Students in Hong Kong have been turning to somewhat unheard of methods of communicating amidst protest and oppression regarding the possible democratic choice of officials said to be instated out in 2017.
Since late September, students in Hong Kong have been protesting the amount of government control exhibited by Chinese officials. Since this summer, the Chinese government has been trying to scale back on their past promise to allow a democratic election of officials in Hong Kong in 2017. Currently, protests continue, with little success with negotiating amongst angry Hong Kong students and citizens, and these officials. Most notable about this ‘Umbrella Revolution’ as it has been named is the use of social media in publicizing this conflict through the many restrictions put on Hong Kong citizens as far as speaking out.
Sites like Twitter and Facebook have been the kingpins of gaining worldwide support for the cause, but within the students and citizens involved in the protests, instant messaging Apps have been huge. In an article written about the use of social media (most notably WhatsApp), a specific event was discussed where students, in response to being sprayed with tear gas, used WhatsApp to plan a ‘splinter protest’ and regrouped in a different part of the city to continue.
One of the larger ‘uniting forces’ among protestors and supporters alike has been the use of hashtags on Twitter. Of the many being used are: #OccupyCentral, #HongKong, #CCP, and #hkclassboycott. Similarly, the ‘Scholarism’ (The group organizing the protests) has used their Facebook to gather supporters and protestors alike, the finally tally reaching some 13,000 Chinese citizens. In an article regarding the use of social media and this revolution, it was stated that the Facebook site gives ‘minute-by-minute” updates, gaining over 70,000 followers in its first day of existence.
This extensive coverage, while not the life of the protest, has been huge for its coverage throughout Hong Kong as well as worldwide. Coming out of a country that is extremely limited in their scope of rights compared to the US, this is huge. In itself, this is a victory of the people in that they have found ways to communicate and especially congregate amidst the many barriers set before them. Having learned extensively of the Velvet Revolution in Prague, it is much more interesting to watch as a current-day student lead protest takes place, and note the parallels between the two. As a younger generation takes on an oppressive government, I start to think about what this will mean for China as a whole, and what a successful change to a democracy in Hong Kong would look like. Unfortunately, being from the United States has made me feel pretty separated from Asian culture, but this protest, being as publicized on social media sites used by so many, has made it so much easier to follow. This could mean great things for the overall world of protests, while not favorable, being publicized and gaining worldwide support, and just keeping people all over the world informed by multiple methods.
Who ever thought social media could be used as a weapon of sorts? The beautiful thing about it is it is not tangible – these students are using the capabilities of the internet and the app world to organize, plan, and congregate together to hopefully move towards a democratic Hong Kong. If this protest is successful, what could this mean for the future of protests?