The Umbrella Movement

November 5, 2021

The incorporation of democracy into governance has resulted from the emergence of social movements in the society. A section of members of a country or a continent launches a series of anti-government riots to express their dissatisfaction with the ruling body or the existing norms. They may take the form of street protests and demonstrations in solidarity. Social movements were a commonplace during the colonial times and have continued to rise even after colonialism. They provide a platform for people to openly and boldly express their views. Therefore, such actions helped in curbing any form of oppression that could take place in the society. In the People’s Republic of China, there is a social movement known as the Umbrella Movement. It originates from Hong Kong, China, where citizens subscribe to the rule of the Chinese government. The Umbrella Movement, which consisted of prodemocracy proponents, emerged in the year 2014 during a protest in Hong Kong (Guilford). The protest developed due to the decision made by Standing Committee of the National’s People’s Congress (NPCSC) on an amendment related to the next lawmaking council elections. The umbrella was a symbol of unity to object the decision of the NPCSC and defiance against the Hong Kong police force (Brown 12). Consequently, such opposition gave birth to the umbrella movement. The campaign aimed at the eradication of the functional constituencies of the Hong Kong’s lawmaking Council, resignation of the chief executive, and retraction of the NPCSC’s decision on the electoral form. The movement attempted to realize their vision by hacking, striking outside the government headquarters, conducting disobedience campaigns, and demonstrating on the streets. However, later on, the activists changed their objective to Hong Kong independence (Buckley). The following report is an informative analysis that attempts to elucidate the reasons behind the umbrella movement’s decision to deviate from a pre-democratic program and struggle for independence.

Background Information

The umbrella movement consisted of thousands of individuals, including the Hong Kong Federation of Students, who participated in the 2014 protests. The research shows that 36.1% of averagely 802 people in China approved the decision of the NPCSC (Buckley). Nevertheless, 55.1% would accept NPCSC’s initiative if the government of China democratized the be-naming committee (Guilford). British controlled Hong Kong Island and the new territories for over 150 years. In 1984, the former agreed to grant China Hong Kong Island, which provided a new perspective for business leaders in Hong Kong. Subsequently, in the year 1997, Hong Kong legally became a part of China (Ngok 57). Hong Kong would exert its power as a country with no monarchy. Beijing would aim at its massive production of resources, whereas Hong Kong would hold secure its democracy and culture for half a century. Moreover, the latter would operate under its fundamental law and choose the city’s chief executive via an electoral process.

In 2014, Beijing dismissed the agreement by introducing several amendments concerning the election of Hong Kong’s chief executive (Ortmann 108). A law was passed stating that all the candidates for election would have to receive approval of a special committee from Beijing. As a result, it would eliminate some political autonomy through the restriction of suffrage to the Hong Kong people. However, this Chinese reform triggered massive protests of college students in Hong Kong. The police responded to this uprising by charging teargas at the demonstrating students, who in response shield themselves from attacks with yellow umbrellas as a form of defense. It became famously known as the Umbrella Movement.

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Puzzle

A major mystery surrounding this movement is the key player in the revolution and the main agenda. It is hard to understand the main figures of the umbrella movement. Investigation of the driving force for the primary parties in this revolution also remains a puzzle. In the beginning, it developed due to Occupy Central with Love and Peace group with the aim to stage a sit-in in Hong Kong’s financial district. The activists protested for 79 days along the roads in Admiralty, Mongkok, and Causeway Bay demanding free elections (Joseph Yu-shek 216). On the other hand, there was also a group of students, Scholarism and the Hong Kong Federation of Students, who had a goal of gaining political freedom. What did the protesters want to achieve? The core objective of the movement was to receive eligibility to choose candidates for the position of chief executive in Hong Kong. As a result, Hong Kong’s government became strict about the management of public institutions and the media as well. However, it did not influence the NPCSC’s decision on the electoral reform and failed to facilitate its abolition by the legislative council. Simultaneously, Hong Kong’s localization movement expanded as a result of the protest. The biggest achievement of the umbrella movement was creating political awareness among the young generation. Some wondered whether the activists only struggled for gaining power to influence the election of the chief executive in Hong Kong. Additionally, it is possible to question whether the genuine goal of the revolution was to create awareness that the residents of that city, especially the youth, needed to become identified by the government and authorities both in China and Hong Kong.

According to the theory of identity, there is a relationship between the mind and body. This connection is a core reason why there are some classes of people that are identical to the other ones. However, in the light of the given issue, the theory can be applied in two ways. Firstly, the protestors were out on the streets to physically reflect the then emotional experience of their minds. Secondly, the students and the members of the Occupy Central with Love and Peace team could be individuals of identical kinds of mind. Finally, the fight for freedom that the residents of Hong Kong insistently led is explained by the identity theory. The people wanted to be identified by the authorities and make them address the issue of their political and economical welfare. The question that made the umbrella movement a puzzle was why China did not let Hong Kong gain its independence. The former wanted to politically control the procedure of electing Hong Kong’s leader, because it feared that they could become an opponent who would promote political change. On the other hand, Beijing hardened its firm decision against the umbrella prodemocracy movement in Hong Kong. It was aware of the fact that Hong Kong was a British territory with an independent judiciary that treasured freedom of speech and movement. Hong Kong people viewed themselves differently and, therefore, were willing to be politically independent. However, in the long run, Hong Kong gained independence making the Umbrella Movement became independent. Subsequently, after raising the Chinese flag, people believed that China had been guaranteed democracy. The elections also facilitated the establishment of the legislative council. The first signs of change became evident when People’s Liberation Army (PLA) vehicles undertook security responsibilities and moved through the streets, (Yung and Leung 92).

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Literature Review

Conflicts between Hong Kong and mainland China emerged as a result of mainland Chinese immigrants who popularized different cultural habits in Hong Kong region . Pregnant women from mainland Chinese moved to Hong Kong and gave birth providing their children a home (Joseph Yu-shek 214). A disagreement arose because people from mainland used Hong Kong’s resources and welfare without making any contribution. As illustrated by Joseph, Hong Kong residents still have British documents and, hence, view the very era as a time of social injustices, such as racism. They have a distinct culture that makes them different from other Chinese citizens. Politically, the legislative council of mainland Chinese is different from that of Hong Kong. Anti-discrimination laws, including freedom of protest and speech, in Hong Kong corrupt the immigrants from the mainland. Consequently, it provoked them to downplay others on the grounds of a person’s race or nationality. Race laws in Hong Kong discriminated people of the same ethnic group. However, they did not come into action, because Hong Kong citizens and those from mainland Chinese were of the same race and nationality.

Deprivation theory is a key to the study of social movements’ principles related to the umbrella movement. The people of Hong Kong feel deprived of their right to choose a leader. However, Hong Kong’s and Beijing’s officials viewed claims of protesters as a violation of the core rule of war. Therefore, the number of protesters has increased to more than 100,000 (Jermain 449). They desired to have their sovereignty which had been taken by China. It has also amplified their agitation making them feel the need for independence more than pre-democracy. It makes many individuals wonder how one would live under the ruled of chosen and controlled representatives and not those of their own. Moreover, the people of Hong Kong are unhappy with the communist regime in China. They have an entirely different view and are reluctant to practice Chinese culture. For instance, they show resistance to the national education reform that aims at enhancing the level of knowledge of the Hong Kong students to make it equal to the standards of the Republic of China. Adopting the Chinese culture creates fear of losing their beliefs, norms, customs, and practices. Subsequently, a threat to cultural heritage contributes to the development of revolution and encourages independence.

The state’s media was a powerful force within the Umbrella Movement. The media affected the social order in the Chinese government and undermined it in various aspects. The mass society theory is evidenced in the movement as the media influenced the minds of average people. The media in this action gives the insistent nature of China to have Hong Kong under its rule continuously. It clearly shows the unwillingness to offer Hong Kong freedom. However, the media makes Hong Kong aware of its worth. In all normal due circumstances, one would not be willing to lose the source of benefits. The state’s media claimed that the West took part in the protests and threatened with deaths among other hazardous consequences. Moreover, the Chinese State’s press stated that the referendum was a prohibited farce (Chen 259). It also popularized the idea that the proposal was a violation of the core rule of law. Thus, Beijing supporters protested against civil disobedience campaigns formed by the prodemocracy movement.


The political opportunity theory states that social movements occur as a reaction to the faults and imperfections of capitalism. As to the Umbrella Movement, the government used police to resolve the political issues. The d, however, led to public dissatisfaction with the democracy camp. The studies showed that the demonstrations initiated by this movement were costly especially for retailers. Students criticized the police force and government of Hong Kong for not securing them. However, Lai Tung-Kwok maintained that after the attacks, the police arrested notorious criminal gangs in the city (Branigan 7). On the other hand, China’s officials noted that the council would agree with the protesters of prodemocracy. Thus, they realized that they would fail. The protester’s demands for free elections were illegal and unreasonable. However, the use of the police compromised the security and judicial system in the territory.

Overall, the government officials and the opposition leaders held a conference meeting in which they commenced a discussion. The latter were determined to advocate democracy, while the government of China insisted that a pro-Beijing committee had to nominate the legislative council for the next leadership. Moreover, leaders of the Hong Kong Federation of Students were prohibited from petitioning Beijing (Brown 5). The Chinese president in Beijing pronounced his support for Hong Kong’s chief executive and his managing of the protests. The efforts of Mr. Leung in safeguarding the basic rule of law and maintaining social order also received endorsement. In the long run, the founding leaders of the Umbrella Movement surrendered their role in the democracy to the police force of China. They urged prodemocracy protesters and students to retreat and transform the Umbrella Movement. Benny Tai, an Occupy Central leader, made this plea after a clash between the police and the students that left many people injured. The police began clearing the main protest site by removing barricades on the roads using cutters. In June 2015, the Hong Kong government formally announced its overture for a new voting system (Ngok 62). Eventually, CY Leung came to power as the chief executive. Nevertheless, China should ultimately implement democracy in Hong Kong for its people to enjoy autonomy.

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The primary cause of the movement was the NPCSC’s decision regarding Hong Kong’s future lawmaking council and principles of the chief executive’s elections. The paper focused on a historical controversy and the theoretical debates connected to the Umbrella Movement. Unfortunately, the prodemocracy Umbrella Movement was deemed to be a failure since there was no change despite the series of protests. The student leaders, therefore, surrendered and declared it a movement of Hong Kong’s independence from the Chinese Central Government. They planned to eventually liberate Hong Kong from China and make it an independent state. Nonetheless, the average Hong Kong people are not willing to confront Beijing; hence, they fully accept sovereignty.