Hong Kong, a former British colony of seven million people, has been governed under a “one country, two systems” framework since the United Kingdom returned the region to Chinese control in 1997. Hong Kong enjoys limited self-governance and civil liberties, including an independent judiciary and unrestricted press, but Beijing is responsible for the city’s defence and foreign affairs. Last year, the Chinese government announced its decision to reform the Hong Kong electoral system, whereby the city’s top political post–the chief executive–would be chosen by a pro-Beijing “nominating committee” rather than by the universal suffrage the Chinese had promised.
In September 2014, demonstrations against the electoral reform began outside the Hong Kong government headquarters, with members of what would eventually be called the Umbrella Movement occupying several major city intersections. Tens of thousands of pro-democracy protesters joined the movement. The demonstrations caused strong differences of opinion in Hong Kong society; there was conflict within peer groups over the values of the Umbrella Movement, and rifts formed between mentors-mentees over how far the demonstrations should go. Although many residents viewed the movement as a bothersome disruption to the lives of ordinary citizens caused by roads blocked, traffic jams, school closures, and financial loss to businesses, many others saw the protests as the best and last opportunity for Hong Kong people's voices to be heard, as Beijing's influence grows increasingly stronger. On December 15, 2014, police cleared protesters with little or no resistance, bringing the demonstrations to an end. The activists, however, have made it clear that the Umbrella Movement is far from over.
The Hong Kong Umbrella Revolution Collection at the Hoover Institution includes flyers, leaflets, printed matter, photographs, and memorabilia relating to the pro-democracy political movement. These materials provide valuable evidence of a pivotal moment for the city’s democracy and its complicated relations with the Chinese mainland.