HONG KONG (AFP/REUTERS) - Protesters armed with little more than umbrellas and determination have brought central Hong Kong to a standstill with their demands for full democracy, in a movement that has been dubbed the "umbrella revolution". But China's censors, who have barred most online discussion of the protests, have so far not blocked searches for the nickname, although it may not survive much longer.
The umbrella is fast emerging as the symbol of the demonstrations that since Sunday have paralysed the Asian financial hub - a quintessential image in a city known for its downpours.
The demonstrations that have brought thousands onto the streets turned violent on Sunday evening as the police used tear gas and pepper spray against the swelling crowds.
The protesters - mostly university students and high school pupils who last week boycotted classes in an attempt to pressure Beijing - were ill-equipped to deal with the sudden violent turn.
They wrapped their eyes in clingfilm or donned goggles, wore paper face masks and cowered behind umbrellas to try to protect themselves from the tear gas and pepper spray.
"The umbrella is probably the most striking symbol of this Hong Kong protest. Our demonstrations used to be so peaceful, even pepper spray was very out of the ordinary," said Ms Claudia Mo, a pro-democracy lawmaker.
"Now that pepper spray has become so common, we're having to use umbrellas against it."
"The police have very high-quality shields - we just have our umbrellas."
Chinese Internet users were still able to post under the hashtag "Umbrella Revolution" in Chinese and English on Sina Weibo, China's popular Twitter-like microblogging service, on Monday and Tuesday.
The phrase was trending on social media and was also seen scrawled on a banner flung across a pile of upturned barricades and discarded umbrellas that blocked the entrance to a metro station.
Colourful representations of umbrellas have since sprung up on social media around the world, including on Sina Weibo where users often abbreviate words like Hong Kong and Beijing in an apparent bid not to attract the attention of censors.
"Facing a strong opponent, we can only use umbrellas!" said a user on Sina Weibo.
Another said: "Let BJ see the light #umbrella revolution#", in an apparent reference to Beijing.
Others found creative ways to jump what has been dubbed China's "Great Firewall", the cloak of Internet security used to block access to things authorities deem too sensitive.
Professor King-wa Fu, an assistant professor at the University of Hong Kong's Journalism and Media Centre, said it was likely censors had not yet realised the popularity of the phrase "Umbrella Revolution", which was coined by international media.
"It takes time for the censors to recognise that the umbrella has some special meaning, referring to 'Occupy Central'," said Prof Fu, who runs WeiboScope, a project that analyses censored posts in China.
"I think it's just a matter of time, today or tomorrow. Umbrella will become a sensitive word," he told Reuters.