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Hong Kong's protesters are using the same "hands up, don't shoot" gesture used in Ferguson

Protesters raise their arms in Hong Kong
Protesters raise their arms in Hong Kong
Alex Ogle/Getty

If you're an American and you've been watching the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong closely, you may have noticed something familiar: a number of the young demonstrators are using the same "hands up, don't shoot" gesture that became a symbol of last month's protests in faraway Ferguson, Missouri.

Hong Kong's protesters have good reason to put their hands up: police are using what many observers describe as an unprecedented level of force against the demonstrations, which are rallying against the Chinese government for reneging on its promise to grant them full democracy in 2017. While injuries in the protests have been relatively few so far, the clashes have been bad enough that Hong Kongers appear to earnestly fear the police might crack down violently, and that anxiety is showing in these photos.

It's impossible to say the degree to which protesters are using the gesture as a deliberate nod to Ferguson, or borrowing something they'd seen on the news for their own purposes, or using it coincidentally.

One 22-year-old protester told Quartz's Lily Kuo that she had never heard of the events in Ferguson. Another said that the similarity was coincidental, a result of protest leaders telling people to raise their hands to police to signal peacefulness. Still, Hong Kongers pride themselves on being plugged in to the world, so it is within the realm of possibility that some of them followed the events in Ferguson and are now appropriating the gesture for their own use, even if only subconsciously.

Some of the protesters are organized within a group called Occupy Central, named for Hong Kong's Central financial district and for the global protest movement that began with Occupy Wall Street.

It's fascinating to see a symbol of the fight against racism and police violence in America become a symbol of democracy and freedom halfway around the world, however it got there.

This post has been updated to reflect Quartz's reporting on the topic.

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