IN PHOTOS

A brief history of Hong Kong’s 30-year fight for democracy

Today, Hong Kong authorities started clearing away part of the main protest site of the pro-democracy movement that has partially paralyzed the city for almost two months. Police and court bailiffs dismantled metal barricades and dragged away tents, in some cases helped by protesters who didn’t resist.

Building employees dismantle a barricade outside Citic Tower in accordance with a court injunction to clear up part of the protest site, outside the government headquarters in Hong Kong November 18, 2014.Hong Kong on Tuesday started to clear part of a protest camp in the heart of the city that has been occupied by pro-democracy demonstrators for nearly two months, leaving most of the main protest site intact. 
REUTERS/Tyrone Siu (CHINA - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST CRIME LAW TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY) - RTR4EIKZ
Building employees of the Citic Tower in Admiralty, the Umbrella Movement’s main protest site, remove barricades. (Reuters/Tyrone Siu)

The protesters who have pledged to hold onto their three occupied streets in the Asian financial center say that this isn’t the end. (Late in the evening, Hong Kong-time, hundreds of protesters began organizing a movement to surround government headquarters and have started to clash with police.)

If the past 30 years are any guide, they are right: large-scale demonstrations calling for democracy in Hong Kong have been erupting since at least the 1980s. If the recent protests end, another pro-democracy movement is likely to crop up again soon. Here is a look at the ones that have cropped up so far:

A democracy movement is born

After years of breakneck economic growth, Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement began in earnest when more than 1,000 protesters converged on a theater in the Hong Kong neighborhood of Hung Hom in November 1986, calling for direct elections starting in 1988 for the city’s legislature. Eventually, in 1991, Hong Kong introduced 18 directly elected seats to the legislature.

In 1988, a group of 50 activists held a 24-hour hunger strike outside of the Chinese state media office of Xinhua in Hong Kong to protest a draft proposal of the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution, that postponed direct elections of the chief executive until 2012. (That date has now been pushed back to 2017, under a reform proposal that protesters are currently railing against.)

Some of the 50 activists who began a 24-hour hunger strike outside China's official Xinhua News Agency in Hong Kong, December 3, 1988, to protest a proposal in China's post-1997 constitution for Hong Kong.  Under the proposal Hong Kong's chief executive would not be directly elected until the year 2012. (AP Photo/Dick Fung)
Activists outside China’s official Xinhua News Agency in Hong Kong, Dec. 3, 1988, protest a provision in Hong Kong’s post-1997 constitution that would mean the city’s chief executive would not be directly elected until 2012. (AP Photo/Dick Fung)

Promises made

After Hong Kong’s Basic Law was promulgated in 1990, stipulating that the city’s “ultimate aim” is the election of the chief executive by universal suffrage, pro-democracy lawmakers and demonstrators protested a decision to replace the city’s partially elected legislature with one appointed by Beijing in the spring of 1996. In the fall, protesters rallied again outside of Hong Kong’s convention center as a committee of 400 people, chosen by Beijing, selected candidates for the city’s top office of chief executive. A group of pro-democracy politicians took a petition of 60,000 signatures calling for democracy to Beijing but were prevented from getting off their plane.

This is similar to what happened this past weekend, on Nov. 15, when student protesters attempted to take demands for universal suffrage to Beijing but were prevented from boarding the plane because Chinese authorities had canceled their travel documents.

Led by legislators, more than 1,000 people join a rally Sunday, April 14, 1996, to protest China's plans to replace the current legislature with a Beijing-appointed legislature after Hong Kong returns to Chinese sovereignty in 1997. Sign at front reads "Protest the setting up of the provisional legislature." (AP Photo/Raymond Chow)
More than 1,000 people join a rally on April 14, 1996, to protest China’s plans to replace the current legislature with a Beijing-appointed legislature after Hong Kong returns to Chinese sovereignty in 1997. The sign at the front says, “Protest the setting up of the provisional legislature.” (AP Photo/Raymond Chow)
Three of the nine democracy campaigners, including legislator Yum Sin-ling, middle, stage a 50-hour hunger strike Tuesday, April 16, 1996, outside the building of Xinhua, China's unofficial embassy in Hong Kong, to protest Beijing's plans to replace the British colony's elected legislature with an appointed body after 1997. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)
Democracy campaigners, including Hong Kong legislator Yum Sin-ling, (middle) stage a 50-hour hunger strike in April 1996 to protest Beijing’s plans to replace the British colony’s elected legislature with an appointed body after 1997. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)
Pro-democracy activists scuffle with police officers outside the Hong Kong Conventional center to protest the visit of Chinese Foreign Minister Qian Qichen Friday, Nov. 15, 1996. The protesters said that Qian was the harbinger of "illegal" changes to Hong Kong 's political system. Qian convenes a meeting of 400 Hong Kong people who will choose the post-handover chief-executive in what pro-democracy activists say is a secretive and unfair process. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)
Pro-democracy activists scuffle with police officers outside the Hong Kong Convention center in 1996. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)
Seven members of a coalition to oppose a Beijing-appointed provisional legislature show 60,000 signatures in brown envelopes to journalists at Hong Kong's Kai Tak Airport Monday, July 1, 1996. They flew to Beijing with a petition, calling on the Chinese government to allow direct elections in Hong Kong after it returns to Chinese rule in 1997. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)
Pro-democracy politicians hold envelopes containing 60,000 signatures for a petition calling for direct elections in Hong Kong after it returns to Chinese rule in 1997. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)
Pro-democracy activists of Hong Kong Alliance carry a red banner reading "Democracy for Hong Kong" during their march in a street in Hong Kong, China, Tuesday, July 1, 1997. Democrats held the first large post-handover protest under the Chinese rule. (AP Photo/David Brauchli)
Pro-democracy activists of Hong Kong Alliance carry a red banner reading “Democracy for Hong Kong” during their march in a street in Hong Kong, China, Tuesday, July 1, 1997. Democrats held the first large post-handover protest under the Chinese rule. (AP Photo/David Brauchl)

The 2000s

Hong Kong saw a series of large protests between 2003 and 2005. In 2003, Hongkongers took to the streets in protest of Article 23—a set of Patriot Act-like security and anti-subversion laws—that the Beijing-backed chief executive, C.H. Tung, tried to push through. Tung eventually withdrew Act 23 from his political agenda. In April 2004, Beijing announced that it had ruled out direct elections for both the chief executive and the legislature when both offices were set to change, in 2007 and 2008, respectively. Then, on July 1, 2004, as many as 450,000 protesters marked the six-year anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover to China to demand universal suffrage. Protests continued into 2005.

Protesters crowd a street at Hong Kong's Causeway Bay shopping district during a march July 1, 2004 on the seventh anniversary of the the handover of Hong Kong to China. Tens of thousands of Hong Kong people dressed in white poured onto the streets on Thursday to vent their frustration at Chinese rule and challenge Beijing's refusal to allow them to elect their own leaders. REUTERS/Bobby Yip  BY/FA - RTR5MNL
Tens of thousands of protesters crowd the streets in Hong Kong’s Causeway Bay shopping district on July 1, 2004, the seventh anniversary of the the handover of Hong Kong to China. (Reuters/Bobby Yip)
More than 1,000 people march in downtown Hong Kong on Sunday, Jan. 23, 2005, to demand full democracy and social justice in the Chinese territory. The protesters chanted, "Direct elections in 2007 and 2008," the years in which Hong Kong is due a to get new leader and legislature. This former British colony was handed over to Chinese rule in 1997 with a guarantee of democratic political rights that do not exist on the mainland, but many residents who want democracy say Beijing exerts too much control here. The Chinese characters on the bottom banner read: "Against the collusion between the government and businesses". (AP Photo/Anat Givon)
More than 1,000 people march in downtown Hong Kong on Jan. 23, 2005, to demand full democracy and social justice in the Chinese territory. The protesters chant, “Direct elections in 2007 and 2008,” the years in which Hong Kong is due a to get new leader and legislature. (AP Photo/Anat Givon)
Demonstrators wear inflatable headdresses in the shape of chickens that symbolize the Chinese word for referendum, referring to a referendum on direct elections as more than 1,000 people held a rally and later marched in downtown Hong Kong on Sunday, Jan. 23, 2005, to demand full democracy and social justice in the Chinese territory. The protesters chanted, "Direct elections in 2007 and 2008," the years in which Hong Kong is due a to get new leader and legislature. This former British colony was handed over to Chinese rule in 1997 with a guarantee of democratic political rights that do not exist on the mainland, but many residents who want democracy say Beijing exerts too much control here. (AP Photo/Anat Givon)
Demonstrators wear inflatable headdresses in the shape of chickens that symbolize the Chinese word for referendum, alluding to a referendum on direct elections. More than 1,000 people attend the rally and later march in downtown Hong Kong on Jan. 23, 2005, to demand full democracy and social justice in the Chinese territory. (AP Photo/Anat Givon)
Demonstrators hold placards as more than 1,000 people rallied and later marched in downtown Hong Kong on Sunday, Jan. 23, 2005, to demand full democracy and social justice in the Chinese territory. The protesters chanted: "Direct elections in 2007 and 2008", the years in which Hong Kong is due a to get new leader and legislature. This former British colony was handed over to Chinese rule in 1997 with a guarantee of democratic political rights that do not exist on the mainland, but many residents who want democracy say Beijing exerts too much control here. The Chinese characters on the placards read: "Direct elections in 2007-8", "Against the collusion between the government and businesses". (AP Photo/Anat Givon)
The Chinese characters on the placards held by protesters in January 2005 read: “Direct elections in 2007-8” and “Against the collusion between the government and businesses.” (AP Photo/Anat Givon)

Protesters calling for direct elections in 2012 used what would become the symbol of today’s protests—a yellow umbrella—to form the numbers “2012.” That year, students, teachers, and parents rallied against the introduction of a “moral and national education” plan that critics said amounted to brainwashing. A group of secondary students mobilized, forming Scholarism, led by student leader Joshua Wong, and continues to organize student activists today.

Protesters open umbrellas to form the numbers 2-0-1-2 as year '2012' in a Hong Kong park Sunday, Oct. 7, 2007, as they demand the right to pick the city's leader and entire legislature in 2012. The government has issued a consultation paper containing various proposals on how and when the city's leader and legislature should be elected. However, pro-democracy lawmakers who want direct elections as soon as possible have criticized the document, saying it's confusing to the public because it lists many options. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)
Protesters open umbrellas to form the numbers 2-0-1-2, as in the year 2012, in a Hong Kong park on Oct. 7, 2007, as they demand the right to pick the city’s leader and entire legislature in 2012. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)
A protester holds a placard as thousands of people march in a down town street in Hong Kong  Sunday, July 29, 2012.to protest the looming introduction of Chinese patriotism classes in primary schools that they fear will lead to brainwashing. Teachers, parents, students and pro-democracy activists fear that the classes will be a tool used to brainwash children into supporting China’s communist party. The government has denied that and says it is aimed at building Chinese national pride.  (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)
Protesters in downtown Hong Kong in July 2012. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

In 2014

In late September, students stormed government headquarters to protest Beijing’s decision that only candidates approved by a nominating committee traditionally sympathetic to Beijing could run for Hong Kong’s top office. Mass arrests of the students prompted other protesters to come out. Then those people were tear-gassed by police, galvanizing yet more demonstrators in what quickly became known as the Umbrella Movement.

A protester walks in tear gas fired by riot policemen after thousands of protesters blocking the main street to the financial Central district outside the government headquarters in Hong Kong September 28, 2014. Hong Kong police fired repeated volleys of tear gas to disperse pro-democracy protests on Sunday and baton-charged the crowd blocking a key road in the government district after official warnings against illegal demonstrations.   REUTERS/Stringer  (CHINA - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST) HONG KONG OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN HONG KONG - RTR480OQ
A protester in central Hong Kong after police fired several rounds of tear gas. (Reuters/Stringer)
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