Nine Umbrella Movement leaders convicted, but we are all guilty

It has been more than four years since the Umbrella Movement in September 2014. Hong Kong people have not forgotten the 79-day occupy movement for universal suffrage. The Hong Kong government has not forgotten, either.

On Tuesday, nine leaders of the 2014 Umbrella Movement were convicted of charges related to public nuisance. The nine activists are the trio legal scholar Benny Tai, Sociology professor Chan Kin-man and Reverend Chu Yiu-ming who first initiated the Occupy Central with Love and Peace campaign, lawmakers Tanya Chan and Shiu Ka-chun, two former student leaders Tommy Cheung and Eason Chung, and two politicians Raphael Wong and Lee Wing-tat. 

At the very beginning when the occupy campaign was initiated, no one expected it to be a protest and civil disobedience movement of unprecedentedly large scale in Hong Kong. The 3-month occupation of main roads in Admiralty, Causeway Bay and Mong Kok was all sparked off by the student demonstration followed by the police’s use of tear gas.

Putting aside the discussion of whether it is a political decision to charge these nine activists, the Court’s decision reminded Hong Kong people of the price to pay for civil disobedience. It was clear to every participant of the Umbrella Movement that the occupation was illegal. Yet thousands of Hong Kong people stood up for this movement, driven by our love for Hong Kong and our hope to defend democracy and political rights in Hong Kong despite increasingly frequent political interference by the Central government. Most protestors of the Umbrella Movement did not face legal charges by the judiciary, but the conviction of these leaders means all protestors are guilty. Not guilty for our desire to build a better Hong Kong with genuine universal suffrage, but guilty for failing to achieve what we wanted – a democratic, equal and free Hong Kong.

The political landscape of Hong Kong in the post-Umbrella Movement period has changed a lot. Radicals and localists gained popular support after the failure in fighting for universal suffrage with peaceful demonstrations. From the disqualification of LegCo election candidates who advocate self-determination and Hong Kong independence, to the interpretation of Basic Law by the Standing Committee of National People’s Congress ruling the disqualification of elected LegCo members who did not take their oath properly, to the most recent modification bill of extradition law, Hong Kong’s political freedom seems to be deteriorating.

Different people may sort out different ways to fight for democracy. We may not put on yellow ribbons again, but the spirit of the Umbrella Movement will not be forgotten.

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