Fighting Empires With Umbrellas

Open seminar at the Sigtuna Foundation May 21


On May 21 a one day public seminar utilizes the Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong as a lens to understand the position of the global citizen in our time. The Umbrella Movement was a youth based social protest movement, which in Autumn 2014 occupied several important areas in Hong Kong. The movement started as a protest against the right of the Beijing Government to screen the candidates of Chief Executive of Hong Kong before they could stand for election. The protest developed to include the whole issue of Human Rights in the Hong Kong-China relationship. The concept “In-Betweener”, that is, pointing to a position between colonial and neo-colonial empires, here becomes significant, not only to label the Hongkonger, but to designate a shared position in our late modernity.

Several issues will be raised during this conference. Firstly, we will turn a common perception upside down. While it is usual to claim that you need to understand Hong Kong in light of China, we will explore the question if we could understand China better if we see it from the perspective of Hong Kong and the Umbrella movement. Secondly, and due to the part that religions play in a multi-religious Hong Kong, and especially in the street social protests of 2014, we ask what role .religions could or should play in social protest. Thirdly, we will look into international protest, as for example in Ukraine, Egypt, Taiwan and Malaysia, and compare them to the uprising in Hong Kong, in order to compare the strength and weakness of these different expressions of protest. The case study will help to comprehend global changes in how the multitude relates to power.

The fourth question that becomes burning due to the many faceted resistance against the protesters is: After the failure of the movement, the government has strengthened its legal power, police and the courts in order to join hands in the fight against protestors. How can civil rights be protected in a time when totalitarianism seems to return as a legitimate form of government? The fifth question that arises is the question of the effectiveness of non-violent protest. While Hong Kong’s protesters were applauded for their non-violent civil disobedience, the end result was that they did not achieve actual political change. On the other hand, the police applied excessive force on protestors, and were somehow successful in stopping the protests. Is non-violence just sympathetic, but in actual case ineffective?
Finally, social media played an important role in the Umbrella Movement. After the movement the government have amended the law to restrain the freedom of speech. The movement has thus become a standard case study of how social media and digital youth existence has changed not only the form of social protest in our time, but its very logic and content. In this conference, we will meet presenters that were first line activists in this stratum of digital protest, and among other speakers we are proud to present Agnes Chow, a well-known young student leader and activist in the democracy movement in Hong Kong. Together we will explore the way social media changes our power relationships and self-understanding.


Program of open seminar May 21

9.30 – 10.00 Coffee and refreshments

10.00 – 10.05 Welcome by Alf Linderman, director of The Sigtuna Foundation

10.05 – 10.15 Introduction of the Theme. Raag Rolfsen & Tong Wing -sze

10.15 – 11.00 Hong Kongs Umbrella Movement and Beyond. Keynotespeaker: Agnes Chow

12.00 – 14.00 Lunch

14.00 – 15.30 Global China Connection: A perspective from Hong Kong-China Conflict.  Agnes Chow, Isaac Wong, Fredrik Fällman

15.30 – 16.00 Coffee and refreshments

16.00 – 17.30 Occupy Everywhere: Social Media and Public Space ( Agnes Chow, Isaac Wong, Alf Linderman )

20.00 – 21.30 Not talkin´bout a protest: Music and sprituality ( Mattias Thurfjell and Isaac Wong )


For further information we kindly ask you to contact Lovisa Beselin



21 maj, 2016
09:30 - 21:30
Sigtunastiftelsen Manfred Björkquists allé 4, Sigtuna, 193 31 Sverige
08 592 589 85