The Occupy Central with Peace and Love movement is a civil movement that protests the course of the 2014 Hong Kong electoral reform. Its most recent round of protests, which began on September 28th in Hong Kong, has permeated nearly every channel of Western news. Given the strict self-censoring nature of state-owned Chinese news and media, opinions on the Occupy Central protests from within China can largely only be gleamed from social media. It should, however, be noted that it is suspected that the Chinese government extends censorship practices to social media.
In his piece on the Occupy Central movement, David Wertime writes that the Occupy Central protests have gained “wide admiration among Western observers for their peacefulness, their cleanliness and their democratic aspirations” though the consensus emerging amongst Chinese netizens is that protesters “are more worth of derision, or at least skepticism, than applause”. Wertime notes that despite many items related to the protest being censored in mainland China and that mainstream Chinese media has been mostly mute on the topic, “it’s easy to find discussion of Hong Kong on major Chinese social media platforms”.
Wertime examines Weibo, China’s answer to Twitter, as a barometer for mainland Chinese popular opinion. Wertime claims that “anti-protest arguments espousing order, loyalty, and patriotism (or nationalism) are easy to find”. The author draws attention to John Ross, a British academic affiliated with the prestigious Renmin University of China, who wrote on Weibo that Western media coverage of the protests have been “too hypocritical” and that “during its colonial rule the U.K. had never permitted Hong Kongers to vote for the head of their government.” Wertime reports that that Ross’s Weibo posts where extremely popular, having been shared by over 133,000 accounts to date and garnering mass support. The author claims that while it might be tempting to accredit strong anti-protest sentiments on Weibo to Chinese state censorship of social media, mainland antipathy towards Hong Kong’s pro-democracy sentiments have been growing for some time. Wertime elaborates that Hong Kong’s suffrage movement is perceived by mainland Chinese as an attempt to push the mainland away, exacerbating the friction, apprehension and lack of understanding between Hong Kongers and mainlanders.
While Wertimer highlights how the recent protests have exacerbated the mainland’s precarious relationship with Hong Kong, he notes that there are also abundant, albeit sometimes muted, Occupy supporters within the mainland.
The opinions expressed in the article summary above are the opinions of the author alone and not that of Global Summitry or its staff, editors and or advisers.
Wertime, David. “In China, Shrugs and Sneers for Hong Kong Protesters”. Foreign Policy. 2 October 2014. Foreign Policy Web.