Hong Kong's 'water revolution' surging out of control

A protester tossing a can onto burning rubbish during an anti-government rally in Hong Kong last Saturday. Much of the analysis of the unrest has focused on economics. While unaffordable housing and extreme inequality contribute to popular anger, it
A protester tossing a can onto burning rubbish during an anti-government rally in Hong Kong last Saturday. Much of the analysis of the unrest has focused on economics. While unaffordable housing and extreme inequality contribute to popular anger, it is condescending and misleading to blame these factors entirely, the writer says. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Every revolution needs a name. The pro-democracy demonstrations that have roiled Hong Kong for three months now will be known as the "water revolution".

Since massive protests erupted in June, demonstrators have adhered to what they call a "be water" strategy. This pays tribute to Hong Kong's most famous son and has utterly confounded the police, the government and the politburo in Beijing. "Be formless, shapeless, like water," said Bruce Lee, the gongfu movie star and most influential martial artist in history, in a rare TV interview in 1971. "Water can flow or it can crash - be water, my friend."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 05, 2019, with the headline 'Hong Kong's 'water revolution' surging out of control'. Print Edition | Subscribe