2.2 million people participated in the Hong Kong election this year, a 5% increase in voter turnout from 2012. At the center of the increase is a new new political party called Demosisto. The purpose of the party is to gain independence from its Chinese overseers with the right to nominate and elect the head of its country’s government. Currently, China controls that right, along with many of the 70 seat council that governs Hong Kong.
“One country, two systems”, has been the age old formula for Hong Kong, but today, it’s youth is looking to eliminate the two system process.
The Demosisto party was created on the heels of the Umbrella Movement, a 79 day street protest in 2014 (also referred to as Occupy Central). Similar to Occupy Wall Street, the actual protest did little to invoke change, however, a few prominent leaders including Joshua Wong (teenage student leader), Nathan Law (newly elected government official) and former head of the Hong Kong Federation of Students, Oscar Lai and Agnes Chow started the new political party in hopes of continuing the independence fight. Now, it looks like the party may be spearheading Hong Kong into the future.
So what happened? How did The Umbrella Movement create a generation of activists and political influence while Occupy and #BlackLivesMatter struggle to gain support from the masses? Here are a few reasons.
1) Leadership: In order to figure out why things succeed or fail, you have to start at the top. Can you name the founder, creator, or heck even one main protagonist of the Occupy protests? There in lies the problem. The Umbrella Movement for example, was led by Hong Kong University law professor Benny Tai along with Joshua Wong, a 17 year old at the time with Scholarism, and Alex Chow and Lester Shum of the Hong Kong Federation of Students. There goal was a peaceful protest in Hong Kong’s financial district that ultimately ended when police pepper spraying the crowd. Because there was clear leadership, the movement was able to evolve into a political party with hopes of real change.
2) Strategy: The main question protesters must ask themselves is this: "Why are we protesting?“ Now before you move on, I want you to stop and close your eyes. If you’re a #BlackLivesMatter or were an Occupy supporter, stop reading, close your eyes for a moment and consider that question. Why are / did you protest?
Finished? Good…now here is the scary truth. If you’re answer listed the problems with little to no solution, then you have no clue why you’re protesting. None. Zip. Nada.
Protesting a problem NEVER works. Look at the Civil Rights Movement (because it’s the easiest to reference). African Americans weren’t protesting unfair treatment or a racist America, they were protesting for American rights denied to them (i.e. right to vote, share bathrooms, work in certain places, ride the bus with equal status, etc.). They were protesting for accessible solutions, not complaining about problems. Similarly, the Umbrella Movement’s goal was (and is) independence from China which is something that can be achieved through government legislation.
Protesting big banks because you feel they make too much money or police killings because they’re wrong is not a protest that will inevitably lead to change. Even the legalities of both situations are hard to argue. If you want to decrease the size of banks too big to fail, focus on alternative banking options. If you want to decrease police violence on blacks, identify which districts have the worst history of that, and look to elect officials representing your views. Instead of protesting in highways and downtown areas, protest at courthouses and against judges who are known to support unjust police killings. If you don’t have a REAL solution (not theory) to the problems you’re protesting, then you shouldn’t be protesting….PERIOD!
3) Understanding the Legal Process: The Demosisto party began in 2015 eyeing the 2016 elections to begin pushing their agenda. #BlackLivesMatter began in 2013, but not much has been done in terms of political momentum. This is an amazing flaw considering every major movement has been extremely connected within the political realm, ensuring officials are elected that reflect their views. No I don’t mean the Presidency, but city and state elections. The 2016 election has not showcased a push from #BlackLivesMatter the way the Demosisto party or even the Tea Party has. Failing to have a solution and understand the process of how a solution can be implemented is a huge flaw. It is a flaw that plagued Occupy Wall Street and continues with #BlackLivesMatter.
4) Commitment: This is by far the hardest piece of the puzzle. When creating a movement like Umbrella, or Occupy, or BLM, even the Tea Party, it’s members have to be in it for the long haul. When I say long haul, I don’t mean a few years, I mean a decade (at least). Women’s suffrage lasted from the 1870s – 1920 (you can argue it started before than). The Civil Rights and Counterculture or Hippie Movements lasted from the mid to late 1950s to the 1970s. The LGBT movement gained steam in the 1980s and continues into today. It takes at least a decade of continued push to get a foothold in power. The leaders of the Umbrella Movement have stated that they understand this and are committed to the long term with the Demosisto party. They’ve even offered caution in terms of expecting change overnight, which coming from a 19 year old is very wise. If #BlackLivesMatter wishes to enact change, then the protests today are only the beginning of a struggle that will last for a very long time.
There are many more reasons Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement looks like the catalyst to something bigger, but I believe the above 4 issues are the main focal points for Hong Kong’s youth succeeding in bringing real change, while America has not. It was long believed that the Occupy movement would be the starting point of something bigger, and that seems to be true. Although many believed the bigger change would happen in America, it seems that the Occupy movement did a better job influencing global change than domestic…..go figure.