Umbrella Revolution in Times Square

Hundreds gathered in Times Square to show their solidarity with the Umbrella Revolution in Hong Kong. (Photo by Raymond Hong via World Journal)

(Photo by Raymond Hong via World Journal)

Unveiling a 9×6 meter flag of China to celebrate the country’s national day. (Photo by Ya-Chun Hsu via World Journal)

Celebrations of China’s National Day also commemorated the 35th anniversary of resumed diplomatic relations between China and the U.S. (Photo by Ya-Chun Hsu via World Journal)

Hong Kong’s “Umbrella Revolution” has spread to New York. Hundreds of Chinese living in the city, including those from Hong Kong, Taiwan and the mainland, gathered together at Times Square on Oct. 1, China’s National Day, to support the pro-democracy movement on the islands known as the Pearl of the Orient.

A story from the World Journal by reporter Raymond Hong offered a snapshot of the rally at Times Square:

Oct. 1 was the fourth day since the Occupy Central movement erupted in Hong Kong. The movement, demanding free elections, has prompted students to skip classes and workers to take time away from their jobs to participate. The police used tear gas in an attempt to clear the crowds. Still, the movement continues as it draws increasing attention from international media and is being echoed by supporters around the world.

New York was one of the 45 cities where people rallied to support the so-called “Umbrella Revolution” in Hong Kong on Oct. 1. (Translator’s note: Demonstrators opened their umbrellas as a defense against the tear gas released by the police, hence the name.) Hundreds of Chinese and other supporters gathered at Times Square at 8 p.m.

Compared to a previous rally at the same place on Sept. 27, the first day of the movement, participation multiplied, and it was no longer limited to immigrants from Hong Kong. Many Chinese from other places and non-Chinese showed up.

Demonstrators wore yellow ribbons on their chests, held symbolic umbrellas, and shouted slogans like “Go, Hong Kong!”,  “Free elections in Hong Kong,” and “Stand for Hong Kong.” The slogan that drew the loudest response from the crowd was “CY Leung, step down.” (Translator’s note: Leung is Hong Kong’s Chief Executive, appointed by Beijing) Participants also sang songs of the Hong Kong rock band Beyond and the Cantonese as well as the English versions of “Do You Hear the People Sing” from Les Miserables, which have become the makeshift anthems for the movement.

Participants kept updating one another with the latest news from Hong Kong as well as the support from around the world. Such announcements often stirred new rounds of cheers and roars of approval when they were made. Jinxia Yang, a professor at Manhattanville College, came with her 17-year-old daughter Tianen Zhang.

Yang said many people thought students in Hong Kong shouldn’t be involved in the protesting and shouldn’t skip classes to participate. But she believes the opposite — this movement is about the destiny and the future of Hong Kong. The young generations are the future of Hong Kong so students should be part of it. Zhang said she came with her mother to show support for the students in Hong Kong. “The world is watching. This is the future of Hong Kong,” she said.

Weiqian Xu, a 24-year-old student from Hong Kong, said although he lives in New York, he came as a proud Hong Konger. Diane Gatterdam, an American supporter, said the Umbrella Revolution reminds her of the Tiananmen incident in 1989. [Editor’s note: Student-led protests brought as many as one million protesters to Tiananmen Square in June 1989, and it is estimated that several hundred protesters were killed when the Chinese military stormed the square.] But she hopes the results will be different. “This is an important time for Hong Kong. The movement is no longer only for Hong Kong. It is for China, and for many people who are oppressed by a totalitarian system.”

The rally lasted for an hour and ended with unified chants of the participants: “Thank you, Hong Kong!” which were repeated five times. Yang, one of the organizers, called everyone to support the movement any way they can. “At least you should read the news everyday and tell people around you what’s going on in Hong Kong.” She also said: “If necessary, we will come back here anytime.”

But not every Chinese agrees on what Hong Kong should do. On the same day, another group of Chinese showed up in Times Square, holding China’s national flag to celebrate the National Day. They said on this matter, they support the central government. A World Journal story by reporter Ya-Chun Hsu gives an account:

On Oct. 1, the 65th anniversary of the inception of the People’s Republic of China, over a hundred Chinese immigrants from Fujian Province took a tour bus and visited several major landmark spots in Manhattan. Each of them held a Chinese national flag and an American stars-and-stripes flag. They meant to bring the celebration of China’s National Day from Chinatown to the broader city. At Times Square, they spread a giant five-star flag (China’s national flag) 9 meters in length and 6 meters in width [Editor’s note: 1 meter equals 39.4 inches], and highlighted the purpose of their trip.

The activity was organized by Jimmy Cheng, chair of the United Fujianese American Association. Participants chartered a tour bus and departed from Chinatown at noontime. They stopped by the Chinese Consulate, Times Square, and the United Nations, and then proceeded to the Financial District and City Hall. Although it was a rainy day, the rain didn’t seem to affect their enthusiasm. They waved different-sized Chinese and American flags along the way. Other than celebrating the National Day of China, the event also highlighted the 35th anniversary of the resuming of diplomatic relations between China and the U.S.

Cheng said in previous years, the celebrations were only in Chinatown. Now they wanted to “get to the mainstream.” “The Chinese dream is to have a strong and prosperous country. This is the common dream of hundreds of thousands of Chinese people. As overseas Chinese, the blood in our body is boiling with the same passion,” said Cheng.

While they spread a giant Chinese national flag, the participants also matched their activity with a pre-taped Chinese anthem as background music. It attracted many tourists who took pictures and joined the celebration.

The reason they visited Times Square, other than the celebration, was also meant to show their support to the Chinese Central Government over the recent “Occupy Central” protests in Hong Kong. Cheng said the central government has made a decision on this matter. It shouldn’t budge for the protesters. “Hong Kong is a window for international trade. Long-time protests will break the peace status and hurt Hong Kong’s economy. Hong Kong’s prosperity is sustainable only under the ‘one country, two systems’ policy,” said Chung.

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