Hong Kong

Why Hong Kong Protesters Are Channeling Bruce Lee

The mostly young demonstrators are calling for autonomy and democracy—and won't be silenced like the NBA.


Few stories are generating as much as heat and interest as the ongoing protests in Hong Kong, where mostly young demonstrators are taking to the streets to call for democracy, autonomy, and privacy from authoritarian leaders in Beijing. In just the past week, the general manager of the Houston Rockets basketball team caused an international incident when he tweeted support for the protesters. This was a big deal because the NBA is huge in China—in fact, there are more NBA fans in China than there are people in the United States! The Rockets' team owner and NBA leadership quickly apologized but not before the network carrying basketball in China announced it would not show any Rockets games this season.

The creators of South Park took a different tack: When an episode of their show mocking government censorship was shut down by the regime, Matt Stone and Trey Parker issued a caustic fake apology that read in part, "Like the NBA, we welcome the Chinese censors into our homes and into our hearts….We too love money more than freedom and democracy."

A month ago, Reason TV producer Zach Weissmueller traveled to Hong Kong to document exactly what's happening in the streets of a place long known for nearly unbridled capitalism (watch his videos at Reason.com or YouTube). In today's Reason Interview, Zach tells how the protesters are using both high-tech and low-tech means to get their message out, why they're inspired by the old Bruce Lee saying "be like water," and whether they're likely to achieve their goals of securing democratic, representative rule and privacy from the government that is perfecting the surveillance state in the 21st century.

Audio production by Ian Keyser and Regan Taylor.