On October 6th news came to us that the Metro system and banks in Hong Kong had been shut down in a bid to limit the movements of protestors. This is a logical tactical step for an authoritarian regime trying to stop a rebellion getting out of hand, but the truth is, they’re too late.
At the recent Open Future event in Manchester one of the key topics was Hong Kong and the ongoing protests that are in the process of ravaging the city. Protest theory was touched on, including something called The Water Technique.
Inspired by Bruce Lee’s ‘Be water’ quote the protestors, co-lead by Joshua Wong (present via video link at the event), have created a doctrine of protest that states they should be:
• Strong like ice
• Fluid like water
• Gather like dew
They’ve certainly fulfilled the requirements of this technique. The protestors are resilient in the face of live gun fire and, ignoring a new ban on wearing masks, seem to get stronger by the week. Whilst not all leave the protests free, the majority do manage to flow through the grasp of the police and regroup defiantly together as one mass, once more, when needed. China is the fool trying to collect water with a colander, its mistake is that it keeps trying to do this despite only getting drops.
We live in a world where you don’t crush or stop rebellions by cutting off their logistics, as Beijing is currently trying to do. This isn’t Russia 1905 or Beijing 1989. We live in a world where activism is online as much as it is offline.
Crucially, this means China will never succeed in ending the Hong Kong protests for the simple reason that they cannot eradicate the fundamental source of the protestors’ fighting spirit: hope. Contrastingly, this is something the North Korean government has done very effectively. Their population does not rebel because it has no hope.
Even in 1997, when Hong Kong and the One country, Two systems policy started, China was already too late to defeat the protestors because, having experienced democratic rights under colonial rule, the people of Hong Kong already had a taste of hope and understood its power to push towards change.
It is because of this simple attitude of mind that the movement can only end in a draw or a win for the protestors. We are engaged in political trench warfare. The only way China can salvage this situation is to do one of two things: crush the protestors with the military or begin political negotiations — neither of which it’s likely to do.
The ball is in China’s court as it tries to drown out the protestors with restrained retaliation. The question is how much will they allow the water to rise before both parties start drowning?