What are the Hong Kong students protesting about?

Answer by Chak Azul:

I, as a Hongkonger now participating in the movement (edit: it's now called "the Umbrella Revolution"), stayed overnight at one of the locations last night and will definitely go back there, I think I have a say about this question.

This answer is not only about the student protest on in Sep 2014, but also the quickly escalated protests that followed (some call it "Occupy Central", but I will explain that it is not). I will also post this answer to this question since it's about both the facts and how people think.

Photo taken by me, near Govt HQ last night (28 Sep 2014)

Let's take a look at what the movement is and what it is not.

1. The student protest is all about wanting a true universal suffrage to elect the next Chief Executive who will truly represent Hong Kong.

Despite some intelligent Quorans here may interpret the protest as related to some other factors, but from a local's view, the below is the real reason.

It all started from CY Leung, the current Chief Executive (CE, less than a president, more than a mayor) elected 2 years ago. He is notorious in ignoring the opinions of most Hongkongers, so recklessly pursuing his own interests, "reddening" Hongkong and transforming it from an international city to a perfectly CCP-ruled city (can you imagine a communist Hong Kong?). I may be subjective here, but except the pro-Beijing people, this is exactly why most Hongkongers are feeling more and more frustrated and hopeless under Leung's reign. We found that we cannot overthrow this CE, because he is so reluctant to resign, and he is not elected by people.

So, as the Hong Kong Basic Law (drafted according to the Sino-British Joint Declaration signed in 1984) indicates that we will finally have universal suffrage to elect our own CE, most HKers feel there is a hope to have a CE who would care more about HK and less about China (However we all know very well that democracy doesn't guarantee a good CE, if the result is a pro-Beijing one, we got to accept that).

After much struggle (and protests), the much-anticipated universal suffrage was finally schedule on 2017. Then, one month ago, on 31 August 2014, Beijing announced further restrictions to the election that: (1) there will be no change to the structure of the 1,200 people Election Committee which will nominate CE candidates, (2) only candidates supported by half of the committee can be nominated (currently one-eighth), (3) maximum 2-3 candidates (currently no limit). What does it mean? Firstly, the Election Committee became less democratic, and more importantly, not all people have the right to be nominated, and it's for sure that all candidates will be pro-Beijing (CCP explicitly stated that). This violates what is meant by "democracy", in other words, this gonna to be a fake universal suffrage.

This is unacceptable, and finally the students, often the frontier of the society, decided to strike and protest.

Restrictions on "universal suffrage" (in Chinese only)

Students got surrounded and treated inhumanely near the Government HQ, photo from Next Media

2. The movement occurring right now is NOT "Occupy Central".

As the student protest got violently defeated by the police, Hong Kong is angry. Hong Kong has an interesting record that only something extremely emotional will trigger the response of the crowd. Last time it was 3 students had a hunger strike to turn down pro-CCP educational program, this time is Hongkongers watching TV, only to found that a group of students got beaten, surrounded, arrested, treated inhumanely by the police, who are supposed to protect citizens. Parents and teachers cried — "Why can the police do this to our children?" (I still cry when writing this, sorry for the emotion)

So since last night, 28 Sep 2014, many people headed to the Government HQ (where the student protested) just to see what we could help. There was no plan. There was no leader. There was no connection with any political party. This is the very characteristic of HK politics in these years — political figures get ignored, or they need to confront people's wishes. However, when the advocates of the so-called "Occupy Central" acknowledged what was happening in the Govt HQ, they quickly claimed, or "hijacked" the movement that it is now their "Occupy Central" kickstarted. Consequently, every local and foreign news media are saying "Look! this is Occupy Central happening!", but all participants clearly know that this is not.

Repeat, this is not "Occupy Central", this is a civil disobedience spontaneously started by Hongkongers.

Run! We are being tear gassed!

3. This is the very beginning of the adolescence of Hong Kong.

In Feifei Wang's answer to What do mainland Chinese people think about the Occupy Central protests in HK?, she talked about Hong Kong as a "spoiled child". I actually agreed with her point, but in a quite different sense.

Hong Kong was indeed spoiled by the Brits, who made Hong Kong an international city with superb social and technological infrastructures, like the government, legislation system, freedom of everything, public housing, etc. (Of course, we should count the enormous efforts by Hongkongers and Chinese who made this happen). This was achieved without much need of citizen's participation in politics and decision-making. Therefore, if you ask them about politics before 1997, they can basically say nothing (me included).

And then 1997 came. Hong Kong tries hard to incorporate with the motherland for a better future, or tries hard to stay away from the evil commie empire, depending on your viewpoint. For the later viewpoint, it's like the spoiled child got an ice-cream that she doesn't like, then she cried, yelled, wanting her favorite ice-cream like a baby does. At first, Hongkongers learnt about politics with great difficulty, then by walking on the streets and protest in sheer number, sometimes they won a few important battles (e.g. made a bad CE resign, turned down legislation for national security, turned down pro-communist educational program), but most of the time they failed, especially when under CY Leung's rule.

On the other hand, Hongkongers are the most peaceful and polite protesters in the world. In any protest you won't find a car burnt, a water bottle thrown, or somebody stay on a car road without permission. But this time is different. As I said, this movement has no plan, no leader, so now the citizens are all on their own. And then the police shot tear gas at them while they stay peacefully there. So unlike many past protests in which they stayed or walked politely, or sat still and let the police arrest them one by one (as the advocates of "Occupy Central" told them), or always asked police to open the road for them… this time, they flowed everywhere and reacted to tear gas intelligently, walked on the car road and opened their own road, and occupied different locations in Hong Kong at once (Govt HQ, Causeway Bay, Mong Kok, and may be more to come).

Now we could say that Hong Kong has started weaning from the comprehensive care of a government, from the reliance on political stars, and from the cowardliness pretended to be politeness. Hongkongers may not throw rocks or gasoline bombs, and Hong Kong may not become "independent" in a political sense, but they will learn what human rights, democracy and freedom mean to them like an independent adolescent does. Way to go, my hometown.

Panorama of the Govt HQ in the afternoon

Edit:
Now we have a name for this movement: the Umbrella Revolution.
I am now heading to the Mong Kok battlefront.
God bless Hong Kong.

Edit:
I also wrote about the exact moment when the movement started in Chak Azul's answer to Which specific event ignited the Hong Kong pro-democracy protest?

What are the Hong Kong students protesting about?

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