10th May, 2019
Four prominent leaders of Hong Kong's democracy movement- Umbrella Movement, were jailed for their role in organising mass protests in 2014 that paralysed the city for months and infuriated Beijing.
What was Umbrella Movement?
- The Umbrella Movement started as a spontaneous social movement for democratic development in Hong Kong in September 2014. It was a large movement in terms of duration, location and reach and also very much empowered by digital media.
- Its name arose from the use of umbrellas as a tool for passive resistance to the Hong Kong Police during a 79-day occupation of the city. The umbrellas were used for defence against police pepper spray.
Background for building up of movement:
- Hong Kong used to be a British colony, but since the handover of 1997 it is a city of China.
- According to the constitutional principle-One Country, Two Systems, the Chinese Communist Government ensured Hong Kong will retain its own currency, legal and parliamentary systems (democratic institutions which have been developed since the British colonial period) and people's existing rights and freedoms for fifty years.
- However, critical voices have emerged in Hong Kong to protest against actions by the government which have been seen as prioritizing the interests of the Chinese Communist Government for instance through the spending of public funds for pro-China white elephant projects.
- At the same time, many citizens have expressed dissatisfaction and anger over the neo-liberal economic policies of the Hong Kong government which have been seen as producing new social inequalities in the society.
- Thus, protests and social movements against the government policies already existed, and the unsolved political and social problems can be seen as the long-term causes for the appearance of the Umbrella Movement.
Major cause of movement:
- In 2007, the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress of China (NPCSC) empowered Hong Kong to implement, through reforms, universal suffrage in view of the 2017 Hong Kong Chief Executive election and 2016 Legislative Council election.
- On June 22, 2014, an electronic Civil Referendum was conducted organized by the Secretariat of the ‘Occupy Central with Love and Peace’ (an organization active in the discussion regarding the electoral system in Hong Kong).
- As a result of the referendum, the organization launched a campaign demanding that the electoral reform should fulfil the international standards of universal suffrage, the rights to vote, to be elected and to nominate, and about 700,000 voters agreed that the Legislative Council should veto the government proposal if it would not satisfy international standards of universal suffrage allowing genuine choices by electors.
- However, on August 31, 2014, the NPCSC decided to set a framework for the election reforms which limited the rights to vote, to be elected and to nominate.
- Considered a violation of the One Country, Two Systems, the decision caused reactions and disagreements in Hong Kong. Several groups and organisations demanded a withdrawal of the decision by NPCSC and establishment of universal suffrage. This led to the Umbrella Movement.