‘Glory at the End’: Yellow Umbrellas Raised at ‘Selma’ Hong Kong Premiere

By Larry Ong, Epoch Times
February 27, 2015 10:46 pm Last Updated: February 28, 2015 9:01 pm

HONG KONG—Five days after rapper Common sent a shout-out to the Hong Kong pro-democracy demonstrators during an Oscars acceptance speech, Selma opened to a full house in the city.

Amnesty International Hong Kong held a charity premiere of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. biopic at iSquare shopping mall in Tsim Sha Tsui on Friday night.

A number of prominent protest figures and pan-democrat lawmakers—Occupy Central trio Benny Tai, Chan Kin-man and Reverend Chu Yiu-ming; Hong Kong’s Labor Party chairman Lee Cheuk-yan and Civic Party’s Ken Tsang; 90-year-old “Grandpa Wong”—were in attendance.

“The spirit of the civil rights movement and the song spells out the spirit that we must persist in. In the end, we will have victory, and we will have glory.”
— Benny Tai, Occupy Central leader

Before the movie screening, Reverend Chu spoke briefly about Dr. King’s life and the civil rights movement in the United States at a press event just outside the theater.

Later, Ken Tsang, who was dragged to a dark corner and beaten up by seven police officers in the first weeks of the protests—an incident caught by a local broadcaster—posed for cameras with a sign that read: “Fear not violent oppression on the road to democracy.”

Other activists also had their pictures taken with that sign, and another with the Dr. King’s quote: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

In the theater, some Occupy protesters and members of the audience held aloft yellow umbrellas—the symbol of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy campaign, which is known as the Umbrella Movement.

Last year, an estimated 1.2 million Hongkongers held key thoroughfares in the city over nearly three months. Protesters demand truly democratic elections for Hong Kong’s leader as opposed to a very restrictive Iranian-style arrangement imposed by Beijing. Hong Kong authorities evicted protesters mid-December without giving concessions.

The Umbrella Movement was back briefly in the international spotlight at the Oscars on Sunday when it was mentioned by rap artist Common in his acceptance speech for the Best Original Song, Selma‘s theme song “Glory.”

Lonnie Lynn aka Common (L) and John Stephens aka John Legend winners of the Best Original Song Award for 'Glory' from 'Selma' pose in the press room during the 87th Annual Academy Awards at Loews Hollywood Hotel on February 22, 2015 in Hollywood, California.  (Jason Merritt/Getty Images)
Lonnie Lynn aka Common (L) and John Stephens aka John Legend winners of the Best Original Song Award for ‘Glory’ from ‘Selma’ pose with their trophies on February 22, 2015 in Hollywood, California. (Jason Merritt/Getty Images)

Common said that the spirit of the bridge in Selma, Alabama which Dr. King and civil rights protesters marched lives on today in people around the world, including “the people in Hong Kong protesting for democracy.”

Social media in Hong Kong and China exploded after Common’s comments. Hongkongers applauded the Oscar nod on social media, while mainland Chinese slammed Common for “being political” on Weibo, the Chinese Twitter-like platform. 

On Friday’s Selma premiere, key Occupy activists expressed optimism and a desire to continue fighting for democracy in Hong Kong.

“The spirit of the civil rights movement and the song spells out the spirit that we must persist in,” Benny Tai told Epoch Times. “In the end, we will have victory, and we will have glory.”

Ken Tsang expressed similar sentiments.

“After the demonstration areas were cleared up, Hong Kong people have been trying different ways and methods to fight back and do something,” said Tsang.

“Nobody steps back or stays behind,” Tsang continued. “The game is not over.”