This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Amrita Roy. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Why I Joined The ‘Umbrella Revolution’ With Millions Of Youth Protesting In Hong Kong

More from Amrita Roy

By Amrita Roy:

On the 28th of September 2014, most Indians were bombarded with extensive coverage of a 5-hour build up to Narendra Modi’s speech at the Madison Square. Most people were probably not even aware of what was brewing up in Hong Kong, one of the world’s leading financial centres just some 2000 odd miles away from New Delhi. 50,000 people, mostly university and high school students, gathered at the Central business district to protest against the ruling of August 31st, 2014 by the government of the People’s Republic of China which revoked Hong Kong’s right to elect its Chief Executive (equivalent of Prime Minister or President, depending on a nation’s political system) from its own candidates in 2017.

Photo Credit
Photo Credit

The History of Hong Kong: Building up to the Protests
Hong Kong was a British colony until 1997. At the end of the 99 year lease, the sovereignty of Hong Kong was transferred from the United Kingdom to the People’s Republic of China. While colonial rule brought many racial and social injustices along with it, it also gifted Hong Kong liberal laws, media freedom and a global outlook. On 1st July 1997, Hong Kong was established as a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China. The Sino-British Joint Declaration affirmed that Hong Kong’s capitalist system and freedom would remain unchanged for 50 years from the date of the handover.

Hong Kong has always been a fierce advocate for freedom and human rights. In Mainland China, one does not witness large ceremonies to mark the anniversary of Tiananmen Square (though it is mostly out of fear of violent retaliation from the government). Yet every year, Hong Kong holds a huge Tiananmen vigil in remembrance of the atrocities unleashed by the Chinese government on peaceful protesters on June 4, 1989. This event is testament to Hong Kong’s undying efforts to achieve freedom and full democracy. Various activist groups have been continuously striving since 1997 for “One Man One Vote” which Hong Kong locals more affectionately refer to as universal suffrage. The citizens of Hong Kong want to elect their own Chief Executive from their own candidates without any screening or interference from the Chinese government. After years of dialogue only recently did the Chinese central government give in to this electoral reform and declared that in 2017, Hong Kong citizens will be able to put up their own candidates in the elections and select their Chief Executive.

The annual Tiananmen Vigil in Victoria Park, Hong Kong
The annual Tiananmen Vigil in Victoria Park, Hong Kong

On August 31st 2014, they reneged from their words. The excuse given by the Chinese legislature was that full democracy would lead to a “chaotic society” in Hong Kong. The new version of election would now have 2 — 3 candidates who would be screened by the Chinese central government for loyalty and then Hong Kong citizens would be allowed to vote and select one of the pre-screened candidates (who would in all likelihood be pro-Beijing tycoons). The ruling on August 31st also stated that the central government does not wish to change this stance anytime in the near future. This is the incident that triggered the protests. After a good one month of networking and gathering the masses, the Occupy Central movement was launched on September 28th.

Photo Crredit
Photo Credit

Protests Unusually Characteristic of Hong Kong
Hong Kong is granted many civil liberties that are unheard of in Mainland China. The protesters do not wish to separate Hong Kong from China, nor do they want to overthrow the government. All they are asking for is the right to vote; the right to directly elect their leader. Is it asking for much in the 21st century? I was there at the protests myself with many of my friends (local and international) on September 29th. There was solidarity amongst all the protesters regardless of whether they were Hong Kong citizens or whether they were Indian, Pakistani, British, Dutch, Korean, American, Malaysian or from any other nation. It was peaceful and organized for the most part with people sitting on streets and singing along. Many small live concerts sprang up as some protesters brought their guitars, violins and saxophones along. Financial traders in Hong Kong set up a barbecue and fed the protesters warm food for hours. People passed along shirt fresheners in the crowds. Everybody stayed away from the grass lawn of a war memorial that was close by; not one person stood or sat there. Huge signs apologizing for any inconvenience caused were set up at every barricade that was blocking roads or MTR train stations. The protesters even cleaned up and the rubbish was recycled. When confronted with the police, all protesters even raised their arms as a signal for peace (yet that didn’t stop the police from using tear gas or rubber bullets to disperse the crowds). But the protests continued with umbrellas propped up for protection. The police had to give in to the sheer determination of the students on the streets; they retreated. The mood of the protests shifted from being just a protest for the right to vote to a celebration of freedom and human rights.

Photo Credit
Photo Credit
Photo Credit
Photo Credit

I am not an advocate for civil disobedience and most of the protesters on the streets aren’t either. This has disrupted the daily life of almost all residents. The very efficient public transportation system has taken a hit. Several of my friends working in Hong Kong have had to walk home for days now. The bright skies of Hong Kong were enveloped in tear gas. Students have been injured and many put in jail. Yet what does one do after the government backtracks on its words after some fifteen years of dialogue? Hong Kong is a very fast paced city where people over work and students over study. As an international undergraduate university student for the past one year in Hong Kong, I have admired all my local friends for their resolve and have also realized how painfully lazy I am. Libraries are completely packed for all 24 hours of the day. Hong Kong has one of the fewest public holidays anywhere in the world. And classes are only cancelled in the life threatening situation of a Signal 8 Typhoon. And yet for the next week, all professors at all the major universities have sent out emails stating they will not be conducting lessons or will be recording all the classes in solidarity with the struggle of the students. Some of them even plan to join us! If this event was not serious enough, none of these concessions would have been made in a city like Hong Kong.

Photo Credit
Photo Credit
Photo Credit
Photo Credit

I shall go back to protest again on the streets with my friends on October 1st. And like me, many international students and workers will also be there to support Hong Kong’s fight for freedom and human rights till the very end. But we cannot win this fight alone. The Chinese government is already blocking social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other local social media platforms. It has also sent a letter to all foreign diplomats in Hong Kong to “steer clear of the protests.” The word needs to get out and more people need to know about the political situation of Hong Kong. As the world’s largest democratic nation of 1.2 billion people with growing social media popularity, India can be a huge bolster to the Occupy Central movement, and so can every person in any place in the world. Simply sharing information about the protests among your friend circles can be of great help. The Umbrella Revolution has been largely galvanized by students in Hong Kong.

On October 1st many university students from all over the world are gathering together for a movement where we all would wear yellow to show our support; this something that can be very easily promoted in school and college campuses to raise awareness and show international support for this movement. Wear yellow, or just bring along an umbrella and click a picture and put it on social media for awareness and become a member in this fight against oppression. There are only so many accounts the Chinese government can block. Some of the more cynical people tell me that protests have very rarely brought about significant change (and that we stand no chance opposed to the Chinese government). Yet there is hope. We will continue to protest civilly; and if we succeed then this movement can provide great hope for students and people fighting against oppressive regimes all across the planet. For democracy, for freedom and for human rights!

You must be to comment.

More from Amrita Roy

Similar Posts

By Bidisha Bhatacharya

By Raj Iyre

By Yash Johri

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below