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Abstract

“These protests – which are actually week-long marathons of intense education on global politics, late-night strategy sessions in six-way simultaneous translation, festivals of music and street theatre – are like stepping into a parallel universe. Overnight, the site is transformed into a kind of alternative global city where urgency replaces resignation, corporate logos need armed guards, people usurp cars, art is everywhere, strangers talk to each other, and the prospect of a radical change in political course does not seem like an odd and anachronistic idea but the most logical thought in the world.”

These almost describe what went on in any of the Admiralty, Mongkok or Causeway Bay occupation sites during the “Umbrella Movement” (“the Movement”), only they were Naomi Klein’s recollections of her encountering while participating in counter-globalization summit protests around 2000. Her experience bears such stunning resemblance with mine in the 79-day Movement where parallel universes were found everywhere: business going on as usual in the numerous jewelry shops along Nathan Road while students / citizens were occupying the vehicle lanes outside, people circling around a piece of white cloth on which documentary films were shown in front of the HSBC Mongkok branch while 2 groups of middle-age people argued fiercely over the Movement about 10 meters away at the intersection of Nathan Road and Argyle Street, several anti-Movement people swearing and cursing the protestors while the latter sang birthday songs to the them, just to name a few examples. Of course countless seminars and forums about the democratic movement of Hong Kong (HK) were held during the Movement in which speakers brought their academic insights to the crowds while the audience, mostly strangers to each other, would take turn responding and sharing views at the end. I personally have attended and hosted a 3-night successive forums in the Mongkok site with different political groups discussing what they would do when the police and bailiffs enforce the injunctions against the Mongkok occupation. Strategic meetings were also held almost every night among the student leaders (HKFS and Scholarism) and among the “frontier guards” (one of which I attended by mid-November sharing my thoughts about the Movement’s next step). Such other acts of the protestors as free sharing of supplies (food, beverages, tents, mats, books, masks, goggles, umbrella, raincoat, construction material (for building staircases and barricades) etc), and students volunteering to keep tidy the occupation sites as well as recycling garbage were found and captured by international media. All in all, these are scenes not usually found in HK. Parallel universes existed within the 3 occupation sites, and the occupation sites themselves existed just like a parallel universe alongside the highly capitalist society of HK.

Recommended Citation

Chow, P.-y. A. (2015). The Umbrella Movement: The bigger picture behind and its broader imaginations. Cultural Studies@Lingnan, 47. Retrieved from http://commons.ln.edu.hk/mcsln/vol47/iss1/4/