Wednesday, December 31, 2014

APU Person of the Year -- Hong Kong Protesters

The year 2014 was an eventful year in the Asia Pacific region with events ranging from North Korea's suspected hacking of Sony Pictures to the ending of the U.S. war in Afghanistan. North Korea's leader Kim Jong Eun was in the running for this year's person of the year with his defiant stands against the West.

Umbrella Revolution in Admiralty Night View 20141010.jpg
Hong Kong protests (Wikipedia)

Kim's father won the APU award twice, and the young leader captured headlines near the end of the year after his country angrily protested the release of the Sony movie The Interview.  Experts are still divided on whether North Korea remotely hacked Sony or whether they may have planted someone with the company itself.  The security breach resulted in the loss of Sony executives' private emails including messages deriding the studios top stars.

However, in considering the Person of the Year award this year, we had to consider not the news created by a single person, but the mass action of people that made the headlines collectively.  The protests by students and others in Hong Kong captured the attention of people around the world as the local residents clamored for protection of their democratic rights.

The massive demonstrations and blockades started in late September and technically are still ongoing although in a lull as the protesters reorganize.  The decision of authorities to reform Hong Kong's electoral process sparked the unrest.

Hong Kong's long history as a British colony created different expectations among its populace than what one generally finds on other parts of China.  The residents rightly feared that the moves could become part of a future trend to erode democratic processes in this Special Administrative Region in the southern coastal part of the country.

Initially, the protests started quietly until security forces in the city responded with harsh measures including tear gas that resulted in a number of viral videos circulating around the global Internet. 

Protesters showed grit and good organization with the efforts peaking with blockages of major transportation arteries that involved as many as 100,000 people camping out on public roads, sidewalks and other areas.

The protest reminded many people of Tienanmen Square, and there were fears that the Bejing government might crackdown on the protesters as it did in 1989.  Fortunately, the events ended relatively peacefully with no deaths and more than 470 injuries, most of which were not serious.

Organizers stated that the movement will go on, but it's difficult to know if and when any new events will occur.  However, the protests did gain the attention of the world and showed that the desire for democracy still lives within China.

For this reason, we choose the Hong Kong protesters collectively as's Person o the Year for 2014!