Are Hong Kong’s Protestors Really Referencing Ferguson?


On Sunday, a mini-meme began to spread that the protestors in Hong Kong’s emerging “Umbrella Revolution” were using the “hands up don’t shoot” gesture from the last month’s Ferguson demonstrations protesting of the shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown.

The problem with this idea: there’s no evidence anyone in Hong Kong is directly or indirectly referencing the Ferguson protests.

Dan Gillmor‘s tweet was an early exponent of the Ferguson-Hong Kong link:

After that, publications like Vox and Quartz ran stories on the purported link. But there was a disconnect between the confident headlines and the disclaimers in the body. Vox’s, for instance:

It’s impossible to say the degree to which protesters are using the gesture as a deliberate nod to Ferguson, or borrowing something they’d seen on the news for their own purposes, or using it coincidentally. But Hong Kongers, particularly young Hong Kongers, pride themselves on being plugged in to the world, so it is well within the realm of possibility that they followed the events in Ferguson and are now appropriating the gesture for their own use.

“Within the realm of possibility” is far different from what the headline declared:

Quartz’s piece explicitly refuted the connection with quotes from the protestors themselves (Quartz’s headline: “Hands up, don’t shoot” comes to Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement”):

The degree to which you see the link depends on how much you think Ferguson amplified the hands-up gesture, which was fairly universal before those protests (which is not to say it’s particularly effective at keeping you from getting shot by police, as it should be).

To be clear, it’s entirely possible the Hong Kong protestors are explicitly or implicitly referencing Ferguson in a show of intercontinental solidarity. But as of yet there’s no evidence they are doing so. Until there is:

[Image via screengrab]

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