Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Sprouts from the Umbrella Revolution

Thousands of people are rallying outside Hong Kong's Legislative Council (LegCo) right now. Most are protesting against a crucial political reform bill that the city's legislators are currently debating and will vote on. If the Beijing-backed bill is passed, the Chinese Communist Party will have the power to choose candidates for Hong Kong residents to vote for chief executive, the top leader. It's a practice dubbed by protesters as "fake democracy" or "fake universal suffrage" and was the key to spark the ‪#‎UmbrellaRevolution‬ last autumn.

While a few groups are showing their support to the bill, many more outside the LegCo complex are saying no to the bill, with placards saying "I want genuine universal suffrage".

Unlike last year's Umbrella Revolution when student groups were major players, the main organizers of today's protest are 12 civil groups formed by professionals from legal, medical, financial and arts sectors. These groups were formed during or after the Umbrella Revolution and it's so nice to watch from afar in cyberspace my friends in the rally. I'm showing off here: I met some of the founders when I camped with protesters at Umbrella Square around the corner from the LegCo complex.

The Umbrella Revolution was never folded. When the police marched in with batons and cranes to bulldoze the tents and arrest unarmed students and civilians on December 11, retired teacher James Hon said to me: "They can clear the site, but they can never clear our hearts!" And I overheard this quote very often in the square: "They don't know what they're burying are the seeds..."

A new leadership, a new direction and a new revolution have been sprouting since then. 2015 is very different.

I met the young dashing lawyer Wilson Leung in the audience as we listened to student leader Joshua Wong gave a speech after wrapping up a hunger strike. Wilson recognized me from Twitter. He had been coming to the Umbrella Square after work almost every evening to listen and mingle. Barely a month after the police cleared the protest site, he and some 60 lawyer friends formed Progressive Lawyers Group 法政匯思 in January.

Wilson puts it nicely in a newly published article "Hong Kong Braces for Fresh Protests" on Vice News, one of the world's largest online news sites:
"One major effect of the Umbrella Movement is that there have been an abundance of civil groups sprouting up to carry on the democracy fight," he said. "Most of the members of these groups were not active in the political scene before the 'Umbrella Movement' but the movement really changed the way we look at Hong Kong, and how we see our own role in its struggle for democracy."

I met Edward Chin when I was standing with a group of journalists to watch and record how student leaders, writers, businessmen, pop stars and legislators were arrested by the police one by one, some were carried in all fours to a prison van.

By then, Edward, a financier and a radio host, had already formed his group, , 2047 Hong Kong Monitor (2047香港監察)​ . He's been very busy since then, from raising funds and organizing Christmas trees for protesters who returned to occupy the sidewalks outside the LegCo and government headquarters, to touring the world telling the Hong Kong story.

Among the camping brigade in the new protest site that protesters named "Tim Mei Village" are a famous trio, I call them the Three Musketeers of Umbrella: the three Uncle Wongs, all surnamed Wong. The Big Wong is 91, the Middle Wong is 78, the Small Wong is 71. All escaped China when the Communist troops took over and they're determined to keep Hong Kong away from the red terror. I've been chatting online with Small Wong黄伯 since I left Hong Kong last December and he has been my secrete correspondent, sending me photos and greetings. Most of the photos here were sent by him just now from the protests.

The Uncle Wong Trio are there right now, receiving media interviews and drumming up support through social meda. Small Wong just wrote on his Facebook: "Those who are finished with work and school, please come here now!" He told me now the crowd of 5,000 is growing and will be many more soon.
In one of my speeches at Umbrella Square two days before the police marched in, I said that I was witnessing a battle between the Beauty and the Beast. And Edward sums it up in the Vice News story: the ongoing battle is "really a matter of Hong Kong versus Beijing."

Though Hong Kong looks severely outnumbered by Beijing, I'm confident the Pearl of the Orient will beat the ugly clumsy monstor from the north, because of these amazing beautiful people, jewels of this majestic city. They are on the right side of history. And humbly, I'm standing with them, from afar.

An interview this morning with Kevin Yam, one of the conveners of the Progressive Lawyers Group (he speaks English at 1:40 mark):

A declaration (in Cantonese) earlier today by the 12 civil groups:

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