Co-Creating Movement Symbols: The Umbrella Movement of Hong Kong

Thursday, 14 July 2016: 09:00
Location: Hörsaal 26 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Kin-man CHAN, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

The Umbrella Movement of Hong Kong taken place in 2014 was to fight for universal suffrage. Besides democracy, ideas such as non-violence and autonomy were celebrated in the movement.  Since the movement was triggered by student strikes instead of the occupation advocated by Occupy Central with Love and Peace since 2013, framing of the movement was not planned and executed by movement organizers. They were spontaneously co-created by protestors.   Among many symbols representing the spirit of the movement, umbrella, Lennon Wall and a study room in the occupation site were selected in this study to demonstrate how framing task in “crowd-enabled connective action” was carried out without central authority.

The use of umbrella as major symbol of the movement was purely accidental.  Since many ladies in Hong Kong always bring along umbrellas to block sunshine, they were immediately used by protestors as shields to protect themselves from police’s pepper spray and later became a symbol of non-violence. The Lennon Wall was named after John Lennon probably due to a banner hanged in a nearby footbridge with the verse from his song Imagine. Protestors wrote down their wishes such as “I want universal suffrage” on colorful post-it stick to the wall.  It was a wall of dreams and a symbol of good will.  The temporary study room was built by volunteers to cater the needs of student young protestors.  Human power station was installed for protestors to help generate energy for the study.  Photos of student studying in this room became a symbol of diligence, environmental protection and mutual support.   With these symbols, the occupation space was seen as a utopian community celebrating a set of civil virtues. This study illustrates how public space could be configured and symbols be created to frame a radical action such as occupation.