21 September 2019
We have no excuse why we should not celebrate the anniversary of the Umbrella Movement. Photo: EJ Insight
We have no excuse why we should not celebrate the anniversary of the Umbrella Movement. Photo: EJ Insight

Occupy our hearts with Hong Kong core values

A year ago when we took to the streets, we had little idea of where we would end up. Even today, it is not easy to sum up what we have achieved – but there is no excuse why we should not celebrate the anniversary of the Umbrella Movement.

After an emotional 79 days of the Occupy campaign, most people are back to their normal lives. But that does not mean we have forgot how much we treasure living in a democratic city, which is the reason why we started the struggle in the first place.

As we still dream the impossible dream, we think the defeat of the Beijing-dictated political reform bill was a good start – thanks to the fiasco committed by the pro-establishment camp and the unswerving stand of the pro-democrats.

The trio that started Occupy Central movement, the student leaders and the frontline activists all deserved to speak out their minds. That is the freedom of speech in a democratic society that we are fighting to preserve.

But in hindsight, whether the students had missed the best time to exit from the campaign, or the moderate pan-democrats had mistrusted Beijing for the past 30 years, was no longer the key issue.

At the end of the day, the future of Hong Kong belongs to the youth, and imperfect as they are, they deserve to express their disappointments, their anger and longings.

So no finger-pointing. Forget the past, think forward.

The Umbrella Movement woke up the desire for a civic society because we all know there were times when communications and protests did not work out as planned. That was when Beijing turned a deaf ear on our appeals.

What we are asking is simple enough: give us the opportunity to choose our leader, just like in other democratic societies.

Instead of polarizing society, the Umbrella Movement laid down a strong foundation for the city to build a political system that will provide citizens of different persuasions a brand new perspective on Beijing-Hong Kong relations.

For Hong Kong, our core values have been under the spotlight after the Occupy campaign. We have manifested and reaffirmed our love for democracy, freedom of speech and justice in the legal system, which form the cornerstones of Hong Kong and makes us different from any other Chinese cities.

There is no way we can tolerate such injustice as police abuse of power and unreasonable court judgements.

For Beijing, we would like to believe they have softened their approach toward Hong Kong people – with the exception of a few intransigent officials who are still trying to redefine what is said in the Basic Law – and showed more understanding of our desire.

We also saw a boom in youth entrepreneurship in creating their own media platform, something we have not seen before.

Without the Umbrella Movement, we would not have known and shown to the world how disciplined, educated and principled our youngsters could be. Their creativity was shown in their masterpieces on Lennon Wall, something that we hope could be promoted in the development of the city’s creative industries, the so-called fifth pillar of society.

All this we should continue to celebrate as we look back to our first civil obedience movement in the years to come.

Above all, we should not forget that it was a peaceful movement – with not a single death – and we managed to get our core messages across.

The road ahead is long and steep and winding. As we have learned from Dr. Sun Yat-sen, the father of Modern China: “We haven’t succeeded in the revolution yet, so our comrades should still strive for it.”

Jeff Pao contributed to this story.

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EJ Insight writer