In the recent few weeks I’ve seen decentralised protest at its best. In case you’re not aware, there have been many major protests in Hong Kong recently against a controversial bill. That will make it easier for China to extradict people from Hong Kong to China.
All of these protest and movements are initiated by netizens in the absence of any leaders. They use social media such as Telegram groups, and a local forum called LIHKG. This is similar to Reddit. Somebody suggests protest ideas, others contribute and discuss, some ideas get ditched and some formalise to become a decentralised protest. Nobody requests anybody else to take part, and everybody paritcipates willingly. The movement have no form and no organisation. They flow like water, adapting naturally to the environment and change according to circumstances. That is what has made the movement so effective and a problem for the authorities as they have no core group to target or arrest.
PARALYSING THE CITY
On 12th June thousands of netizens gathered around the center of Hong Kong. They blocked off major government buildings bringing much of the city to a standstill. There was no central commanding platform, yet everyone had a role. There was mutual understanding on the actions, objectives and modus operandi. Even if you weren’t involved in the online discussion, you could still help.
A few of my friends went there for moral support, but it turned out they could contribute as well. When supplies such as first aid kit, water, umbrellas etc were required, they volunteered to run over to the supplies station to collect and deliver to those in need. My friend went off to the shops to buy face mask when they ran out of supplies. The store owner asked her if she was taking them to the protest, he gave her boxes to take away.
Groups of church goers came out and sang “Sing Hallelujah to the Lord” to help defuse the tension. Legislators were on site all day to ensure the police did not abuse their power and to maintain impartiality.
BARRACADING THE POLICE HEAD QUARTERS
Thousands gathered around the Hong Kong Police Headquarters on two evenings after the 12th June protest. They demanded an independent inquiry to the use of unnecessary force towards the protesters on that day. The police stayed inside the HQ and did not come out on the first evening as the prosters stayed overnight. On the second evening they came out with shields around 3am when most of the protesters had left. This is another decentralised protest.
GLOBAL MEDIA COVERAGE
On 25th June a crowdfunding campaign to raise HK$3m / USD384k was kicked off. The objective was to place front or full page adverts in international newspapers to make the anti extradition bill a global issue. The adverts, in the form of an open letter would appear in the newspapers on 27th and 28th to coincide with the G20 summit in Japan. This was organised by a group of Hong Kong volunteers who were taking decentralised protest to its limits. There was a time constraint, financial donation was crucial to make this a success, contacts with the international major press was essential, and some countries such as Germany required a local person to place the advert. At the face of it, everything seemed to work against the plan. Yet miraculously they pulled it off. Within nine hours, the campaign had raised HK$6.7m / USD857k.
The anti extradition open letter has or will appear in The Guardian (UK), Süddeutsche Zeitung (Germany), POLITICO Europe, The Globe and Mail (Canada), The Australian (Australia), Asahi Shinbun, The Japan Times (Japan), The Chosun Ilbo, donga.com, Hankook Ilbo (Korea), Apple Daily (Taiwan), Le Monde, Le Parisien (France), Corriere della Sera (Italy), Dagens Nyheter (Sweden), Washington Post, New York Times (USA).
THE POWER OF DECENTRALISED PROTESTS
These are just a few examples of decentralised protest in Hong Kong from recent weeks. So far the results are certainly encouraging but it would be premature to call this a success yet. The netizens have learnt and evolved from the 2014 Umbrella Movement but as the road ahead is long and tough.
“You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it”