Asia-Pacific News

Hong Kong’s revolution: Post-it notes & smartphones


Tools for a revolution can be as simple as the items lying around your home. A young man at Hong Kong's pro-democracy demonstration pulls out a few items from his knapsack: an umbrella, a towel, shorts and his smart phone. Throw in some Post-it notes and you're on day seven of the demonstrations.

There is now a wall of colorful Post-it notes in Admiralty, a business district, that has seen the largest protests. Demonstrators are answering the question, "Why are we here?" Many of the answers are along the lines of "I love HK" or "I want true democracy."

Read MoreWhy Monday is pivotal for Hong Kong activists

People look at messages of support displayed on a post-it wall outside the government headquarters in Hong Kong.
Philippe Lopez | AFP | Getty Images

Last month, Beijing set the parameters for the 2017 elections for Hong Kong's chief executive. Citizens can have "one person, one vote" but the candidates must be approved by a committee that's largely backed by Beijing.

A 26-year old Hong Kong man says: "Personally, I am not satisfied with the current proposal of the government."

Another demonstrator (a government worker) realizes Beijing is unlikely to change its stance. "But even if there is some chance of change, it's worth it to fight,"he says.

Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai, founder of Next Media, is a fervent supporter of the universal suffrage movement. He dismisses the argument that Beijing's decision is a baby step towards full democracy. "It's only a baby step if we know the ultimate road map... (If) we don't know when real democracy will come, this is a dead baby. That's not a real baby."

Read MoreHong Kong power play: who's in control?

Pauline Chiou

The protest has been nicknamed the Umbrella Revolution because protesters carry umbrellas to shield themselves from the pounding sun. The umbrellas also became a symbol Sunday night when protesters tried to protect themselves from police releasing tear gas and pepper spray. Protesters have also found a way to bypass any potential interference with social media access on their smartphones. More than 100,000 people in Hong Kong have downloaded the FireChat app that enables devices to connect through radio and Bluetooth signals. This allows for communication without Wi-Fi, 3G or 4G signals.

Beijing has called the gatherings illegal.

Pauline Chiou

Chang Ka Mun, adviser to Hong and Beijing governments, is calling on demonstrators to look at the situation in a historical context. "We have only returned to the sovereignty of China of only around 17-18 years. So I think the progress is already very very speedy. Very fast already."

Equally fast is the international attention this political battle has gained. It's a protest that continues to surprise. In no other place do you see protesters collect garbage and separate the recyclables. In no other place have you seen umbrellas as a metaphor for democracy. And it's a protest that has forced Asia's financial hub to we wait to see who blinks first.