What has become known as the Umbrella Movement began in Hong Kong in September this year when student activists protested outside the Hong Kong Government headqarters after China’s Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress announced its decision on proposed electoral reform.
Umbrellas became the symbol of the movement when the protestors used them as protection against tear gas. At its height there were 100,000 protesters involved in occupying parts of central Hong Kong.
My first taste of the impact of the continuing occupation was a particularly grumpy taxi driver who berated me for my entire trip because it was a short fare and the traffic disruptions would mean he wouldn’t make any money out of the ride. I apologised and pointed out that it was not my fault, and that the protesters had a point, but he continued to complain. He didn’t stop even when I paid him double the fare so I thought it best to ignore him.
The protesters have built quite a tent city in the streets around Admiralty and my friend Anup, who lives in Hong Kong and is a big supporter of the protest, took me on a tour of the closed streets. We began at a fairly quiet end of the closed streets and wandered through the well organised tents. The lights of Hong Kong provided a spectacular backdrop.
The students have dug in and look reasonably comfortable in their tents. There are washing lines, book shops, study corners, exercise areas, a little garden and lots of help and support for the students.
This is a help centre, where students can ask for help in various areas. They stick a note to the board and someone who is in a position to offer assistance responds.
There is some interesting signage, particularly about the politician the protesters would like to go.
The focus of the protest is Umbrella Piazza. The stage was alive with speakers and a receptive audience looked on.
At the Lennon steps people are invited to leave messages on post it notes.
There is disruption to traffic, particularly at peak times and businesses in the area are suffering, with the exception of fast food outlets which are doing a roaring trade. I think the students are being very brave and I hope they achieve some success for all their trouble.
It will be interesting to see how this ends.