Over the previous two months, Hong Kong has roared into international headlines. Its seven million residents have more and more taken to the streets (and the capital constructing, and the airport) to protest China’s transfer to lower the city-state’s autonomy, set off by a proposed invoice that will enable felony suspects in Hong Kong to be extradited to mainland China.

Professional-democracy activist and singer Denise Ho, additionally a Hong Kong native, believes it’s been a singular combat. She defined why in an inspiring speak at Singularity College’s World Summit in San Francisco this week.

Denise Ho speaking at the Singularity University Global Summit event 2019Denise Ho at World Summit

“What began out as a million-person march morphed right into a sustained combat that’s gone on for greater than 11 weeks,” she stated. Regardless of intimidation from the Chinese language authorities, suppression by their very own authorities, and police brutality that’s included the arrest of greater than 800 individuals in 70 days, she stated, the individuals of Hong Kong are nonetheless standing robust.

Given Hong Kong’s tiny dimension, particularly as in comparison with the behemoth that’s modern-day China, Ho stated the query she’s most been requested by worldwide journalists has been “How are you doing this?”

Transferring Like Water

The factor is, in contrast to any previous motion of its sort and scale, the Hong Kong protests have been leaderless. “Nobody is telling us what to do or when to do it. It’s natural, decentralized, and pushed by tens of hundreds of protesters taking motion independently, but additionally miraculously as one,” Ho stated.

She defined that although the motion is anonymous, it has adopted a core mentality from day one: a motto impressed by none aside from Bruce Lee. “Be formless, shapeless, like water. You place water right into a cup, it turns into the cup. You place water right into a bottle, it turns into the bottle. You place it in a teapot, it turns into the teapot. Water can circulation, or it will probably crash. Be water, my pal.”

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This quote might not appear terribly related, however it’s, as a result of the Hong Kong motion has been “ever-flowing,” constantly altering its methods and techniques. “The younger and livid in Hong Kong grew to become this formless drive, adapting to essentially the most troublesome of conditions within the face of the highly effective machine that’s China,” Ho stated.

What Occurred Final Time

She defined the importance of their unity and suppleness within the context of Hong Kong’s 2014 Umbrella Revolution. It was the primary time Hong Kong’s individuals stood up en masse to defend the autonomy that had been promised them by China beneath the “one nation, two methods” mannequin. Protesters occupied Hong Kong Highway in a motion led partly by the scholar union and the Occupy Central trio.

However the motion’s conservative construction and the truth that it was concentrated in a single fastened spot weakened it. Hong Kong Highway grew to become a simple goal for the federal government, and with the motion organizers’ gradual, centralized decision-making, individuals felt their voices weren’t being heard. The group started to separate into completely different camps, and it wasn’t lengthy earlier than the motion died down.

5 years later, Hong Kongers have taken to the streets once more—however this time some key facets of their motion are completely different. “This time we had been decided to do it higher and to be taught from our errors,” Ho stated. “So again to the query: How did we do that? Briefly, it was know-how mixed with explosive quantities of creativity.”

How This Time Is Completely different

There have been three foremost challenges the individuals of Hong Kong had been dealing with with this motion: centralization of energy, pretend information and twisted info, and getting individuals’s voices heard. The short (although not excellent) fixes? On-line boards, livestreaming, and a messaging app.

“These had been instruments out there to everybody, and so they had been free,” Ho stated. “With these, we achieved the decentralization of the motion, easy accessibility to real-time info, and extremely efficient and nameless communication.”

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An area on-line discussion board known as LIHKG 討論區 grew to become a platform for individuals to pitch concepts and strategize. This discussion board differs from the one utilized in 2014 primarily in that it’s safer. It limits registration to school emails and ISPs, and other people upvote or downvote threads and feedback similar to we do on Reddit. To forestall trolls, new members have a “P” icon subsequent to their person identify that signifies they’re in a probationary interval. Moderators can confirm everybody’s historical past, which helps forestall divisions amongst members. The discussion board primarily created a protected dialogue platform the place individuals can vote and one of the best concepts win.

As soon as methods are put collectively on the discussion board, the subsequent step is disseminating data and instructions rapidly and seamlessly. Basic channels had been shaped on an encrypted app known as Telegram, and these teams developed into extra streamlined teams concentrating on wants like first help, campaigning, and transportation.

“With these instruments mixed, we discovered this new fluidity and velocity,” Ho stated. “These concepts can be created on these platforms, after which in a single day, promotional paintings can be prepared, contributed by nameless designers. Occasions could possibly be introduced inside a day, and even hours, and could possibly be canceled if one thing didn’t really feel fairly proper. This type of trial and error made it extraordinarily troublesome for the federal government to counter-react to, as a result of the techniques and the individuals had been ever-changing.”

The ultimate part is livestreaming, which, as Ho put it, lets everybody deliver fact to the desk. Importantly, platforms that supply livestreaming, like Fb, Instagram, and Twitch, are free and accessible to everybody. On the time of the Umbrella Revolution there weren’t as many channels and the know-how wasn’t as ubiquitous as it’s now—within the palm of the hand of anybody who has a smartphone. And fixed stay broadcasting from a number of angles and places makes overlaying up the reality unimaginable.

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“We noticed police brutality occurring day-after-day, we noticed police overlaying up their warrant playing cards to keep away from duty, policemen dressed up as protesters to attempt to provoke different individuals then arrest them,” Ho stated. “Manipulation of data shifted to the individuals and enabled widespread documentation of fact.”

That’s not all. Instruments like AirDrop, maps, and face recognition helped velocity up distribution and verification of data. They helped test info and collect sources and manpower. They usually helped crowdfund concepts, big-time: $5.5 million was raised in someday for the Stand With Hong Kong marketing campaign on the G20 Summit, which included buying full-page adverts in worldwide newspapers.

An Imperfect Software (That’s Nonetheless Good to Have)

Hong Kong’s combat continues to be ongoing, and know-how isn’t fixing all its issues. Whereas it’s been useful, Ho stated, the motion’s decentralized nature has led to miscommunications and has made it laborious to return to fast selections in essential conditions. There’s additionally the difficulty that social media algorithms solely feed us data they suppose we need to see, making a disconnect to a fuller image of what’s occurring.

“Know-how isn’t perfection,” Ho stated. “However nor ought to or not it’s thought to be a instrument of destruction.”

She identified that these applied sciences are instruments, and solely that; what issues is the fingers they’re in, and utilizing them with integrity.

“They facilitate actions and empower those that didn’t have a voice in society,” she stated. “In the precise fingers, this might result in sudden change within the international group. Human rights and inequalities could possibly be resolved. It is a crucial yr in the midst of historical past.”

She acquired a standing ovation.

Picture Credit score: Chickenonline / Pixabay