Last week in Hong Kong, an unusual protest took place when an estimated crowd of 2 million, 25% of Hong Kong’s population, marched in the streets of the city, singing a Christian song, “Sing Hallelujah.” What was so unusual is that there seems to be no one group or leader at the forefront of the swelling crowds filling the streets leading them.
Five years after the pro-democracy Umbrella Movement of 2014, in which high-profile individuals led mass occupation of the city center, only to be arrested or exiled in the aftermath, Hong Kong’s youth have decentralized their protests. They are impeccably organized, yet no one is in charge.
“This is a new model of Hong Kong protests,” said Baggio Leung, 32, convener of Youngspiration, a local political group formed after the 2014 Umbrella Movement. Leung was elected to the legislative council in 2016, but disqualified for deliberately mispronouncing “China” in his swearing-in oath.
Several other pro-democratic legislators have also been disqualified from serving in the council, some imprisoned along with civil society and student leaders after having participated in the Umbrella Movement.
This time around, protesters are deliberately leaderless, Leung said.