#OccupyCentral Hong Kong democracy protests & public space

I haven't seen anything on the forum about this - and I still haven't really collected my thoughts about the current events, but I'm curious what people think.

In particular, I'm fascinated by the idea of Hong Kong as an 'urban experiment' - operating as a distinct political entity for 50 years after the 'handover' - the common question "In 2047 will HK look more like China, or China more like HK?" is an important one not just for China & HK's vast population, but for the world at large (esp considering how many developing countries now follow China's model for economic development). 

What is the role of public space in effecting political change? Has the role of the commons shifted in recent years? In a place like HK there is no real 'traditional' commons, as in large public squares; the activities you would associate with such spaces in, say, Europe, occur in HK along pedestrian bridges, in the alleyways between tower blocks, along the fringes of major roads. The protesters' 'reclamation' of Hong Kongs major highways have transformed them into public squares on a massive scale. Hong Kong's 'thickened ground' (multi-level connections via extensive undcerground tunnel systems, pedestrian bridges, escalators, the incorporation of 'mallspace' into the public circulation network) seems insufficient for mass gatherings, thus, reclamation of the streets.

Finally, how has ubiquitous computing altered the 'space' of protest? HK protesters have flocked to social media, of course, but a new "mesh network" app called 'firechat' has been getting a lot of press. It works without a cellular connection, via p2p bluetooth daisy-chains, allowing mass organization without an internet or phone connection. Surely the next step for authorities will be EMP disruptors or something that can jam all electronic signals, but authorities need communication links too; how does this shake out in the future? Related to digital communication, how are protesters circumventing the censorship, to get news of the democracy protests to friends and family in mainland China? I've read that the hashtags #occupycentral and even #hongkong and #umbrellarevolution have been blocked, so QQ, Weibo, and WeChat users are resorting to #hellokitty (HK) to spread word today, China's "National Day" and the 65th anniversary of the founding of the PRC. (Which, of course had an incalculable impact on HK demographics and history)

in the end, of course I hope for global politics to trend towards democracy, but i'm also fascinated by the implications for urbanism and the various architectures of control. How does Hong Kong's urban morphology shape the form of a protest? How do protests shape urban form?  

I'll continue watching.

Oct 1, 14 2:01 pm

Evan, thanks for the info about firechat, didn't realize was a p2p bluetooth/mesh app, that is very interesting...

re: the (re)claiming of the roadways, it seems that one benefit is that it forms a blockade of sorts and seems to have led at least in part to the ability of crowds to hold the space? I believe have even seen/read comments about holding the various districts hostage (economically i suppose?) as it were via the crowd.

I wonder if there is something illuminating in that, about scale / density / lack of public space? When contrasted with the more recent Tahrir Square model?

Oct 1, 14 7:18 pm

Well, I hope Egypt isn't their model here. It has been said* that the HK protesters have explicitly modeled their action on Quebec 2012, shades of occupy Wall Street and other mass events (can a protest have a typology?). What of POPS? Like NYC, HK public space is almost exclusively privately owned except where specifically stipulated by law, as in the space UNDER the HSBC building (architecture!) which maintained a tent colony of occupiers long after people ha cleared from Zuccatti Park! This, today is something different, taking place in the roads, on the bridges, etc, civil disobedience in pure form simply 'being' where one is not legally allowed.

*dont have the link at the moment, but could find it

Oct 1, 14 9:18 pm

re: Egypt agreed.

in terms of the "idea of Hong Kong as an 'urban experiment'  operating as a distinct political entity", reading this essay by ULI seems to suggest that the scale / drivers towards even further "cross-regional planning" / cooperation for the Greater PRD, are inevitable.

Oct 2, 14 12:06 am

Really interesting article about this:

"In 1990 [the Chinese government] adopted the Basic Law, which included the commitment that in 2017 the territory’s chief executive would be elected by universal suffrage; it also spelt out that the nomination of candidates would be a matter for a nominating committee."

"During the 20 years or so prior to the handover, the territory enjoyed its golden era – not because of the British but because of the Chinese. In 1978 Deng Xiaoping embarked on his reform programme, and China began to grow rapidly. It was still, however, a relatively closed society. Hong Kong was the beneficiary – it became the entry point to China, and as a result attracted scores of multinational companies and banks that wanted to gain access to the Chinese market. Hong Kong got rich because of China. It also fed an attitude of hubris and arrogance. 

The Hong Kong Chinese came to enjoy a much higher standard of living than the mainlanders. They looked down on the latter as poor, ignorant and uncouth peasants, as greatly their inferior. They preferred – up to a point – to identify with westerners rather than mainlanders, not because of democracy (the British had never allowed them any) but primarily because of money and the status that went with it."

"One of the most striking features of Hong Kong remains the relative absence of a mainland political presence. The Chinese have persisted with what can best be described as a hands-off approach. Their relationship to the administration is either indirect or behind the scenes. Strange as it may seem, the Chinese are not involved in the cut and thrust of political argument."

Oct 2, 14 10:52 am
chatter of clouds

Incidentally I came across this:


US Now Admits it is Funding “Occupy Central” in Hong Kong

By Tony Cartalucci

Global Research, October 01, 2014

Land Destroyer Report

Region: Asia

Theme: Intelligence




Just as the US admitted shortly after the so-called “Arab Spring” began spreading chaos across the Middle East that it had fully funded, trained, and equipped both mob leaders and heavily armed terrorists years in advance, it is now admitted that the US State Department through a myriad of organizations and NGOs is behind the so-called “Occupy Central” protests in Hong Kong. 


The Washington Post would also report (emphasis added):


Congressionally funded with the explicit goal of promoting democracy abroad, NED has long been viewed with suspicion or hostility by the authorities here. But the net of suspicion has widened to encompass such U.S. groups as the Ford Foundation, the International Republican Institute, the Carter Center and the Asia Foundation. 

Of course, NED and its many subsidiaries including the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute do no such thing as “promoting democracy,” and instead are in the business of constructing a global network of neo-imperial administration termed “civil society” that interlocks with the West’s many so-called “international institutions” which in turn  are completely controlled by interests in Washington, upon Wall Street, and in the cities of London and Brussels.

Oct 2, 14 11:40 pm

Careful, @tammuz, your selective quotation suggests that the first and last paragraphs are also quotations from the Washington Post rather than the speculation of the (imo) less-than-credible

The WaPo reporting is that Putin and Xi have discussed the West's role in Ukraine, that China is concerned about the situation there and "color" revolutions more generally, and that their suspicions of the possibility of Western intervention in Ukraine (possibly through the NED) also makes them suspicious of other NGOs who receive grants from the NED.

Oct 3, 14 2:03 am
Olaf Design Ninja_

Evan, I would suggest with the advent of popular use of the internet a convenient buffer between physical action of the protesters and the government has been created. Although, on one hand the internet and its related social media allows for previously impossible forms of communication between protesters it ultimately supplies a dumping ground for protesters emotions and desires. This dumping ground further informs the governments of the protesters intentions and methods. For this reason 18x32 there is no urgency for someone like Tammuz to be careful, it is clear big brother finds him harmless as his posts for the most part including his boycott Israel thread have little to no affect or influence on the daily lives of the world's population. In other words, paint all the revolutionary pictures you like, after all they are only pictures. The lack of urban space for protest as you suggest Evan for HK and NYC in theory should be more beneficial for protesters who presumably must operate in a guerilla like fashion to retaliate effectively while maintaining their anonymous status and numbers. A public square is like the internet, a dumping ground for those in rebellion status, a convenient coral for the governing agency to control the malcontents. If you are proposing for an urban environment to allow for civil and peaceful protest then you might as well admit the space for this civil and peaceful protest is hardly anything more than a communication beacon for presumably an unsponsored message - nothing more than an internet thread. That Kowloon walled city was a potential engine of mass rebellion or insurgency of power. A density of information and existence that had potential for uncontrollable eruptions. As noted by Douglas Coupland in an essay with regard to peoples concern for their information and existence being monitored in this 21st century, when all the East German Stasi paperwork wad stacked up in school gyms for collection, at that moment the purpose of reviewing what the Stasi may have known was a task of serious labour, one that required more time and effort than any party cared to employ- someone had to care that much. An inundation of information and an urban environment that is extremely dense plays not to those in power but to those who reject it. Without city public squares, city right-a-ways will always exist mainly for economic reasons (for now) and in these streets exist also as the right-a-ways for protesters who may march and aim for locations in the city to conclude their expressions of disruption. An open square is not as nearly effective, it practically ensures those who wish to continue to operate in the city can maintain normal operations, since the protesters are contained. A mass assembly on a bridge is far more disruptive and isn't this the purpose of a protest, to disrupt and potentially bankrupt the system? With that said I find it almost amusing that many believe the US is behind almost every rebellion to revolution in already politically unstable countries. I find it amusing because those who believe this neglect to note or review the status of the government of such nations who apparently are deficient in managing liberty of their citizens, assuming they provide any liberty to begin with. These systems have already been bankrupted by their own internal disruptions and the kool-aid the US may be selling sure tastes better. I might be mistaken but I don't think the US would have any luck these days in starting revolutions in Scandinavian countries, they might just be to stable? In stable cities the squares are great for feeding pigeons and having a beer.

Oct 3, 14 7:56 am
Ivo Dias de Sousa

Olá from Portugal


Firechat is very cool because it doesn´t need an Internet conection. Because of that it can function in almost any conditioins even with telephones lines dows. Very usefull in Hong Kong.

I am doing an app with other guys who does a sort of similar function – now, it is beta-testing. Unfortenelly, it needs the internet. It is not a chat but a sort of geolocated Instagram. The app is a sort of radio. It send messages (text and images) to users who are more near geographical. But with the hong Kong autorities bloking Internet I don´t see how can it be usefull. You can check it:




PS – Sorry for bad english

Oct 3, 14 12:34 pm

does this mean there IS no meaning? Or do your questions/unknowns still stand Evan? Is the future outlined earlier inevitable?

Oct 6, 14 8:30 pm
chatter of clouds

What colour is your revolution?




Wikileaks: HK Protests Linked to US Government

    Protesters in Hong Kong (Photo: Reuters)

    Protesters in Hong Kong (Photo: Reuters)

    Published 2 October 2014

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    Previous cables show links between United States agencies and the Hong Kong protest movement, as Beijing warns that the protests are China's "internal affairs."


    The United States funded groups linked to the ongoing Occupy Central protests in Hong Kong, according to whistleblowing website Wikileaks.


    The website tweeted that key figures behind the demonstrations are linked to the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a U.S. foundation “dedicated to the growth and strengthening of democratic institutions around the world,” according to its website, but which has been linked with coup attempts and "regime change" plans in Venezuela and elsewhere.




    The Occupy Central movement erupted in Hong Kong last weekend, with organizers stating that over 80,000 people turned out to protest against Beijing's “white paper” on eligibility criteria for standing for election to ruling positions in 2017.


    A Wikileaks cable released September 4, 2008 from the American Consulate in Hong Kong to the Secretary of State offices of Condelezza Rice, refers to a US State Department funded project, The Hong Kong Transition Project.


    Whilst a cable dated July 2, 2009 discusses demonstration turnouts and how to make them more successful in the future. Whilst a 4 Jan 2010 cable from the American Consulate in Hong Kong to the offices of the Secretary of State looks at increasing the effectiveness of political messaging on future demonstrations.


    The revelations come as China has warned that foreign meddling in its affairs will not be tolerated. “Hong Kong is ... a special administrative region of China, and Hong Kong affairs are completely China’s internal affairs,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying stated.


    The spokesperson stated the Chinese government is “resolutely opposed to any country attempting in any way to support such illegal activities like 'Occupy Central'.”

    Oct 7, 14 12:08 am
    chatter of clouds

    Hong Kong door not yet shown...

    Knock, Knock, Hong Kong, democracy has arrived


    Oct 7, 14 12:13 am

    Ugh. Does everything have to be a conspiracy?

    Oct 7, 14 11:41 am
    Non Sequitur

    ^ It is for the intellectually lazy among us.

    Oct 7, 14 11:49 am
    chatter of clouds

    Evan, its you who is insinuating a conspiracy theory ...namely that I'm propogating a conspiracy theory.

    The evidence is abundant that many of these revolutions- many of which are actually warranted given dictatorial or currupt systems throughout- are coopted by the US, by way of its aid agencies and embassies working in tandem with deluded or corrupt "opposition"-  to benefit it in its geopolitical standing. Treat these articles within their presentation, please, and do not pass on a verdict that dismisses, irrationally, on the basis of a label that itself reeks of a conspiracy.

    Ridicule of Conspiracy Theories Focuses On Diffusing Criticism of the Powerful

    No, its not conspiracy theory. Its geopolitics and the struggle for the US to retain its hegemony. There is nothing conspiratorial about it; its more like planning ahead for scenarios that will benefit the US.

    We see this in the Middle East as well. Many of the revolutions were indeed justified ...but they were coopted and perversely overtaken by a counter-revolutionary revolution..with the US and its allies behind them. The same was planned for Iran, Venezuela..and why not China, the US`main economic adversary.

    The US is, by nature, as shown in its involement in the destruction of so many countries and societies around the world, is adversariel in wanting to retain its hegemony and world leadership to benefit its rich and powerful leeches (and not necessarily its larger population). Its a hgemonic empire and an empire knows no morality.

    Oct 7, 14 12:13 pm

    Observe the Star of David on the grim reaper's scythe.  You're unhinged.

    Oct 7, 14 12:22 pm
    chatter of clouds

    And Zionist bots such as Alternative waver between perverting obfuscation and lies and ad hominem attacks.

    Oct 7, 14 12:40 pm

    more on FireChat and the rise of 'mesh networks' - a promising development no matter your politics.

    Oct 7, 14 12:45 pm
    Olaf Design Ninja_

    tammuz you are right partially, its not all conspiracy, it desired orchestration, like someone praying to god to make the bad shit stop and hoping for a Big Mac, Miley Cyrus, and some dude to make the crazy assholes stop shooting each other over usually even dumber shit like say religion or nationality or culture (like museum pieces)....but everything else man, you are quite have a proposed alternate system for managing liberties of all persons? just wondering.

    Evan this FireChat in theory is quite interesting and I see it's different according to your link for older mesh networks

    now as far as urban planning goes what does this look like?  or even in a floor plan in architecture?

    Oct 7, 14 10:23 pm
    Tammuz, are you anti-democratic? It sounds to me like some ideas you are insinuating are anti-democratic. In countries pre-revolution such as Iraq etc, conditions were much worse before American occupation than after. Of course a lot of bad crap happens, it's war, but the outcome is much better than the original situations. However if occupation in China is actually a possibility (or reality), then I agree, America needs to keep their nose out of it.
    Oct 7, 14 11:51 pm
    chatter of clouds

    Cd.Arch, yes so much better. Especially the over half a million killed, the current cannibal lunatics, the suicide bombers, the mass rape of women, the mass murder of minorities, the catastrophic demographic alterations, the tidal wave of terrorism sent to Syria and the region ...for sure conditions were much worse before American occupation than after..for sure. For sure, the US has not done one single thing- apart from destroy a country, well, countries if you count Libya, Syria, Iraq, poor and arm terrorists and allow its friends, tacitly, knowingly, elbow-nudgingly,  to fund and cultivate religious extremism and sectarian sedition in the region. No, other than that, the US is a beacon of democracy for the world.

    Because everything post-American is better than pre-American, occupation for example...I mean - or you mean, rather- how can it not be?

    I am all for democracy, sure bring it on...but let the county's own people bring it on, by themselves.. not the US, the -empirically- destructive war mongering nation-empire.

    Oct 8, 14 1:20 am
    chatter of clouds

    So, FireChat is to revolutionaries what Grindr is to gay men?

    Oct 8, 14 1:23 am
    Hmm, but letting those terrorist groups run rampant in those countries is a better idea? Iraq now has more opportunities than ever for education, especially for women. Not sure you knew this, but education is the single best thing that could happen to a country to reduce poverty. Aside from this, people at no longer at the CONSTANT threat of being killed, raped, etc by their OWN terrorist governments. They don't have the means to achieve democracy on their own. Again, I said it in my first post, but since you're too daft to listen, it's war. Of course bad stuff happens along the way, but the desired outcome is much better than the established terrorism there now. I have and had no intentions of debating with you. My question was not accusatory, but since all you seem to want to do is debate and be a prick while you're at it, have fun spreading more B.S. I won't partake in it anymore.
    Oct 8, 14 8:48 am

    CD Arch, I'm actually going to side with Tammuz with this one. Iraq was arguably more stable under a despotic regime. A lot of commentators have said that ISIS wouldn't have been viable under Saddam Hussein because he would have simply wiped them out. Pulling Saddam out of power has effectively led to a civil war that has fanned the flame of a global terror network. Recall that Al Qaeda didn't really gain momentum in Iraq until after the US invasion.

    Oct 8, 14 9:05 am
    Good points Alternative, it is a lot easier for me to listen to reason like that than straight ridicule and senseless words from Tammuz.
    Oct 8, 14 9:13 am
    chatter of clouds

    Sorry Evan, I know this is digressing but to respond to the above:

    " Iraq was arguably more stable under a despotic regime"

    Iraq qould be the stablest under conditions chosen by its people for its people, neither under a despotic regime nor under US occupation and its proxies. In many way, Saddam Hussein abilitiy to stay in power was endorsed by the US and its allies- and even his incursion into

    In some ways, Saddam Hussein`s brutal regime was a pressure pot instrinsically linked to whats happening now - add then the explosive US detrimental influence and that of the likes of neighbours (and allies of the US) who have funded and enabled extremism in the region. In other words, neither under a despoit regime nor under American occupation. And the latter certainly did not offer any remedy..but replaced a curse with a far larger, more expansive and regionally destructive one.

    One cannot read history as chopped up phases with no continuity and cross-referentiality.


    As for facilitating communication via technology in order to spur on a community ... although introducing Grindr here was partially humourous, the fact is that Grindr and its ilk have changed the gay community greatly.  The very act of locating someone by way of her or his sexuality and interest- and here, topically, we may replace this with revolutionary tendencies, instead of sexual ones- within one.s proximity has actually not simply facilitated a sort of community (centred around one`s person, as shown below)  but recreated one based on the laws built in within that application.

    Ironically, the matter of distance, down to the meter, became much more paramount in tthis age of virtuality. Instead of opening people up to a broader network less related to the restrictions of place, such applications have made the person`s immediate vicinity her or his (well, here, his) paramount concern, this proximity rotating around the sole function of her or  his person.

    In my opinion, often these tools - necessarily reductive by nature, facilitating communication- sometimes backfire in defining a reductive world view. My two liras.

    Oct 8, 14 9:57 am

    Tammuz, are you a Dubai gay? I have traveled in the Muslim world and I do think that Grindr has played an interesting role in creating a networked culture-- but it's interesting how those networks crystallize around structure of the app, rather than using the app to structure a community that they, themselves, envision. 

    Oct 8, 14 10:09 am

    I also agree with your assertions about Iraq, Tammuz. Look!  Common ground.

    Oct 8, 14 10:10 am
    Olaf Design Ninja_

    So what does a successful mesh network look like as far as urban plans go?

    Oct 8, 14 7:08 pm

    Olaf, you are amazing. Just saying.

    This doesn't really answer your question, but maybe it can help to start looking at some of the maps that are maintained by the architects of the mesh networks?

    All of this global unrest is bringing into sharp focus the friction between the spaces of the real and the virtual, isn't it?

    Oct 11, 14 9:49 pm
    Olaf Design Ninja_

    threadkilla, let me say thank you (as my wife would probably nudge me and my beautiful daughters would hug me), but I'm always more suspect of people who compliment me than insult me...I inherited my mothers gene with regard to perfection - I feel like a failure daily and compliments only confirm this ;)  (i do love you mom, if you read this...)

    ramblin' story time -

    at a party once I brought up the CIA recruitment letter many of my fellow Architect graduate classmates had received.  An older architect noted he had received one once as well before the internet days.  Another person in the conversation who was a federal employee noted the whole sleep deprivation thing and constant creative studio sessions would probably come in handy for the CIA.

    Why is Kurt Vonnegut being read in The Recruit?


    I might have wrote this song around this time, well I quoted and made a melody  - song link



    Did this presentation in grad school once citing 'Guns, Germs, Steel' and the CIA handbook, which was a $7.99 special at Barnes and Nobles and read like Wikipedia....I pissed a lot of people off, KierenTimberlake and crew, fortunately the late dean Detlef Martins had left before I presented. I liked him.  Saw him once scurrying down a main street in Philadelphia with his suitcase on wheels in the early morning, looked like he was heading to catch a plane...I was going to Kinkos to photocopy drawings early in the morning (630am) for the electrician on a job I was doing while in grad school....

    Look up Eero Saarninen sometime via google and the predecessors to the CIA,OSS, I made a link to an article on this in my blogs here once,

    Is the architect the perfect orchestrator?

    An Architect is that intellectual who drinks too much, sleeps too little, and hangs around like Karl Marx in England and unintentionally never charges enough's like money doesn't matter to them...that's a threat.

    There is one type of person I can't stand.  A person who collects information, shares the information and just stares at you the whole time.

     An Architect can make information, formulate abstracts, make simple BIG concepts, put people in their place, literally, and they do this ahead of the information collectors, don't they!?!?

    I feel like Wigley had set-up the perfect intelligence operation at Columbia U.  Smart kids looking at cities and maybe looking at it like your link Threadkilla!

    Your link reminded me of Lars an Infomatiker (auf deutsch).  I was doing an animation prepared for my job interview while flying from Kansas City to Chicago to Dusseldorf to train to Dortmund to fast train ICE to Berlin.  I had a Compaq laptop and was running 3dsMax 4.0 at the time, had like 3600 frames to produce before I interviewed in Berlin.  I felt like Rem Koolhaas at Chicago's airport as frames 1200-1800 rendered.  Lars in a German dorm building took me to a closet, moved some wires around and gave me a local network for batch rendering for the final 1800 frames in less than a few hours before I headed to Berlin.

    Just some guy who could move the information around differently and locally.

    One time at an American Military base in Germany my friend's step father?, third man to his Dutch mother (previous two were also American Service men) took us through a gym into a penny arcade.  We played Street Fighter or something on like $20 of quarters, just shooting shit and blowing stuff up.  This guy had Def Leopard on Laser Disc and supposedly a Corvette in the state and loved Max Headroom... I have wondered about my friends Dutch mother lately as my unintentional memory reoccurs -her first husband died by hitting a tree branch while riding a horse, her second husband blew his brains out while loading his gun, wonder what happened to the guy who took us to the Penny Arcade?...William and Mary

    btw - everything you know about the 'free world' appears to have been Dutch and English...

    The Netherlands is a beautiful place? London is fun!

    Rem Koolhaas has occupied both and made a building that stared at the Berlin wall, but he let's you down when you look for uplifting theory? No?

    Oct 12, 14 12:00 am
    Olaf Design Ninja_


    Oct 26, 14 5:17 pm
    Olaf Design Ninja_

    remember that movie the Hunger Games...well it's prequel

    The Running Man - starring Arnold Schwarzenegger

    it ain't happening here, but maybe somewhere else?


    Oct 26, 14 5:37 pm
    Olaf Design Ninja_

    btw...maybe archinect can confirm, but my friend couldn't open an Archinect link in Iran, she said slow internet service, but she could email me...

    I suspect Archinect is blocked?

    one my many websites, which is only design is blocked in China...former classmates tried to view's not because it's political, its just not approved yet....

    Oct 26, 14 5:56 pm

    Olaf it might say somewhere in the thread(s) but back in 09 we had two great Iran / Green Movement threads


    with some on the ground reporting from a 'Nector in Iran...

    Oct 28, 14 7:36 pm
    Olaf Design Ninja_

    I am half joking about Iran, who knows? bad connection maybe....but not joking bout China

    Oct 28, 14 8:13 pm

    Not to long ago the NYT examined the efforts being made to preserve the explosion of public art created by the Umbrella Movement, which has included the launch of a new group Umbrella Movement Art Preservation, or UMAP

    Dec 7, 14 11:04 pm

    So what now, Has Beijing won

    Is democracy in Hong Kong doomed... or will demographic trends and new tools/modes of communicating/connecting like Firechat/networked culture win in end?

    Dec 17, 14 6:46 pm

    This is of interest on a similar line as the UMAP, @Nam.

    Mapping out the protest sites for history

    Dec 19, 14 5:32 am

    thanks 18x32!

    Dec 27, 14 4:49 pm
    Olaf Design Ninja_

    yay! surveillance is now hip and called art.

    Dec 28, 14 11:51 am

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