Weekly insights into our crazy world.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014



Lots of readers from around the globe have submitted questions about the Umbrella Revolution in Hong Kong.  Let's get started.

Why umbrellas? Does it rain a lot in Hong Kong? - Yulia, Kiev.  It pours around the South China Sea. About 100 inches every year. But it's not water that calls for the protesters to don umbrellas. They're meant to deflect tear gas and pepper spray. However, protest leaders are not too fond of the name. They say the movement is about civil disobedience, not revolution.

Why is it also called 'Occupy Central'? - Henri, Lyon. When the Occupy Movement spread across the planet three years ago, each city had a different moniker. In Hong Kong it was called Occupy Central, after the drab name used for the Financial District. On October First, this group launched another sit-in. They were joined by two student groups, Scholarism and the Federation of Students. Together, over 100,000 people have joined the cause.

How long was Hong Kong democratic before 1997? - Ahmed, Dubai. Never! The irony about the protests is that the current system is actually more democratic than British rule. For 155 years, all 28 governors were directly appointed from London. Today, half of the government is selected by oligarchs, bankers and government officials. The other half is elected by the general public. Chris Patten, the last British governor, coined the term "One Country; Two Systems." However, neither system is democratic.

How does Mainland China feel about the Umbrella Revolution? - Frank, Leeds. The People's Republic of China is most displeased. While colonial Hong Kong didn't have elections, they did enjoy other freedoms.  They had fair courts, common law and an independent press. None of these are allowed in Beijing. If Hong Kongers win the right to choose their own leader, a scary precedent would start. Tienanmen Square protests could begin anew.

Does everyone in Hong Kong support the movement? - Judy, Toronto. Opinion polls..from the same university where the movement started..show meager hometown support for the Umbrella Revolution. Only 15% of Hong Kong residents strongly support the students.  A whopping 45% of Hong Kongers disapprove. Older residents wish younger citizens would concentrate on work and family. Instead, they insist on causing traffic problems and blocking the entrances to department stores.

Can you compare the Umbrella Revolution to the Arab Spring? Dan, Dallas. The movements are very similar. They start with large numbers of unemployed...yet technologically savvy...youths. Next, they organize under the always popular banner of Democracy Now! Worldwide media outlets adore empathizing with the underdog, and presidents and rock stars rally around their cause. Let's just hope the Umbrella Revolution ends better than the movements in Egypt, Tunisia and Ukraine. After the cameras leave, the poverty just increases!

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