Protest organizers initially promoted nonviolent resistance and dialogue, but student groups with differing approaches soon gained control of what became the Umbrella Movement. The Occupy Trio stepped back, returned to their jobs, and even turned themselves in to the police station near the end of 2014 in an attempt to persuade others to clear the streets.
Since then, the Chinese government has continued to encroach on Hong Kong, which historically has been allowed to operate with a degree of autonomy from Beijing. In 2017, a 1,194-member election committee elected pro-China Carrie Lam as chief executive. Protest leaders who had been elected into the legislature were disqualified for criticizing China while taking their oath of office. Hong Kong also banned a small political group headed by activist Andy Chan because it supported Hong Kong independence. Hong Kong also denied British journalist Victor Mallet a work visa after he moderated a talk with Andy Chan.
The government has also proposed a law that would criminalize people who parody the national anthem. Earlier this month, the government proposed changes to the extradition law that would make it easier to hand fugitives in Hong Kong over to mainland China. This could include dissidents, democracy activists, or anyone else China claims has broken the country’s law.
“Since the 2014 Umbrella Movement, the Communist Chinese Government has increased its interference in Hong Kong’s affairs and the Hong Kong government has been complicit in actively suppressing political participation and speech,” said U.S. Rep. James McGovern and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China. “The charges and verdicts against the ‘Umbrella Nine’ effectively punish peaceful political dissent and narrow the space for free expression and peaceful assembly.”
In March, I visited 75-year-old Chu at Wanchai Baptist Church, where he described his journey from starting as a homeless orphan to finding Jesus to becoming a pastor concerned about injustices in his church, his community, and Hong Kong. (Watch for a future article about Chu in WORLD.)
He noted that initially he wanted Occupy Central to be pure, simple, and holy—no conflicting interests, singularly focused on the 2017 elections, and focused on sacrifice and suffering. “Under the cross, those who participate in the movement need to pay the price,” he said with a weary smile. “And now we are paying the price.”