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The Umbrella Revolution - Politics, Protests & Parasols

It's not often that we touch on politics or protests in this blog, but recent events in Hong Kong have made it very much a relevant topic to look at on here.

Many of who have been following wider political news will know that there have been mass pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong over the past couple of weeks as late September/early October tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets of Hong Kong. The reason for their action was anger at the Chinese government's ruling which limited who could stand as an election candidate for leader of Hong Kong in 2017. 

Democracy activists Occupy Central launched a peaceful civil disobedience protest which was then joined by Hong Kong students who had launched a separate class boycott in late September. Their protests were met with tear gas by authorities on 29th of September which only led to greater anger by the protesters. There are a large variety of opinions on these protests, and political views are becoming more polarised and entrenched. Sit-ins in the central district of Hong Kong continued and expanded as more and more people got involved in the protests through social media.

As these protests organise themselves, symbolism becomes a key element in rallying support. However, it is not a national or regional flag, or slogan that has become the symbol for these protests, it is the humble umbrella!

Hong Kong protest umbrella images submitted to Kacey Wong by (L-R) Sunny Yuen,
Carol Chan, Andrew Wong, Lily Cheung, Chun Man and Angelo Costadimas

Why the Umbrella?

After tear gas canisters were used against the protesters by the Hong Kong authorities, many protesters brought along their umbrellas to protect themselves. Furthermore, these protests occurred during particularly warm dry weather, so the umbrellas provided extra protection as parasols. We can see this in this image of umbrellas on the streets of Hong Kong on Twitter from Charlie Cambpell of TIME magazine: 

Imagery is everything when communicating political messages, and the image of the umbrella-carrying protesting crowds have gone on to become iconic memes that have been shared worldwide through social media. Artists have also become involved, and the "Umbrella Revolution" developed into an online protest art phenomenon.

Kasey Wong, an artist from Hong Kong has been studying the changing nature of protest art emerging from the area over the past few years, and on Monday morning, after another night of tear gas and protests, he called out on his Facebook page for artists to create more designs for Hong Kong's Umbrella Revolution, believing that contemporary art is a vehicle through which people can participate in the political process and make their voices heard. For him the humble umbrella has become "a symbol of defiance, a symbol of resistance". Indeed, it the umbrella is being taken so seriously as a symbol of dissidence that a Chinese poet is facing up to three years in prison after security forces raided his Beijing home and found him in possession of an umbrella.

It is rare that we see the umbrella as more than just a simple device for sheltering from the rain or sun, but in the right conditions, it can become a symbol of something greater.

People can follow the developments of this phenomenon on Social Media through the hashtag #UmbrellaRevolution

Created On  14 Oct 2014 9:30  -  Permalink


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