In this series, we explore expressions seen in everyday life and others with more obscure origins.
As Hong Kong’s protests continue to take place on the streets of Hong Kong, you’ll no doubt have heard the slogan 光復香港，時代革命 gwong1 fuk6 heung1 gong2, si4 doi6 gaak3 ming6.
Literally meaning “Liberate Hong Kong, Revolution of Our Times,” this slogan is chanted by protesters from Admiralty to Tai Po. It appears as graffiti on walls, and as a hashtag on social media.
The slogan first emerged in 2016 as part of politician and activist Edward Leung Tin-kei’s campaign in the New Territories East by-election. At the time, he stated that he came to settle on the slogan because “an era is not categorized by one’s age” — essentially encouraging people of all ages to participate in promoting change.
“Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times” began to gain momentum across the city this year when the anti-Extradition Bill protests kicked off in the summer. So how did this slogan became representative of the ongoing movement?
People identify with the slogan because of its emphasis on change — hence “revolution.” Tired of the system, protesters have been calling for change for months. It aligns nicely with the “five demands” protesters have for the government: full withdrawal of the Extradition Bill (which has taken place); setting up an inquiry into alleged police brutality and misuse of power; retracting of the classification of protesters as rioters; releasing arrested protesters without charge; and finally, dual universal suffrage for the Chief Executive and Legislative Council.
The slogan has been criticized by Chief Executive Carrie Lam, as well as some in the pro-Beijing camp, as one that challenges the “one country, two systems” framework. Nonetheless, it continues to take hold as one of the most powerful expressions of the desires of the Hong Kong protesters.