Why are Hong Kong’s protesters rallying around the number 689? | October 1, 2014

Public enemy No 1 … protesters in Hong Kong hold up a banner of CY Leung.  Photo: Xaume Olleros/AFP/

Public enemy No 1 … protesters in Hong Kong hold up a banner of CY Leung. Photo: Xaume Olleros/AFP/

Umbrellas and yellow ribbons aren’t the only symbols being used by the city’s protesters: the Instagram hashtag #hk689 refers to the number of votes Hong Kong’s chief executive needed to reach office thanks to its current electoral system

Name: 689.

Age: 60.

Appearance: The loneliest number since the number one.

OK, I’ve Googled “689”. This isn’t about the bus route from West Croydon to Monks Orchard, is it? Look, I’ll put you out of your misery. I’m referring to CY Leung.

Hong Kong’s chief executive? That’s right. All the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong that you’ve been reading about lately? They are calling for CY Leung to be removed from office.

But what does that have to do with the number 689? That’s Leung’s nickname, silly. It’s how many people voted for him in 2012.

Seven million people in Hong Kong and he only got 689 votes? How on earth did Leung get to be chief executive? To be fair, only 1,200 votes were cast. He was voted in by the elite electoral committee that steers Hong Kong’s leadership.

That hardly sounds democratic. Which explains the protests. Good, we’re all up to speed.

Well, we wrapped this one up quickly today. Great job! Same time tomorrow? Not so fast – I brought it up because “689” now appears to have been taken up as an unofficial symbol of the protests.

How so? The hashtag “#hk689” has become popular on Instagram, helping to spread word of the protests further than traditional media outlets would have allowed.

And has it worked? Very well, it seems – the Chinese government has reportedly rushed to block Instagram, just as it previously did with Facebook and Twitter. If that isn’t a sign the protesters are doing something right, nothing is.

What are the other symbols of the protest? Umbrellas, which protect the protesters against pepper spray; and yellow ribbons, the universal emblem of suffrage. And, um, Les Misérables.

Pardon? Protesters have daubed “Do You Hear the People Sing?” – the title of a song from the musical – on posters, and reportedly sing the song en masse to remind themselves of their cause.

Does that mean it’ll end up being the official anthem of Hong Kong if the protesters get their way? God, I hope not.

Do say: “What a perfect, snappy protest slogan to use in an era of quickly disseminated social-media messages.”

Don’t say: “Why was five afraid of six? Because six ate nine.”

via Guardian


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