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K Students Experience Umbrella Revolution

(Courtesy Photo)

Hong Kong became an autonomous region after Britain ceded it to China in 1997. This would have allowed Hong Kong to a full democratic vote over their Chief Executive by 2017.

Then, in August of 2014, China went back on what they had previously said by only allowing them to choose from a select few pre-screened candidates. Students started walk-outs and protesting in front of the government buildings on Friday, Sept. 26.

A crowd of students had swelled when police began using tear gas and pepper spray on the protesters on Sunday, Sept. 28. The protestors used hand-made face masks and umbrellas as protection, giving the protest the name “The Umbrella Revolution.”

The protest gained significant support on Monday as they continued to block main roads in the center of Hong Kong’s economic district. The standoff between the people and the government of Hong Kong continues.

This civilian protest could have many possible direct impacts on Kalamazoo. For example, the Study Abroad in Hong Kong could be hindered by possible violence or riots. Visiting international as well as four-year international students may be more or less frequent based on the outcome of the events as well.

As for the reaction of K, students and faculty had their own opinions and thoughts on the matter, and some names were changed in this article for protection.

A K student, who asked not to be identified for security reasons, is studying abroad in Hong Kong. She attended the protests on Monday evening.

“I honestly have never seen so many people come together for a common cause in my life. It was really inspiring,” she said. “The people here were all very straightforward and I feel like they were doing this in a very organized way,” referring to how the protest is being run.

The student also mentioned that the protests might dent Hong Kong’s economy because the local shops are closing. As a student studying abroad, she said her experience so far in Hong Kong “is something that I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”

Katherine C., a visiting international student from Hong Kong said she supports the protestors. She described it as peaceful as well as rational, and she mentioned the organization and the one, central idea behind the protests: democracy. When asked about the economic possibilities of a sit-in such as this, C. replied, “The whole process is for the future.” She also commented that it may lead to “Temporary” economic insecurity.

When a few of the international students from mainland China were asked about their views on the Umbrella Revolution, they were unaware of the protests. This could be due to severe censorship of Media coverage, such as Instagram and Weibo (China’s Twitter). When they tried to look up the protests on Baidu (a Chinese web service) there were absolutely no search results relating to the revolution.

“The University in Hong Kong is still operational”, Margaret Wiedenhoeft, Associate Director for the CIP in China, said. She continued to talk about keeping the students aware of the current situation to ensure the safety of those involved in Study Abroad.

“We actually encourage students not to participate in local political movements,” Wiedenhoeft said, due to the fact that the Kalamazoo doesn’t know how the authorities will react to the protests. Wiedenhoeft said, “It’s hard to predict the final outcome,” speaking about the future of the Study Abroad programs in China in relation to the revolution.

Dr. Dennis Frost, Associate Professor of East Asian Social Sciences, generally sided with the protesters in Hong Kong. “The Hong Kong Stock Market has dipped,” said Frost, “And even on [a] local impact level, you’re going to have some economic consequences.”

Frost also gave some insight about the protest saying that it does fit into a larger picture of Chinese protests even before Tiananmen Square and how it follows the same patterns as well.

Hong Kong’s deadlock with its government is heading into its first full week of protests. Hopefully they will arrive at changes to improve relations between Hong Kong and China.

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K Students Experience Umbrella Revolution