Hong Kong was a British colony until 1997, when the UK handed it over the China. As part of the British Empire, Hong Kong grew into an international center of commerce and was also relatively democratic.
Accordingly, when it became part of China, the Chinese government allowed the region to remain somewhat autonomous. The only catch was that Beijing would choose Hong Kong's leader, known as the Chief Executive.
However, the Chinese government also promised that Hong Kong would be able to democratically elect its own leader in 2017.
This would essentially allow for full autonomy. Yet, quite recently, China announced that while it would still allow Hong Kong to hold these elections, the candidates would be chosen by the government.
Simply put, the Chinese government would only allow Hong Kong to elect someone from a list of approved individuals. This is not true democracy, and it's precisely why thousands of people have taken to the streets of Hong Kong in protest.
The pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong have captured the attention of the world. Over the weekend, disturbing images of a massive and brutal police crackdown on the protests began to emerge. The situation is still very tense, with police warning protestors to disperse, but they won't budge.
The Chinese government has also made efforts to block people from using social media to limit coverage of the protests. Instagram has been completely blocked as of today.
Hong Kong enjoys more Internet freedoms than the rest of China, which is precisely why social media has played a vital role in these protests. Yet, even if people in mainland China do not have access to the images coming out of Hong Kong, they have been seen by people around the world.
These are some of the most powerful images to come out of Hong Kong thus far:
1. Students have been at the center of the protests from the beginning.
Students protesting right now in Hong Kong. #OccupyCentral #UmbrellaRevolution pic.twitter.com/ZeWN41l2eE — Juan Yves Palomar (@JuanYvesPalomar) September 29, 2014
2. No democracy. No school.
#hongkong students start boycotting school - day 1 - re: China's undemocratic proposal for 2017 #occupycentral pic.twitter.com/RiJC7z2PtF — Kandy Wong (@WongKandy) September 22, 2014
3. Old and young protest together.
Young and old. Suits and students. #occupycentral pic.twitter.com/oLk8YivDjB — Ian Gilbert (@ThatIanGilbert) September 29, 2014
4. By the end of the week, thousands started taking to the streets.
seems more than 1000, even thousands, students and supporters hv joined the unauthorised march #OccupyCentral prelude pic.twitter.com/dMZm35UeDq — Phila Siu (@phila_siu) September 25, 2014
5. The movement has been dubbed "Occupy Central."
Standoff between Hong Kong police and protesters, right next to the People's Liberation Army barracks. #OccupyCentral pic.twitter.com/qIV9WAFkkH — Alan Wong (@byAlanWong) September 28, 2014
6. Millennials have led the charge.
There are a LOT of young demonstrators staging a pro-democracy sit-in in downtown Hong Kong tonight pic.twitter.com/bcdyhSUjc4 — Ivan Watson (@IvanCNN) September 27, 2014
7. Protestors blocked the route to one of Hong Kong's busiest commercial areas.
Defying police, thousands of demonstrating block main highway connecting Central and Wanchai to protest China. pic.twitter.com/Gw20Ic4rbf — Alan Wong (@byAlanWong) September 28, 2014
8. As more people came out, the police began cracking down.
Police deployed tear gas. pic.twitter.com/iLv50UslKL — Alan Wong (@byAlanWong) September 28, 2014
9. Looks like Ferguson, Missouri.
Police firing teargas at protesters in #HongKong - photo via @PhelimKine #OccupyCentral pic.twitter.com/0ebU7CWC2i — Pichayada P. (@p_pichayada) September 28, 2014
10. Apparently China hasn't changed very much over the years.
RT @ahkyee: Hong Kong, 1967 and 2014. From one empire to another. Long live #imperialism. #OccupyCentralpic.twitter.com/Oh6DvxrScK — Philip P. Pan (@panphil) September 28, 2014
11. Police have also used pepper spray on protestors.
Nothing says 'democracy' like a face full of pepper spray. http://t.co/BP23WcITYi#HongKong#OccupyCentralpic.twitter.com/RDe3vouIu6 — Morgan Mayhem (@headhntr) September 28, 2014
12. And rubber bullets.
@BBCBreaking Hong Kong Police firing tear gas and rubber bullets against UNARMED CITIZENS #HKStudentStrike #HK926 pic.twitter.com/9FGJVjopxU — Jack Sun (@Cynicalpui) September 28, 2014
13. Protestors have found unique ways to protect themselves.
Kowloon protesters wrapping faces in cling film in anticipation of pepper spray / tear gas #hongkong pic.twitter.com/ymDHbuGVxU — Katy Lee 李玥缇 (@kjalee) September 28, 2014
14. Many protestors have also used umbrellas to protect themselves from tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets.
Hong Kong Police threatened by an umbrella, reacts with pepper spray, orders from the communist party. pic.twitter.com/k8s6jt9kk1 — PatrickSFord (@ps_ford) September 28, 2014
15. The umbrella has become a symbol of the protests. #UmbrellaRevolution
#HongKong police tear gas, pepper spray attacks make the umbrella a pro-democracy symbol #solidarityHK#OccupyCentralpic.twitter.com/Aasnm66CF7 — Phelim Kine 林海 (@PhelimKine) September 29, 2014
16. Umbrellas for democracy. This is perhaps the most iconic image of the protests.
#UmbrellaRevolution: Viral image redefines tear-gassed Hong Kong protest — http://t.co/PIJlEs3BuS pic.twitter.com/ZeAqPiQ0Ks — Rick Bilyak (@rickbilyak) September 29, 2014
17. The protestors have remained undeterred, despite efforts from police.
Like the tear gas canister, Occupy Central (or Hong Kong) is still very much happening. Photo by Apple Daily's 何柏佳. pic.twitter.com/KQQFTHhnvu — Alan Wong (@byAlanWong) September 28, 2014
18. China has tried to hide what's happening from the world.
#China shuts down Instagram to prevent mainlanders from seeing images like this from Hong Kong http://t.co/dSEVPnWwc8 pic.twitter.com/kOyqby0w2l — Kenneth Roth (@KenRoth) September 28, 2014
19. The protestors have adopted #HandsUpDontShoot in solidarity with Ferguson.
Real Democracy demands spread to Hong Kong. "Hands up" solidarity with #Ferguson. Beautiful energy! pic.twitter.com/kPv9OOKM4V — Hakan Topal (@hak7n) September 29, 2014
20. Police brutality is a global problem.
Protesters in #HongKong marched with their #handsup. Police brutality is an international issue #Ferguson pic.twitter.com/EAqFxPkFRD — bobbylondon (@i_KAN_love) September 28, 2014
21. It's beautiful to see people come together like this.
More remarkable pictures emerge from Hong Kong where night has fallen but protesters have stayed put. #OccupyCentral pic.twitter.com/nkNuXZaqOG — Jack Moore (@JFXM) September 29, 2014
22. At the same time, it's ugly to see people attacked.
Riot police target pro-democracy students with pepper spray in #Hongkongpic.twitter.com/wrUrmJBQb2 — Yousaf Rafiq (@yourafiq) September 27, 2014
23. There's no need for this.
Another insane pic of #HongKong police going crazy with pepper spray. #OccupyCentral via @AP pic.twitter.com/0iY4D72WaU — Michelle (@Michelle9647) September 28, 2014
24. In spite of everything, the protestors have set a good example.
Amazing: In Hong Kong, peaceful protestors, beaten and gassed by police, return to clean trash and sort the recycling pic.twitter.com/SnXGmCFWj1 — David Gordon (@DavidGordonX) September 29, 2014
25. The fight for democracy will continue.
Latest in Hong Kong fashion, courtesy of Beijing-inspired crackdown on those who don't share its fear of democracy. pic.twitter.com/nU0g4wkRVm — Kenneth Roth (@KenRoth) September 29, 2014
Photo Courtesy: Twitter