HONG KONG — In the first few days of the pro-democracy protest here, haughty newspaper editorials branded the demonstrators as naïve dreamers. The students responded by daubing a quote from John Lennon’s “Imagine” over various parts of the main sit-in site in the Admiralty neighborhood: “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.”
The line turned out to be prophetic: The protesters’ ranks soon swelled so much that journalists stopped trying to estimate the numbers. The choice of a Western pop song was also defining. Hong Kong is an international city, and ever since the former British colony was swallowed up by China in 1997, its residents have expected to live by global, not Chinese, standards. That goes for everything, including democracy.