12/13/2014 03:49 pm ET Updated Feb 12, 2015

Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong, Early November 2014

Text by Alan Reade
Photos by Tommy Wu

We were on vacation in Hong Kong in early November 2014, and not once but twice, we wandered unexpectedly into the sites are where large groups of Hong Kongese, particularly students, have been petitioning nonviolently for democracy. The Hong Kong pro-democracy movement is known as Occupy Central with Love & Peace, or OCLP. But most people know it as the Umbrella Movement.

Hong Kong, a former British colony, has experienced some autonomy from mainland China but was returned to China in 1997. OCLP has been pressuring the communist Chinese government to grant Hong Kong the right to elect its own officials in the Hong Kong Chief Executive election in 2017 instead of candidates that Beijing screens and approves.

One thing that surprised us is the sheer size of the Umbrella Movement. Especially in the Admiralty area, we saw acres of tents taking up space in building corridors, part of a subway station, and some offramps and pedestrian bridges in the midst of what is normally a busy business area of Hong Kong. So much of Hong Kong is crowded, honking, and loud, but there was a comforting yet almost eerie silence the day we were walking through the Admiralty site.

What struck us most about both protest sites was the creativity: thousands and thousands of drawings and sculptures made of found objects, in front of tents, affixed to posts, and sometimes spanning entire walls of buildings. One man from mainland China had come to the protest site to plant a garden of edible plants in what we assume had been an urban flower display.

Maybe the eeriness we sensed was the calm before the proverbial storm: Later in November, the police started breaking up both protest sites, with many officers continuing tactics of violence toward the protesters. We don't know what is left of either site now. And so we offer this photo essay as a document to what was there in early November 2014.