They call it the Umbrella Revolution. First, for these images of protesters using umbrellas to shield themselves from tear gas - and then from the pouring rain that drenched an immovable crowd in Central Hong Kong.
Taking some inspiration from the Occupy Wall Street movement, thousands of students took over a courtyard in Hong Kong’s financial district on September 26th. They were sending a message to China - and the world - that they were over the oppressive Chinese regime.
Here’s the story. For about 150 years, Hong Kong belonged to the United Kingdom. It was a British territory…and it became a thriving business centre and booming metropolis. Some people call it New York with a beach.
But in 1997, Britain handed Hong Kong back to mainland China. In what sounded like a good deal, the Chinese told the people of Hong Kong they could maintain some independence and have freedom of the press and the right to assemble - things prohibited in the rest of China. The arrangement was called “One Country, Two Systems.” They even said that by 2017 Hong Kong could elect its own government.
But not so fast. Recently, Beijing started to backpedal. China insisted that those elections can move forward - only with candidates chosen - by CHINA.
So the students hit the streets. At first, the police came out in full force. Dozens were injured and thousands were sprayed with tear gas.
Then, thanks to social media, the world saw this: Umbrella Man.
And people remembered THIS: Tank Man. That image from 25 years ago in Tiannamen Square became an iconic symbol of the fight for freedom in China.
The unrest in 1989 led to fierce battles in the streets - and the military killed an estimated one thousand people.
This time around, police have dialed back…and as the crowds grow, they have remained peaceful.
As millions tweet and post their support for hashtag occupy central, those messages won’t be seen in China. There’s no Facebook or Twitter there, and now Beijing has blocked Instagram.
Still, the word has gotten out. And the Chinese government has responded - saying essentially “nothing to see here folks,” and refusing to change the policy on elections. And some older Hong Kong residents have started a counter protest - wanting to play nice with China and not stir the pot.
Is there a limit to China’s power? Can Hong Kong build its own great wall and preserve its liberties?
How will this all play out? Who knows, but as the story unfolds at least you’ll be able to say Now I Get It.