Photo/IllutrationProtesters fill the streets of Hong Kong in the rain on Aug. 18. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

There seems to be no end in sight for Hong Kong's mass demonstrations.

Looking at the faces of young people overflowing the streets, I was reminded of the Umbrella Movement I covered in 2014 as a Hong Kong correspondent.

The movement was called so because young pro-democracy demonstrators, who pitched tents and occupied the city for two and a half months, used umbrellas as a tool of resistance against the Hong Kong police that sprayed them with tear gas.

The impression I had at the time was that while there were occasional outbreaks of violence, the demonstrators were surprisingly calm and orderly. Young people set up tents as first-aid and battery-charging stations, while older demonstrators of their parents' generation supplied them with drinking water and face masks.

There also were roadside "study tents" where I met high school students doing their math homework. These teens told me they wished to participate in the movement, even if only for a short time.

According to a colleague of mine who is reporting on the current protests in Hong Kong, young people in their teens and 20s appear to be dominating the scene again, as they did five years ago.

When someone tells them of an approaching ambulance, they immediately make way for the vehicle. And even on the day they broke into Hong Kong's legislature, they reportedly practiced considerable restraint, reminding one another to refrain from acts of destruction.

Now that I am following the developments from Japan, I am deeply disappointed by news of recent air traffic disruptions due to the protesters' occupation of Hong Kong's international airport, as well as reports of occasional outbreaks of violence.

But even so, I understand that the demonstrators this time are not resorting to any long-term siege with pitched tents to cut off road networks.

The people of Hong Kong have probably learned their lesson from the Umbrella Movement, which caused them fatigue and only proved to be a waste of time.

When demonstrators lose restraint, they immediately lose the support of the public. And once that happens, the authorities move in immediately for a crackdown.

Lu Xun (1881-1936) famously said the following: "The earth has no roads to begin with. But when many people pass one way, a road is made."

I remember these words, written in large letters on a banner carried by Hong Kong demonstrators five years ago.

Next week, the current protests will exceed the 79-day duration of the Umbrella Movement. Efforts will continue to be made to explore a style of street demonstration befitting this era.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 23

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.