Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our time

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Flag of the slogan is often seen in protest scenes.
Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our time
Traditional Chinese光復香港,時代革命
Simplified Chinese光复香港,时代革命
Literal meaningliberate Hong Kong, era revolution
The slogan displayed on 22 August 2019, during the anti-extradition bill protests
The slogan displayed in August 2019 from a footbridge over Harcourt Road in Admiralty

"Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our time"[1] (Chinese: 光復香港,時代革命; also translated as "Free Hong Kong, revolution now"[2]) is a slogan used in social movements in Hong Kong. The slogan was first used in 2016 by Hong Kong Indigenous spokesman Edward Leung as his campaign theme and slogan for the 2016 New Territories East by-election. He emphasized that anyone can take part in innovation and change regardless of age, leading to a "revolution of our time". In the legislative election held later that year, Youngspiration also used the slogan for their campaign.

The slogan underwent a resurgence in 2019 as Hongkongers started using it for the protests against Hong Kong's extradition bill, leading to international attention. Annie Zhang, the former editor in chief of Initium Media, said the slogan was a strong wish for an escalation of tactics and a revolution, stating the wish of protesters for "Hong Kong to become a Hong Kong for Hongkongers". In contrast, former Chief Executive of Hong Kong Tung Chee-hwa, Pro-Beijing camp political parties, editor of the Global Times Hu Xijin, and Xinhua News Agency consider the slogan to involve Hong Kong independence and test the principle of "one country, two systems".

Origin[edit]

"Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our time" was first suggested by Hong Kong localist activist Edward Leung as a slogan for social movements.[3] Leung has continually advocated Hong Kong independence and localism and self-determination,[4] considering Hong Kong to be a country, Hongkongers to be of the same group, and hoping to unite the "inner strength" of Hongkongers. At the press conference where Leung originally announced his bid for the 2016 New Territories East by-election, his campaign slogan was "Walk the talk, innovation for our generation" (Chinese: 知行合一,世代革新). However, the campaign brainstormed another slogan in January 2016, because they considered the original slogan to be unable to attract voters to vote, and that its stance was not clear enough.[5]

The term "liberate" (Chinese: 光復; pinyin: Guāngfù; Jyutping: Gwong1fuk6) was first used by the Guangfuhui (Restoration Society), founded in Shanghai in 1904, and by the revolutionaries of the Tongmenghui (Revolutionary Alliance), the predecessor to the Kuomintang.[6] Its first use in Hong Kong's localist movement was in Reclaim Sheung Shui Station in 2012. In its early stages, Hong Kong Indigenous was most notable for its opposition to parallel trading in Hong Kong, and its series of "liberation protests" organised in 2015 in places like Tuen Mun, Sha Tin, Yuen Long and Sheung Shui in the New Territories. Thus, the use of the term "liberate" in its campaign slogan was to remind voters of the group's use of street resistance to advocate Hongkongers' rights.[5][7] Although the by-election was held in the New Territories East constituency, "Liberate Hong Kong" was chosen over "Liberate New Territories East" (Chinese: 光復新東) because the latter was more difficult to pronounce. The second half of the slogan was a modification of "generational innovation" in the original slogan, with "revolution" reflecting the group's political ideals and ideological position.[5]

Between "revolution of our time" (Chinese: 時代革命) and "revolution of our generation" (Chinese: 世代革命), Leung opted for "revolution of our time" as the campaign slogan to emphasize that innovation and change can be undertaken by people of all ages,[5] and that it would not be a conflict between different generations because it only requested people to believe and embrace liberty.[8] He also pointed out that a belief in liberty is enough to embrace a new generation, and that people should grasp and advocate for their future. At the same time, he also said that many people were unwilling to give in to totalitarianism and the existing political framework, believing that they can have a government for themselves.[9] After his bid for the 2016 Hong Kong legislative election was disqualified, he said that Hong Kong had become a dictatorship, adding that revolution was the only solution to the situation at hand.[10]

Usage[edit]

2016 Legislative Council campaigns[edit]

Localist groups in Hong Kong used the slogan in the 2016 LegCo election.

In January 2016, Hong Kong Indigenous spokesman announced its candidacy for the Legislative Council's New Territories East by-election, with the main purpose being the promotion of the ideologies of Hong Kong Indigenous and the localist camp.[5][11][12] Previously, Hong Kong Indigenous suggested "Safeguarding local values with force" in order to achieve the goal of "My city, therefore I defend it".[13] On 8 February the same year, after the Mong Kok civil unrest, Leung presented "Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our time" and "Confronting violence with force" as campaign themes and slogans.[14][15][16][17][18] The Registration and Electoral Office [zh] allowed "Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our time" to be listed in Leung's election platform in their election guide,[19] but refused to deliver his pamphlets for free because the Office considered the use of the terms "autonomy" and "self-rule" to be a "fundamental breach" of Article 1 of the Basic Law.[20][21]

During the election, Leung advocated the stances of "Using force to resist violence" and "Liberate Hong Kong", leading to a polarized public opinion.[17][18] Although forceful resistance and the Hong Kong independence movement attracted mainstream attention in Hong Kong, it also led to resistance from the Government of Hong Kong and the traditional pro-democracy camp.[17] After his arrest following the Mong Kok civil unrest, his popularity increased, with many in the localist camp expressing support for him.[8] He came third in the by-election, receiving 66,524 votes or 15.38% of the vote,[22] of which the majority was from young voters. Subsequently, the radical localist camp in Hong Kong represented by Leung also received support from many young people.[17]

In the LegCo election held later that year, Youngspiration also used "liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our time" as their campaign slogan, naming 3 candidates including Baggio Leung and Yau Wai-ching.[23][24] After the election, the localist camp faced severe restrictions on their ability to participate in politics, with both Leung and Yau being disqualified from LegCo in the oath-taking controversy,[25] and the Hong Kong National Party, another localist group, being banned.[26] In June 2018, the High Court sentenced Leung to six years imprisonment for taking part in a riot on the night of the unrest and assaulting a police officer during the protests, while acquitting him of inciting a riot.[27]

2019 Hong Kong protests[edit]

Protesters chanting the slogan on 21 July 2019 when protesting outside the Hong Kong Liaison Office

In the 2019 Hong Kong protests, protesters initially focused on opposing the introduction of the government-proposed extradition bill.[28] At first, they used slogans such as "Be water", "No injury, no bleeding, no arrest; no disassociation, no snitching, no blaming",[29] "We fight on, each in his own way",[30] "Nobody left behind", etc.[17] By mid-July, as the demonstrations had spread to more districts, the spectrum of protests widened, and the public had grown more tolerant of the use of force by protesters.[17]

Around that time, more and more young people started reminiscing Edward Leung. Protesters stuck posters reading "liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our time" in Lennon Walls in the districts of Sha Tin and Tai Po, sometimes with "Thank You Edward Leung" written next to the posters. Protesters also commonly used the colloquial Cantonese term "攬炒" (Jyutping: laam2caau2), which means "mutual destruction", as well as the slogan "If we burn, you burn with us". As the protests escalated and became more frequent, "liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our time" gained popularity as a slogan among protesters.[17]

On 21 July, protesters stormed the China Liaison Office, chanting the slogan. At around 7:45 pm, protesters hurled eggs and ink balloons at the building, with some ink hitting the building's Chinese emblem.[31] Police dispersed the crowd with tear gas and rubber bullets.[32][33] In response, political parties and LegCo members of the pro-Beijing camp issued a joint statement, in which they said the behaviour of "liberation" and "revolution" promoted Hong Kong independence and were illegal acts against the Basic Law and the principle of one country, two systems.[34]

A handwritten banner with the slogan was hung at the Hong Kong International Airport on 10 August 2019

Protesters organized a general strike and gatherings in seven districts on 5 August. On that day, Chief Executive of Hong Kong Carrie Lam condemned the slogan, saying that the slogan advocates revolution and challenges Chinese sovereignty. In response, many non-governmental organisations thought Lam's remarks were an attempt to defame the anti-extradition bill movement; for example, the Scholars’ Alliance for Academic Freedom said that the slogan, which had been used in social movements since 2015, meant emphasizing innovation and change and campaigning for rights via action; it did not carry a meaning of Hong Kong independence and did not ask for an actual revolution.[35]

During the Hong Kong International Airport sit-ins held between 9 and 11 August, a protester unfurled a banner carrying the slogan (modified as "Liberate HK, Revolution Now") from a footbridge inside the airport terminal. Protesters at the scene cheered and clapped, chanting the slogan multiple times. Protesters jeered and aimed laser pointers at the banner when Airport Authority staff requested that the banner be removed.[36]

Hearthstone controversy[edit]

On 6 October 2019, during a post-match interview at the Hearthstone Grandmasters streaming event in Taiwan, Ng Wai Chung, a professional Hearthstone player and Hong Kong resident professionally known as "Blitzchung", donned a gas mask similar to those worn by Hong Kong protesters, and uttered the phrase "Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our time" in Mandarin. Blitzchung's camera feed was cut off shortly after. The following day, Blizzard Entertainment, the developer of Hearthstone, announced that Blitzchung had been banned from the current tournament, forfeiting any prize money (approximately US$4,000 by that point), and was banned for any further Grandmasters tournaments for one year.[37][38][39] Blitzchung stated in an interview afterwards that he had done the act of protest because "I put so much effort in that social movement in the past few months, that I sometimes couldn't focus on preparing my Grandmaster match".[37] In addition, Blizzard terminated the contracts of the two stream casters who had been conducting the interview, "Virtual" and "Mr. Yee".[37]

Many felt that Blizzard was cautious of potential repercussions from China's government, which has been censoring any support for the Hong Kong protests, including recent actions directed towards the National Basketball Association and South Park, after the premiere of the episode "Band in China" the same week.[37] Additionally, as Blizzard is partially owned by the Chinese technology giant Tencent through Activision Blizzard, there were concerns that that business relationship was also at stake.[40] Others spoke out that Blizzard's actions were unacceptable, as it appears to make them an agent for the Chinese government.[41][42] Some United States lawmakers such as Senators Ron Wyden and Marco Rubio spoke out against the ban.[43] Several long-term players of Blizzard's games discussed a boycott of Blizzard to encourage Blizzard to revoke the ban on Blitzchung.[44] On Twitter, the hashtag #BoycottBlizzard trended worldwide, with notable participation of former Blizzard employee and World of Warcraft team lead Mark Kern,[45] who showed he was cancelling his subscription to his own game.[46] Supporters of the Hong Kong protest began to use Blizzard's own Overwatch character Mei, a Chinese native, as a sign of support for Blitzchung and the protests following the ban.[47]

Effect[edit]

Graffiti of the slogan in 2019

Some protesters who went to the Liaison Office on 21 July 2019 considered the actions that night to be a revolution, reusing the slogan "liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our time" for the protests.[48] The use of the slogan for protests initially led to significant debate online.[49] Annie Zhang [zh], the former editor in chief of Initium Media, said that the slogan was the result of the protest movement not achieving its goals, leading to a strong wish for an escalation of tactics and a revolution. She said that "the people of this generation needed Hong Kong to become a Hong Kong for Hongkongers".[17] Teddy Tang, chairman of the Hong Kong Association of the Heads of Secondary Schools [zh], said that the slogan demonstrated the belief held by protesters that what they were doing was just, and that they were willing to deal with any consequences in achieving their goals.[50]

Vice Chairperson of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference and former Chief Executive of Hong Kong Tung Chee-hwa said that protesters' behaviour began challenging the principle of "one country, two systems" and the Central People's Government's authority when the protests turned from surrounding the legislature to storming the Liaison Office and the slogans turned from "anti-extradition bill" to "liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our time".[28][51] Hu Xijin, editor in chief of the Global Times, published an opinion piece on Sina Weibo, in which he said that the use of the "extremist slogan" "liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our time" by "radical protesters" in Hong Kong causes people to think of colour revolutions and the Hong Kong independence movement.[7][52][53] In August 2019, a Xinhua News Agency opinion piece thought that the term "liberate" demonstrated the "political conspiracy" of "radical figures" in Hong Kong, "severely challenging the baseline of 'one country, two systems'".[54]

In 2016, the Registration and Electoral Office considered "liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our time" to be a "fundamental breach" of Article 1 of the Basic Law.[20] In 2019, chairman of the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions Wong Kwok thought that the slogan may potentially encourage Hong Kong independence, and that violence cannot solve problems, but would rather increase tension in society.[55] Chan Wai-keung, lecturer at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University College of Professional and Continuing Education, said that using the slogan signalled an intention of protesters to overthrow the existing regime, and that the rise of the Hong Kong independence movement had already reached a point where it affects national security.[56] Gideon Rachman of the Financial Times opined that protesters chanting the slogan and their "radical sentiment" should alarm the Government of China.[57] LegCo member Junius Ho thought that the slogan promoted Hong Kong independence and should be banned from demonstrations.[58]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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