Hong Kong and Five Innovative Ways to Protest: Lessons for Nicaragua?

About 1.7 million protestors took the streets of Hong Kong, holding umbrellas, on August 18, 2019. Roman Pilipey, Efe / Niu

Hong Kong protests are eleven weeks old and protestors have innovated with different forms of peaceful protests


By Confidencial – Niu

HAVANA TIMES – Hong Kong entered into crisis when on June 16, China launched a proposal of an Extradition law, which would give it the power to judge “criminals,” although as activists have reported, it was more an excuse to imprison opposition leaders. The bill has been filed away, but the protest has extended to demand democracy and government responsibility. Does that sound familiar?

During these almost three months of intense protests, marches and demonstrations of different types, those leading these protests are mainly university students. These marches have the participation of millions of Hong Kong residents who have found innovative and non-violent ways to protest against the Police.

Neutralize tear gas

One of the ways to protect from tear gas is to return them to the police. Jerome Favre, Efe / Niu

Whether with water, with traffic cones and even gloves, bulletproof vests and gas masks, the youth of Hong Kong have found ways to neutralize the effect of tear gas launched by the Police with the intension of dispersing the demonstrations.

Particularly with tear gas grenades, protester’s tactics vary, sometimes they take them with their gloves and throw them back to the repressors, or they cover it with the signaling cone, which contains the gas for a moment. The canister has no effect when another protestor proceeds to spray water through the cone hole.

Another tool used to neutralize gases are wok lids (oriental frying pans), water lenses and, swim goggles and, occasionally, umbrellas.

The taking of the airport

Protestors sat for five days at the Hong Kong airport, until the protests turned violent. Laurel Chor, Efe / Niu

Last weekend, protestors took over the Hong Kong airport, one of the most frequented terminals worldwide, which registered 74 million travelers in 2018.  Dressed in black, the protestor’s strategy was to block the halls to the gates, while smiling, singing, and handing out flyers to tourists.

The day turned violent when protestors confused a journalist with an alleged police infiltrator inside the airport. And although the flights have been resumed, this action was something unprecedented for such protests worldwide.

As soon as they passed customs, visitors were surprised by a crowd of black-clad protesters, who smiled, sang, handed out flyers and made them a kind of guard of honor.

Use of technology

Hong Kong protestors have had to think up how to circumvent police technology in every protest. Courtesy / Niu

As the protests were repressed by the Police and protesters found new ways to circumvent the violent acts, the Police stopped using identification badges on uniforms, according to an article in the US newspaper, the New York Times. However, the Hong Kong protestors opened a channel on Telegram dedicated to identifying and exposing the identities of police officers and even their families.

“If law enforcement doesn’t use anything to show their identity, they will become corrupt. They could do whatever they want,” Colin Cheung told the NYT. He is one of the protestors who have been arrested, but he was released by the authorities. The channel is called Dadfindboy and has more than 50,000 subscribers.

“With that tool, ordinary citizens can know who the police are,” Cheung added. However, the channel has also been key in promoting violent events in a more crude way, the newspaper said.

Another technological tool that is widely used by protestors is AirDrop, an iPhone application that allows you to share messages and images through a Bluetooth connection, which in turn avoids having to save contacts from other protestors, thus protecting the identity of each. Similarly, protestors have used the Pokemon Go game application to call demonstrations without being detected by the Police.

Lasers used to avoid being identification

During protests, the demonstrators use lasers to avoid being identified or to stun police officers and thus prevent being repressed. Jerome Favre. Efe / Niu

Almost since the beginning of the protests in Hong Kong, protestors armed themselves with large green laser pointers, which are used to point towards the cameras and Police observers and in that way prevent being identified.

To avoid being identified, the demonstrators also sprayed aerosol paint on the surveillance cameras or open umbrellas in the “lines of action,” for example, to remove signs or posters from bus stations to raise barricades and thus protect against repressive actions.

Protest Advertising

Hong Kong protestors in front of the Hong Kong police station, wearing gas masks. Jerome Favre, Efe / Niu

By the end of June, the G20 Summit was held in Japan, bringing together leaders from around the world. The Hong Kong protestors saw a great opportunity to get the world’s attention for their cause, so they launched a crowdfunding, “details the New Statesman magazine. They chose a series of commercials that were published full page in newspapers around the world.

The campaign managed to raise about 650,000 euros in a matter of hours. Voluntary groups designed and reviewed the texts, which days before the event were seen in newspapers around the world, such as The New York Times, The Guardian, Le Monde, Suddeutsche Zeitung, The Australian and Asahi Shimbun, Globe & Mail and Seoul Daily, among others. The full page black and white ads read: “Support Hong Kong in the G20.”

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