In Hong Kong in the early 90 century – before China's takeover in 1997 – I spent one night at the top of 66. floor of the Revolving 66 restaurant, which rotated around the illuminated vibrant city as I glimpsed China behind the dark forests in the distance.
Since that time, the liberal population has noticed a growing closeness from communist China, with a fear of extensive governance and surveillance. And with Hong Kong's China-friendly government proposal for an extradition agreement for "criminals" it boiled over to residents this summer. Never before has the entire 2 million of Hong Kong's 7,4 million residents protested in the streets.
But can we see something far deeper and different this time than the usual demonstrations – unlike the Hong Kong umbrella movement in 2014, or the Tiananmen Square 30 years ago? There may be something else going on, such as with the yellow west of France or Extinction Rebellion's comprehensive environmental protest.
Today, more anarchist-inspired collectives in Hong Kong state that the demonstrations are portrayed by the media and state power as recognizable stereotypes of rebels. One does not necessarily want scary scenes with police, organized marches and prominent opposition leaders. These can easily be overpowered as overlords and "criminals", with the result being many years of disappointment. This happened with the pacifist umbrella movement, which started with the slogan of the intellectuals "Occupy the center with peace and love!" – but ended without any concrete results.
In Hong Kong, a number of protesters have now chosen direct action, while others choose a peaceful nonviolence line. And the groups dislike each other. The former shareholders do not want small discussions, consensus or endless talk, but act instead. YouTube videos show them where they cut down surveillance masts. They use masks and umbrellas not to be registered. One action could be one afternoon overfilling the subway to cripple the net, another letting large groups take their money out of the banks, with the turmoil it creates.
Neither abroad nor the left
That the US or foreign forces should stand behind the uprising, as a new color revolution, is unlikely. But they are getting some help in Hong Kong: Twitter has just closed 936 accounts linked to the Chinese government, and Facebook has stopped 5 accounts, 7 Facebook pages and 3 groups. In addition, 210 YouTube channels have been shut down. Totalitarian China "manipulates" the population annually with 480 million posts on social media (2017) – which discourages critical discussion. But although there is support as mentioned, the rebellion here comes from the grass root.
The new form of protest mentioned by the anarchists does not want an overarching "narrative" about the events in Hong Kong – which can easily be categorized, understood or rejected. No one should be authorized to speak on behalf of the protesters themselves. They reject the "scholastic" faction of students ("Demosisto"), and the right-wing nationalists ("Nativists") – because they participate too much in governing bodies.
And do you think it is the "left side" that is rebelling in Hong Kong? The left is synonymous with the Communist apparatus, so a wealthy businessman and party member belongs to the left. Today's young people in Hong Kong also use the "left" more as a term for the subjugated generation that went before them – who are often patiently waiting for negotiations. Nothing happened. Today, however, most people identify with the negation of China, as a non-China, as a nationalist free space.
Some of the demands that have been made are that the extradition agreement should be completely dead, that Hong Kong's "China-initiated" leader Carrie Lam should resign, and that free democratic elections must be arranged.
Deposition of power
The deeper meaning mentioned here is a "deposition" of traditional concentrations of power. One wants to weaken the legitimacy of the powerful: kings, clergy, politicians and capitalists. One is tired of a few representing or managing the many. Above much vertical power, more horizontal networks and local communities are promoted.
In philosophy, this is called "destitution". Destitution means provision, where one weakens or delegitimizes old metaphysical or overarching principles. One does not simply replace the old with another institution. Thus, the authoritarian state, the military or the rich should not have the rest of us forever. Destiny is to say no, to set aside the existing oppressor, without creating a new power.
Do you think it is the "left side" that is rebelling
Philosophers such as Martin Heidegger, Michel Foucault and Giorgio Agamben have long shown how forms of power have settled, how metaphysical epoch-based imprints have dominated history, what doxa or charts ("dispotifs") lead, or simply which ideology prevails. Today's modern technological and managed society is the latest in the line. This is the new state "biopolitics" over the bodies, through huge control systems, taxation, fees and monitoring – such as China is leading.
It is to be hoped that the violence will not be too widespread in Hong Kong, so China is deploying military units, with a spiral of violence that legitimizes measures that will lock the situation of the old for many years to come. After all, China is the country where people just "disappear" – not exactly the place to be extradited.
We are emotionally touched by the power of the new, the young, and the communities to come. Like the man in Tiananmen Square in front of the row of tanks in 1989. Or the sight of today's videos, in which police round-up protesting youth. And the reaction not only comes from their mothers who walk out into the streets – there has also been widespread support from the government and business for the fight for Hong Kong's freedom values. The hope must be that the vertical stands for fall, though it may take this whole century.