HONG KONG—Thousands of pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong have, perhaps unwittingly, united themselves with another protest movement some 8,000 miles away. Activists demanding free elections for the semi-autonomous territory have been holding their hands up in the air in a symbol of non-violent protest, a gesture many in the U.S. recognize from recent protests in Ferguson, Missouri after an unarmed 18-year-old was shot to death by police.
Hands up don't shoot is being used by tens of thousands as a form of protest in Hong Kong. Powerful. pic.twitter.com/on2DY5FrQH— Alex Medina (@mrmedina) September 28, 2014
Most Hong Kong protesters aren’t purposefully mimicking “hands up, don’t shoot,” as some have suggested. Instead, the gesture is a result of training and instructions from protest leaders, who have told demonstrators to raise their hands with palms forward to signal their peaceful intentions to police.
Asked if the gesture has any link to Ferguson, Icy Ng, a 22-year-old design student at Hong Kong Polytechnic University said, “I don’t think so. We have our hands up for showing both the police and media that we have no weapons in our hands.” Ng had not heard of the Ferguson protests. Another demonstrator with the pro-democracy group Occupy Central, Ellie Ng, said the gesture had nothing to do with Ferguson and is intended to demonstrate that “Hong Kong protesters are peaceful, unarmed, and mild.” (A more important symbol for the movement may be the umbrella, which protesters have been using to protect themselves against pepper spray and tear gas.)