Tens of thousands commemorate the Umbrella Revolution anniversary days ahead of China National Day

Tens of thousands gathered on Saturday night at Tamar Park in Admiralty where the police fired tear gas five years ago, which triggered the Umbrella Revolution. Amidst the anti-extradition protests that are taking this city by storm, commemorating the day that started Hong Kong's struggle for political reform and autonomy holds more significance than previous years.

"We will not announce the success of the protest until the five demands are fully achieved," the convener of the Civil Human Rights Front, Jimmy Sham Tsz-kit said on stage. "We should keep on fighting for our rights and genuine 'Dual Universal Suffrage'." 

The Umbrella Revolution — an 81 days long protest — occurred in 2014 when people became unsatisfied with the Standing Committee's decision on electoral reform regarding future elections of Chief Executive and Legislative Council. Citizens took to the streets to express their anger but was met by tear gas and police crackdowns. Protesters then occupied multiple crucial urban areas and brought the city to a standstill in hopes of getting genuine 'Universal Suffrage'. 

Though their objective eventually did not succeed, many believe that the political awakening this city had experienced five years ago gave rise to the current wave of mass social movements. Fresh memories from the ongoing anti-extradition protests and sentiments for the Umbrella Revolution combined to create a synergy that filled Tamar Park with black-clad demonstrators of all ages and walks of life.

"The Umbrella Revolution and the anti-extradition bill protest have both taught us the importance of standing together hand in hand," said Ms. Chan, an elder lady who is in her sixties and supports the protests. She declined to provide her full name and was observing aside peacefully. Concerned about being arrested by the police, she decided to dress in other colors instead of black. 

Ms. Chan calls the current protests a "fight for justice" and would support her children if they choose to stand out. She finds it important to gather and emphasis her will because she believes that there events are boosting the morale of the protesters and keeping them going.

"The government claim that they are just doing everything in accordance with the law but they were using unnecessary violence," she said. "Comparing to the Umbrella Revolution, the actions of the police toward protesters during the anti-extradition bill protest is considered to be more violent and brutal. The government has shown no mercy and morality in the protest this year." 

Due to the unideal result of the Umbrella Revolution, many demonstrators in the current movement feel that peaceful protests are ineffective. This attitude can be reflected through the increasing amount of violence from both the police and the protestors over the past few months.

"When we all stepped out in the Umbrella Revolution, the government ignored us, even when we were protesting peacefully," said a high school freshman suited in black who called himself  Mr. A and declined to be fully named. 

Having being protesting since June, he thinks that the result of the Umbrella Revolution taught the protesters that peaceful marches will not grab the government's attention, which is why they decided to escalate their actions so that the government will be forced to respond.

"The number of people protesting in both events has shocked me, especially nearly two million people protested against the extradition bill amendment. But still, the voices of two million people were ignored. It is disappointing," he said.

During the rally which obtained a letter of no objection, people gathered to sing "Glory to Hong Kong" — a song widely recognised as the "national anthem" of Hong Kong by protesters. Posters consisting the faces of Carrie Lam, President Xi and Junius Ho were glued to the concrete floor and on flights of stairs for people to trample upon. Blank pages and colour pens were placed on the ground for people to write down their words of encouragement and get creative on the new "Lennon Walls" that appeared next to nearby bus stops and elevated walkways. Constant chants of "liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times" rang across park as blue and green lights from laser pens decorated the night sky.

Despite the night being largely peaceful, the police started the clearing as early as 8 PM, pepper spraying the press and protesters, blasting blue dye from water cannons and filling the area with tear gas. The event was originally planned to end at 10 PM, but The Civil Human Rights Front had to announce its closure at 8:30 PM and advise people to leave early due to safety concerns.

This brought on anger from the protestors who were stationed on Harcourt Road. In turn, some gathered and tossed bricks at the windows of the Government Offices, leaving behind broken glasses and dismantled umbrellas. They soon left the scene in an orderly manner along with the majority.

"Save energy for October 1st," the protestors urged and quickly dispersed towards Wanchai and nearby metro entrances, as the city braces itself for what is to come on the China National Day.

《The Young Reporter》

The Young Reporter (TYR) is an English news publication produced by international journalism students at Hong Kong Baptist University. It started as a printed magazine in 1969. Today, TYR is produced across different platforms.

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