Hong Kong’s Occupy Central protests, now in their fifth day, are primarly about Beijing’s refusal to allow the city’s residents to choose their own political leaders. But they have roots in everything from the Chinese government’s crackdown on dissent and free speech to the very essence of what it means to be from Hong Kong. Kacey Wong, an artist and professor at Hong Kong Polytechnic University who started a competition to create an official Umbrella Revolution logo, spoke to Quartz’s Heather Timmons about what’s bringing Hong Kongers to the streets. Some of the entries from the competition are included below.
The way that you should really look at the Hong Kong protests is that there is a war on our culture. If we win, we get to keep our culture and our way of life, and if we lose, we will fall back in time, to the way that mainland China is now.
If you look at the current Communist Party, there’s nothing Communist about it. It is capitalism, corruption, and the decline of morality at its worst. Many people in Hong Kong feel that we are being recolonized. This “new China” is more like Chinese imperialism over again. President Xi Jinping is grabbing all the power for himself, and eradicating his competition. The party would do anything to preserve the current system of corruption and power.
This is the first time Hong Kong has really recognized its own identity and culture, and we have realized we can stand up and stand tall. Beijing has to recognize that there are different types of Chinese people. In fact, here in Hong Kong, we have had 172 years of continuous culture, that has risen up as a mixture of East and West. It has a high degree of Chinese tradition and respects classic ideals.
We’re not some ethnic minority—without Hong Kong there would be no modern China, because the revolutionary ideas that created China came from here. We have our own currency and passport and have been independent from China for more than a hundred years. We’re trying to say to mainland China, “You have to respect these cultural differences and allow them to grow.”
Many times in the past, we’ve held political rallies where we’ve sung songs and shouted slogans and then dispersed. This time, the government not listening is no longer acceptable.What you’re seeing right now with the Umbrella Revolution is the conclusion of the showdown of resistance.
We want to win because we deserve it. We’re showing solidarity and brotherhood and sisterhood here at these protests. We’re being restrained and civilized. You’re not seeing shops being destroyed, looting, or raping. You’re seeing love and comradeship.
Beijing views Hong Kong’s protests right now as a domestic problem in a little city state. I think the only way to escalate this is to hope and plead with the international community to negotiate with the Chinese community through boycotts, to cooperate with the movement, and not to kowtow to the Chinese government. This is not a Hong Kong problem, it is a global problem.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.