#OccupyHongKong: Network Movements arrive in Asia
The global financial crisis of 1997 can arguably be seen as one of the main precedents of Occupy Hong Kong. This added to the several attempts of China to regain hegemony in Hong Kong — like the 2003 Education Law — explain a good bunch of how citizens begin to organize themselves, most especially when they begin to mirror the Sunflower movement in Taiwan, with which they share many philosophical principles.
OccupyCentral with peace and love is a movement that aims at achieving universal suffrage for the citizens in Hong Kong and against what they criticise as Chinese imperialism.
The civil referendum of OccupyCentral with peace and love will be participated by 787,767 citizens, roughly the 20% of the population in Hong Kong. Certainly a milestone, but still a minority in Hongkongese terms. The response from the Chinese government is applying even more restrictions, thus heating the public agenda.
Scholarism, to fight back, proposes a one week strike against the new law and the occupation, during September 26 and 27 of a square and government building. This is an offensive that caught by surprise both the Government and OccupyCentral, which aimed at occupying the financial district much later — the students, instead, argue that action should not wait. On September 28th, the students take the central streets with their umbrellas as a political sign. On September 28th the resistance on the streets is already massive.
The protesters organize themselves as a network, with different actors, with public figures as visible faces but with many anonymous citizens working hard on the “back office”. This network experienced or continued with prior technopolitical actions, and in other cases induced innovation in this kind of practices. In general, there was a major appropriation of the commercial technologies at hand: Facebook, Telegram, Instagram, Twitter, etc. Nevertheless, Twitter is not used a lot, especially in comparison to other movements such as the Spanish 15M. Instead, Facebook and online forums are much more mainstream. And, as in other movements, there is a blending of physical and virtual spaces, and of local and international spheres.
Knowing this, China redoubled its attacks on the cybersphere, putting down websites, forbidding online services, etc.
One of the main novelties is the usage of Firechat, an applications that enables local networks based on Bluetooth connectivity to create a mesh network. This made possible communications among protesters even when there was no Internet connectivity available. Notwithstanding, and despite a huge amount of downloads, its lack of privacy and protection against malware caused that is was not used by everyone or all the time.
Code4HK acted as a general aggregator, centralizing news, information, resources, lists of people or groups or tools/technology, etc, etc, etc. A huge repository that helped people to replicate DIY citizen actions.
Stand By You was a tool to connect the local with the remote, the physical and the virtual, by enabling sending messages of support and project them upon the façades of buildings.
As in other movements, there is a clear overlapping of “layers”: the physical one, the technical one, the emotional one, etc.
It seems that the OccupyHongKong movement is doing similar things as other movements (Indignados, Occupy Wall Street, etc.) but the movement does not see itself as connected to those other movements. In fact, this is partly a wanted decision, so to avoid criticism from China or even Honk Kong of the movement being fostered by the US or other foreign powers.
It’s a pro-democracy movement and universal suffrage is its main and specific demand.
Now OccupyCentral with Peace and Love has been participated by (traditional) political parties and university faculty, which has contributed to coordinate different actors, to establish bridges between institutions.
The active and pervasive presence of the digital media/press has undoubtedly contributed in better monitoring and describing the movement, much more than in other similar movements, and also to contribute that mainstream traditional media better understand what is going on the streets. The fact that there are public, recognizable spokesman of the movement has also contributed to a collective explaining and understanding of the movement.
The protests have a clear generational cut: most of the protesters teenagers and youngsters in general (college and higher education students). There’s faculty too, and some other actors, but it is mainly a student movement.