We skip classes without giving up learning, since the world outside is instead our biggest classroom.”
A girl reading under an umbrella – used both as protection from the sun and against pepper spray and tear gas. Although they skip classes, many students are trying to continue studying whilst out on the streets.
Peter William Mattieson and Joseph Jao-yiu Sung, the vice-chancellors of the University of Hong Kong and Chinese University of Hong Kong. Although they didn’t declare their stands, they said the universities respect students’ legal rights and can provide legal support if needed.
A little girl holds a poster saying “thanks for your efforts, elder brothers and sisters”. According to Livy, there are three kinds of citizens in Hong Kong. Some support the students’ protests, some are content with things as they are and refuse to comment, and others blame the protesters for bringing disorder to society.
On the eve of the national day of China, police fired tear-gas canisters into crowds of pro-democracy protesters.
A student protester holds an umbrella for a policeman, despite the conflicts between them.
“Sorry for blocking the street. Today’s block is for tomorrow’s freedom”. Western media said pro-democracy demonstrators occupying parts of Hong Kong are in the running to be the most polite protesters ever after apologizing for an isolated case of vandalism.
Drinks, foods and other facilities are provided on the street.
Livy had a heated discussion with one of her best friends in Beijing. Neither can come to terms with each other’s stance on the protests. Her friend from the mainland can’t understand how a 17-year-old boy (Joshua Wong, the convener and founder of the Hong Kong student activist group Scholarism) could lead the whole protest, while Livy stressed he is only a representative not the leader.
Many people from mainland China think that the Hong Kong student protesters are asking for trouble. Aside from politics, Hong Kong’s economy is suffering. The first week of October is a national holiday called Golden Week in China, when many mainlanders come to Hong Kong for shopping. Obviously this year, the number of tourists was much lower than usual.
On a stormy night, students still gathered on the street. Livy said that although they know the central government may not accept the students’ plea, they still choose to stay here. What the situation will be tomorrow, nobody knows.
This is the last night Livy went on the street. For her safety, her mother didn’t want her to protest any longer. In her WeChat – a famous social network in China – she said, she will go to school tomorrow, but that dosen’t mean the protest is over. She quoted a famous motto from Sun Yat-sen, a well-known revolutionary and the founding father of the Republic of China: “The revolution has yet to be accomplished; all our comrades should never slacken their efforts.”