On the protester-lined streets leading to the government offices in Hong Kong's Admiralty district, the one thing that catches the eye is the above quote printed behind T-shirts.
Sixty-seven years after Mahatma Gandhi powered India's fight for democracy through non-violent means, protesters fighting China's decision to limit full universal suffrage for Hong Kongers are taking inspiration from him. "The concept of civil disobedience in the Umbrella Revolution is taken from the teachings of Gandhi. Gandhi taught civil disobedience and non-violence, and that's how we want this movement to be,'' Fermi Wong, who has left her full time job to be part of the Occupy Central protests said.
There have been allegations of police brutality against the protesters despite their Gandhian methods. "The police pushed us and even used tear gas ...But we did not retaliate. Many of us wear these T-shirts as they serve as a reminder for fellow protesters to stay calm, no matter what," a member of the Students Federation said.
A group of Hong Kong nationals of Indian descent who are part of the protesters say the Gandhi references make them proud. "I was born here and have lived my entire life here. When I see Gandhi's teaching being followed here, I feel very proud. My grandparents were a part of the Indian freedom struggle and I am a part of Hong Kong's protests," Param Singh, a second generation Hong Konger said.
Agitators have been sweeping the city streets clean of protest debris, recycling paper and plastic water bottles and cups, and even cleaning public toilets in the vicinity. The Umbrella Revolution, they say, is a responsible protest. "Many of us have never even done housework but we are doing our bit here to ensure that we are not vandalizing the city," said Phoebe Lim, a Hong Kong University student.
Lim, and many other young protesters like her, learnt about Gandhi's teachings only after they joined the protests. She says she found stories of the Indian independence struggle very inspiring. "Our own government is not listening to our point of view. They are siding with the central government and are not even open to talks. We have no option but to Occupy Central," Lim said.
Protesters are dismayed at the government response to the movement but said that they'll stick to their demands. "We will not resort to violence but we will never give up our fight for democracy," David W, another protester said.
Many demonstrators can be seen in the 'study-zone' of protest sites, doing their homework and surfing the internet. The grounds are well equipped with tents, food and medical supplies donated by volunteers, cell-phone charging points, mobile shower tents and even pastoral counselling for emotional support. With the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) government calling off talks with the protesters on Thursday, the movement is expected to intensify.
"Hong Kong is a place of freedom of speech. The government doesn't need to provide an instant solution -- it could be a step by step proposal to resolve issues. The HKSAR government needs to review the situation from the point of view of its people and then approach Beijing," Alex Chow, secretary general of the Students Federation said. The demonstrators have occupied key areas over the past fortnight, crippling city life.
-- Megha Suri Singh
Singh is a freelance writer based in Hong Kong
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