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Hong Kong's Pro-Democracy Movement Is Trading Umbrellas for Shopping Bags

Latest drawing by Hong Kong artist Maxwell on Hong Kong people's shopping protest.

Latest drawing by Hong Kong artist Maxwell about Hong Kong people's shopping protest.

Occupy Central protesters, who have camped out for months in the center of Hong Kong, are trying a new tactic in their fight for genuine democratic elections — going shopping. 

Following dozens of arrests and violent clashes between police and demonstrators on November 25 and 26 at the Mong Kok protest site, activists are urging their supporters to go shopping in Mong Kok instead to peacefully reclaim the area. They have turned the Umbrella Revolution's icon upside down into a shopping basket and dubbed the movement the “Gauwu Revolution”. The term “gauwu” is the Mandarin pronunciation of “shopping”.

A Facebook page devoted to the “Shopping Revolution” explained the idea behind the rebranding:

After the clearance of Occupy Mong Kok, the Chief Executive urges Hongkongers to shop in the area to support the local businesses. Instead protesters have flooded back to Mong Kok claiming they are following the Chief Executive's advice and are there to shop. Hence the birth of the “Gauwu Movement”

Hong Kong police began to clear the Mong Kok site on November 25 after an injunction order was granted to a minibus drivers’ association providing legal grounds for the police to help the plaintiff remove objects there that obstructed traffic. 

However, the police made use of the opportunity to clear people in addition to objects and arrested 148 people, accusing them of “criminal contempt of a court order.” The tense mood at times boiled over into physical confrontations between police and protesters.

Several witness accounts, videos from the scene and photos published on mainstream and social media showed that the police attacked journalists and onlookers with batons. Below is a video taken by DBC, a local digital media outlet, showing how one of the officers hitting a passerby with his baton on November 25:

The police spokesperson defended the agency's actions, saying officers were trying to prevent people from re-occupying the streets. Yet, some legal experts have said the police had no legal justification to drive passersby away from the area as they had not announced any curfew order.

To express their outrage towards the excessive use of force during the clearing, hundreds of people have joined in the shopping movement and wandered around Mong Kok district at night. The video below shows the collective action of “window shoppers” pressing the police to let them cross the street:

The window shoppers also marched from Mong Kok to the Tsim Sha Tsui area as a symbolic act to reclaim the street. The police checked identity cards and questioned participants along the way.

Anthony Perry, a famous movie star in Hong Kong, criticized the police for their questions in a Facebook post:

点解有人會問啲咁戆鳩嘅問題?:你住旺角,点解要嚟尖沙咀七十一買嘢?旺角冇架?阿sir,而家香港係咪連去邊處買嘢都冇自由呀?係咪警察要管埋去邊度買嘢食嘢消費呀?咁住旺角可唔可以去尖沙咀返工呀?駛唔駛原區工作消費呀?去第二區駛唔駛攞入區証呀?係唔係十点前要瞓覺唔準出街呀?咁阿sir你守尖沙咀又係唔係住喺尖沙咀呀?做乜要去尖沙咀返工呀?阿sir問重点啦,你想問人係咪鳩烏隊族就問啦,問埋D九唔答八嘅嘢,去邊度買嘢關你Q事咩?老豆都管唔到嘅嘢你管,我都想問下,你問D咁戆鳩嘅問題,你係咪真係警察嚟架?阿sir問戆鳩嘢,係咪一定要答架?(哪!同政治無關吓!同係咪正常人有關)不如立例管制禁止去两條街以外購物。

How can people ask such stupid questions? [Police office:] You live in Mong Kok, why did you come to Tsim Sha Tsui's convenience store to shop? There are convenience stores in Mong Kok. Sir, don't we have the freedom in Hong Kong to go shopping wherever we like? Do the police have the authority to decide where we should go eat and shop? I live in Mong Kok, can't I work in Tsim Sha Tsui? Should I work and shop only in the district in which I live? Should I apply for permit to enter another district? Am I required to go to sleep at 10 p.m. and forbidden to go out at night? Sir, you are now stationed in Tsim Sha Tsui. Do you also live in this district? How come you work here? Sir, please be direct. You just want to know if I am shopping protester, right? But even so, you can't decide for me where I go shopping. Even my father can't interfere with that. Are you really a police officer? Do I need to answer such stupid questions? (This is not about politics! This is about how normal people should behave.) [If you dare], draft a law to forbid people from shopping beyond two blocks of where they live.

It's suspected that police have refrained from issuing a curfew order because the Mong Kok district is always crowded with shoppers from all around the world. But without a curfew, how can they legally stop people from shopping? Hong Kong people have always loved shopping, and if it helps further the cause of democratic elections, even better. 

Follow our in-depth coverage: Hong Kong's Umbrella Revolution

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