Umbrella Man: a unique threat to China or symbol of wider change?

The near-instantaneous adoption of the umbrella as a viral symbol of the protests illustrates the new global communication space the movement is taking place in.

The haunting image of a masked protester defiantly hoisting two black umbrellas amid a cloud of tear gas flickered across global social media platforms in the seconds and minutes after the Umbrella uprising began. In real time, the image became an iconic meme of the events taking place in Hong Kong. The “Umbrella Man” immediately drew comparisons in western media with another image from an earlier uprising – that of Beijing’s “Tank Man”.

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