The occupation was kicked off by students who occupied and blocked Civic Square, a public place where large demonstrations were held in the past. Students also held a week long boycott of their classes. This was in protest at the announcement of China’s National People’s Congress that the Beijing government will pre-select candidates standing in 2017 for the post of Chief Executive in Hong Kong. This is the first time that a general election will be held in Hong Kong for this post.
Three student leaders were arrested and the ‘Occupy Central’ movement, led by middle class elite joined the occupation. ‘Occupy Central’ was formed a year ago on as a pan-democratic movement putting forward political reform proposals. A mass occupation of the financial heart of Hong Kong is also planned in protest at the position of the National People’s Congress.
Tens of thousands of people have joined the occupation. Unarmed students and people are raising their hands to demonstrate that their protest is peaceful as they face pressure from police with riot shields. Police have targeted protesters’ faces at close range with heavy pepper spray. Riot squads armed with shields and helmets have fired tear gas at students and protestors who are defending themselves with umbrellas.
This violent reaction of the police has enraged the Hong Kong people. The teachers’ union, the social workers’ union and the Confederation of Trade Unions have called for a general strike to protest at the suppression and support the student movement. In the meantime more people are joining the occupation and it is spreading to different districts in Hong Kong.
Although the Western media have coined the phrase ‘Umbrella Revolution’ students and people in Hong Kong did not initiate this protest with the aim of over turning the government. This movement has succeeded in drawing many people to join a protest to ‘revolutionise’ civil society in Hong Kong by creating a new form of protest where large numbers of people demonstrate their views in a disciplined and cooperative way through occupation. The protests are ongoing as CY Leung, the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong government, is still not willing to negotiate with the students on their demands of real universal suffrage.
The SWAN National steering committee have also issued a message of solidarity with the Hong Kong protestors here.