This is a remarkable revolution and although there are a few older leaders associated with the movement, the overwhelming impression on the streets is of a protest organized and led by the young, mostly students in their teens and early twenties. They are all polite, disciplined and determined. Meanwhile, many of the older generation, the parents and grandparents of the youth on the streets, remember the wrath of Beijing in 1989 at Tiananmen Square, and tremble at home in fear. On Day 2 of the demonstration, a remarkable thing happened. The police over-reacted to the peaceful demonstrators and tried to clear the field using tear gas and pepper spray against the young people. Within hours, many of these cautious older people were out on the streets, protesting the use of force against their children.
I spoke to a well-dressed young woman, who was among the demonstrators. She said she left her office from time to time during the working day and joined the crowds for an hour or two in a gesture of solidarity. A few companies apparently gave their employees tacit approval to join in the demonstrations if they wished instead of coming to work.
Let’s hope for all our sakes that the people calling the shots in Beijing, the President and members of the State Council, do not follow in the footsteps of their predecessors in 1989.