2. Umbrella Squad
The umbrella is one of the symbols of the Hong Kong protests, and the protesters are sometimes called the Umbrella Movement. The umbrellas are a visible sign of protest, but they also have practical uses: Demonstrators started bringing them to protests in 2014 as protection against pepper spray used by the police. Sometimes the protesters lock umbrellas together to form the modern equivalent of a shield wall against spray.
Umbrellas are also used for screening. When tear gas grenades are being doused, other team members hold up umbrellas to hide their colleagues from police observation and prevent rubber bullets being aimed at them.
Protesters employed umbrellas in their actions to bring the transport system to a halt, using them to jam subway doors open.
3. Bluetooth Revolution
Smartphones are a powerful tool for a surveillance state, allowing them to track people and monitor their activities via social media postings. Protesters are careful not to post from demonstrations, or take selfies. They’ve also found ways to use apps for their own ends.
Some protests are organized via the secure Telegram app. Chat groups can have tens of thousands of members, and a polling function allows the participants to vote on what action they should take. This is sometimes used tactically, to decide whether a protest should remain in one spot or move on.
The authorities have tried to stop this type of activity by cutting the phone signal in specific areas. Protesters responded by using alternative technology, in particular the AirDrop function built into iPhones and the Bridgefly app, both of which communicate via Bluetooth.
5. Hard Headed Protest
Many of the protesters wear yellow hard hats, partly as protection against the batons that Hong Kong police wield enthusiastically. Others have taken to wearing sports helmets, and local shops have sold out of all types of protective headgear.
Like the umbrella, the hard hat has become a symbol of the resistance, so people have started wearing them as a form of mute protest against the authorities. Commuters and shop assistants can be seen wearing them, some customized with messages like “We Love Hong Kong” or “I just want to get home safe.”
In a pointed show of solidarity, Hong Kong journalists wore helmets at a police press briefing. Because you can’t arrest someone just for wearing a hat, can you?
6. “Be Water”
The Hong Kong protestors built barricades and blocked streets, but they didn’t stay long. They often dispersed as soon as the police showed up in force, using phone apps to coordinate their actions in flashmob-type actions before riot police could respond.
“We’re going around to stop the police from catching us,” one woman told reporters. “We need to be like water.”
“Be Water” has become one of the slogans of the movement. It’s taken from the philosophy of Hong Kong martial arts movie legend Bruce Lee, who advocated that one “must be shapeless, formless, like water.”
The whole protest movement is deliberately formless, so there are no leaders to arrest. And its fluid tactics—disappearing when the opposition is strong and appearing where they are weak— successfully outmaneuvered the police.