The Most Powerful Protest Photos of 2014

There wasn't a corner of the planet untouched by protest this year, from the tear-gassed streets of Ferguson to the student camps of Hong Kong

In 2011, TIME named the Protester as the Person of the Year, in recognition of the twin people-power earthquakes of the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street. TIME named the Ebola Fighters as the 2014 Person of the Year, but you could have forgiven if we went back to the Protester. There wasn’t a corner of the planet untouched by protest this year, from the tear-gassed streets of Ferguson, Missouri, to the squares of Mexico City, to the impromptu student camps of Hong Kong. Many of the protests were remarkably peaceful, like Occupy Hong Kong, which was galvanized by public anger over the overreaction of the city’s police. Others turned bloody, like the Euromaidan protests in Kiev, Ukraine, which eventually brought down the government of pro-Russian Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, in turn triggering a war that led to the annexation of Crimea by Russia, the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in May and the deaths of thousands of Ukrainians.

Not every protest was as effective as those that began the year in the cold of Kiev. Hong Kongers still don’t have full democratic rights, gay rights are on the retreat in much of east Africa and every day seems to bring news of another questionable police killing in the U.S. But the wave of social action that ended 2014 is unlikely to crest in 2015. The ubiquity of camera phones means no shortage of iconic photographs and videos from any protest, whether in Lima or Los Angeles, and social media gives everyone the means to broadcast. What follows are some of the most powerful images from the global streets in 2014.

TIME Smartphones

‘China’s Apple’ Is Still Getting Obliterated by Apple Itself

A Xiaomi Corp. Mi 4 smartphone is arranged for a photograph at the company's showroom in Beijing, China, on Friday, Sept. 12, 2014. Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

Xiaomi is known for its cheap smartphones — but its low prices are affecting its bottom line

While the popularity of Xiaomi’s smartphones have earned it the nickname of “China’s Apple,” its profits don’t come close to those of the Cupertino, Calif. company.

China’s Xiaomi, the world’s third largest smartphone company, pulled in only 347.5 million yuan ($56 million) in net profits from a revenue of 26.6 billion yuan ($4.3 billion) in 2013, Reuters reported Monday based on regulatory filings made by the company.

Meanwhile, Apple reported $25.4 billion of net sales during 2013 in Greater China, where nearly all Xiaomi smartphones are shipped. Apple’s profit margins stood at about 33%, towering over Xiaomi’s 1.8%.

Investors are continuing to question whether Xiaomi’s strategy of selling smartphones below what’s considered market price is sustainable. Xiaomi’s earnings, which Reuters confirmed with a Xiaomi spokeswoman, rebuke a November report in the Wall Street Journal which cited a “confidential document” saying Xiaomi had netted $556 million in profits in 2013, which would have been a massive spike in earnings.


TIME Video Games

Sony and Microsoft’s Newest Battlefield: China

Xbox One PlayStation 4
Attendees walk between signs for Sony PlayStation and Microsoft XBox on the first day of the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in Los Angeles, California, June 11, 2013. Robyn Beck—AFP/Getty Images

A new front has opened in the console wars

The Chinese video game market is in for a major shake-up. Two of Sony’s mega-popular consoles, PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita, will be sold in China starting next month, the company announced Thursday. Sony’s move comes three months after Microsoft debuted its Xbox One in China.

Why did it take so long for Chinese gamers to get the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One? For 14 years, China banned video game consoles over fears violent games would lead to moral decay. That ban was just lifted in January, opening the door for Sony and Microsoft.

China’s ban didn’t totally eliminate consoles there — a grey market of smuggled and home-grown consoles has long existed there. But analysts say the rule caused China’s gaming market to be dominated by PC and mobile games. That means Sony and Microsoft now have to convince Chinese gamers they should buy a console, too.

Sony and Microsoft could be in for a windfall if they can turn China’s gamers into console jockeys. Lewis Ward, research director of gaming at IDC, said his firm found that China’s current console penetration rate is in the “single digits.” But given China’s 1.3 billion-person population, that low rate actually translates into millions of potential customers already — and that’s before the companies’ marketing machines kick into action.

“In PC [gaming], you have Internet games like Starcraft, Warcraft and Defense of the Ancients. So how [do Sony and Microsoft] win back those groups?” said Roger Sheng, a Shanghai-based consumer electronics research director at Gartner.

The answer lies not in hardware, but in software. Game selection will be biggest reason a Chinese gamer decides to buy a PlayStation 4 (RMB2,899, or $468), an Xbox One (RMB3,699, or $598) or any other game console, analysts said. But while China is letting foreign consoles through the front door, whether or not they can bring along Call of Duty or Titanfall is another question. Each game sold in the country has to win the hard-to-earn approval of China’s Ministry of Culture, which prohibits everything from blood to touchy political topics.

“[Xbox One’s and PlayStation 4’s] prices are similar enough — both of them are expensive for a typical consumer in China,” said Lisa Hanson, managing partner at Niko Partners, an Asian games research firm. “The tricky regulatory landscape is always the biggest barrier to success for foreign companies in China.”

The key for Sony and Microsoft, analysts say, is for them to build partnerships with Chinese game makers, who enjoy pre-existing relationships with regulators and whose games have already passed the lengthy approval process. For now, Sony and Microsoft can entice Chinese developers to port their pre-approved games to the Xbox and PlayStation. If consoles take off with Chinese gamers, local developers are likely to start making dedicated games for them.

When it comes to building relationships and selling games in China, Sony has a leg up on Microsoft: As a Japanese company, it’s geographically and culturally closer to China than its American rival Microsoft. That means many Chinese gamers are already more familiar with Sony’s titles, a big advantage for the company. Sony hasn’t said which PlayStation games it’s bringing to China, but Microsoft is so far only selling 10 — a sign it might be having trouble connecting to the Chinese audience. Sony is also leading in terms of developer partners, with 26 to Microsoft’s 13.

Ultimately, the small size of Microsoft’s current catalog combined with the Xbox’s higher price may give Sony the edge in the Chinese console wars, analysts said.

“[Xbox’s catalog size] is bordering on negligence — I assume Sony is going to have a significantly larger catalog than that,” Ward said. “Make no mistake, people buy consoles because of the games.”

TIME Hong Kong

79 Days That Shook Hong Kong

Hong Kong's street occupations have ended, but many demonstrators say this is only the beginning of their fight for free elections

Hong Kong authorities on Monday began tearing down the last of the city’s pro-democracy camps, bringing a quiet end to two and a half months of street occupations that constituted the most significant political protest in China since 1989’s Tiananmen Square uprising in Beijing.

By Tuesday, all three protest sites — in the Admiralty, Mong Kok and Causeway Bay districts — will be gone. The streets will be tidied up and returned to traffic, office workers and shoppers.

The protesters are leaving the streets with few tangible results. Beijing has rejected their insistence that Hong Kongers should have the right to freely elect the head of the city’s government without a pro-establishment committee first handpicking the candidates.

The Hong Kong government has also made it clear that it sees itself as a local representative of the central government, and is unwilling to convey the democratic aspirations of many of its people to Beijing.

Yet what has appeared out of the political hothouse of the tent cities is something with much more potential to undermine the Communist Party’s control over this wayward southern city, already culturally estranged from the mainland — and that is a generation of Hong Kongers who have defied Beijing, who have vowed to defy it again, and whose actions have generated a collection of resonant images that will inspire Hong Kongers for a long time to come.

After police used tear gas against protesters on Sept. 28, tens of thousands rallied to the streets. Right by the walls of the People’s Liberation Army barracks and the Hong Kong government’s headquarters, demonstrators unfurled umbrellas to protect themselves against police pepper spray. The poignant image of ordinary Hong Kongers standing up to a foe like China with nothing but these everyday items gave birth to the movement’s name: the Umbrella Revolution.

By November, the protests had contracted. The weather turned petulant, the protest leadership sparred and splintered, and demonstrators camped in the streets began to wonder how long the governments in Hong Kong and Beijing were content to let them wait. Public opinion, too, turned against the protests, with commuters complaining of epic traffic snarls caused by barricaded thoroughfares — among them Hong Kong’s major arteries — and business owners in the occupied areas feeling the pressure of reduced takings.

In one of the last rites of defiance, more than 200 protesters, including leading democratic legislators, refused to leave the largest protest site as police and demolition crews approached it last week — except, those demonstrators said, under duress and in a police van. In a process that took hours and made for a dramatic scene, police escorted — and sometimes carried — protesters off the pavement, one by one, toward a waiting police bus.

Left behind in the streets, as the final demonstrators were shown out, were countless signs, chalked on the roads, posted on walls, hung as banners and even floated into the sky on balloons. They all promised the same thing: “We will be back.”

Here, in 30 photographs, is a record of Hong Kong’s political awakening, and proof that the threat to return to the streets is not an idle one.

TIME China

Police Investigating the Disappearance of 100 Vietnamese Brides in China

The brides, sold to Chinese bachelors by a matchmaker, vanished in late November under mysterious circumstances

Police in China are investigating the disappearance of more than 100 Vietnamese women who were sold as brides to Chinese bachelors, local media said Thursday.

The women were sold through a matchmaker who went missing with them in late November, the BBC reported. An official reportedly told the China Daily newspaper that an “organized ring” might have been involved.

The men reportedly paid the matchmaker as much as $18,600 for their wives, who disappeared on Nov. 20 after telling their husbands they were going for a meal with other Vietnamese brides.

According to another Chinese publication, Jinghua Daily, one of the brides returned to her husband and said she had lost consciousness after the meal. She reportedly woke up in a small house far away from her village and was told she would be going elsewhere to “find a new husband.”


TIME Wealth

Jack Ma Is the Richest Person in Asia

Alibaba CEO Jack Ma during an interview, in New York City on March 12, 2009.
Alibaba CEO Jack Ma during an interview in New York City on March 12, 2009 Chip East—Reuters

There are no surprises here, really

Jack Ma is Asia’s wealthiest billionaire.

Ma, the founder of China’s e-commerce juggernaut Alibaba, as well as a runner-up for TIME’s Person of the Year, is worth $28.6 billion, according to Bloomberg Billionaires Index. The 50-year-old is worth about $300 million more than Hong Kong real-estate-and-ports tycoon Li Ka-shing, who had been Asia’s richest person since April 5, 2012.

About half of Ma’s fortune comes from his 6.3% stake of Alibaba. The Hangzhou-based company is larger than Amazon.com and worth about $259 billion.


TIME Hong Kong

Hong Kong Police Arrest Prominent Radicals in Home Raids

Police & Bailiffs Move In To Clear Hong Kong Protest Sites After Seven Weeks of Demonstrations
Activist Wong Yeung-tat attends a protest at the Occupy Mongkok Occupy site on Nov. 21, 2014, in Hong Kong. He was arrested on Dec. 11 on multiple charges of unlawful assembly Lam Yik Fei—Getty Images

Swoop nets head of the populist pro-democracy group Civic Passion, among others

Hong Kong police on Wednesday and Thursday arrested several dissidents at or near their homes, as authorities concurrently prepared to clear the city’s main protest camp.

Wong Yeung-tat, head of the anti-Beijing organization Civic Passion, was arrested near his home at 1 p.m. on Thursday on 59 counts of unlawful assembly, according to his party’s news outlet.

Home arrests on Wednesday included: Alvin Cheng, the leader of a hard-line group, Student Front, which rejects nonviolence; Anthony So, a member of People Power, a far-left political party; and Raphael Wong, vice chairman of the League of Social Democrats.

The three arrests, on suspicion of unlawful assembly, were reported by the government-funded Radio Television Hong Kong.

Civic Passion is perhaps the most recognizable of the vocal, insistent groups at the fringes of Hong Kong’s democratic movement. It has had choice words not just for the government, but for the protest’s unofficial student leaders, accusing them of timidity in confronting the government for the right to free and fair elections here.

The spate of arrests shortly preceded the arrival of police at the protest camp in Admiralty district, where they began dismantling the sprawling tent settlement. Protesters have spent more than two months in the camp to seek, against tough odds, the right to freely elect the city’s head of government.

TIME Photojournalism Links

Photojournalism Daily: Dec. 11, 2014

A compilation of the most interesting photojournalism found on the web, curated by Mikko Takkunen

Today’s daily Photojournalism Links collection highlights Evgenia Arbugaeva‘s photographs of a weather man living in extreme solitude in northern Russia. The photographs follow Vyacheslav Korotki, a Polyarniki – a meteorologist specializing in the polar north, who mans a remote Arctic outpost in Khodovarikha, where he keeps track of the temperatures, snowfall and wind. The closest town to Khodovarikha is an hour away — by helicopter — and visitors are rare with supplies brought in only once a year. From the outside, Korotki’s existence appears to be a lonely one, but as Arbugaeva explains in her accompanying text, she found him to be anything but. This man is right where he wants to be. The pictures are stunning and the viewers can almost feel the Arctic cold. It’s truly extraordinary work.

Evgenia Arbugaeva: Weather Man (The New Yorker)

Larry Towell: Afghanistan (The New York Times Lens) Another look at the Magnum photographer’s Afghanistan work which was recently published as book.

How John Moore Covered the Ebola Outbreak (TIME LightBox) The Getty photographer talks about his assignment covering Ebola in Liberia.

China’s wild west: photographing a vanishing way of life (The Guardian) For her book Wild Pigeon, Carolyn Drake spent seven years exploring China’s Xinjiang and the Uyghurs living there. The work is collaborative as Drake asked the locals to draw on, reassemble and play with her photographs. The work was also published on TIME LightBox in November.

Sim Chi Yin – A Singaporean Abroad (Channel NewsAsia) A TV program on photographer Sim Chi Yin and her long term projects.

TIME Hong Kong

Hong Kong’s Main Democracy Protest Camp Falls With Leading Protest Figures Arrested

But demonstrators say that their 75-day occupation is just the start of a push for greater freedom

Authorities arrested leading figures in Hong Kong’s democracy movement while clearing the city’s largest protest camp on Thursday, putting an end to a 75-day street occupation that has been a flashpoint for a bitter confrontation between pro-democracy protesters and the Hong Kong authorities, as well as the central government in Beijing.

Police brusquely tore down hundreds if not thousands of tents in Hong Kong’s Admiralty district, enforcing an injunction won by a local bus company against the protesters, who have been blocking some of Hong Kong Island’s most vital roads. The occupation of the upscale commercial district — which is also home to government offices and the local military headquarters — was the main push of a student-led protest calling for free elections.

Officers made numerous arrests from a group of about a hundred demonstrators staging a final sit-in near the local Chinese People’s Liberation Army base, including prominent democratic legislators Emily Lau, Martin Lee and Alan Leong. Police also arrested high-profile protest personalities Jimmy Lai, a media mogul; Denise Ho, a popular singer; and Audrey Eu, a former lawmaker.

In a methodical process that took hours, officers led the arrested protesters one by one to police vans and carried out those who refused to walk. Student protest leader Alex Chow, who rallied the crowd over a microphone as the group awaited arrest, was among the last protesters escorted by police out of the former protest site on Thursday night.

Hundreds of other protesters filed out of the camp through designated exits on Thursday afternoon, turning over required identification information to police as they left. One officer said the information was needed “for our follow-up, because this is an unlawful assembly.” Police had reiterated on Wednesday that the street occupations were illegal and that anyone still on the streets during the clearance risked arrest.

Most protesters said Thursday morning that they had returned to the camp not to resist the clearance, but to witness what they called the beginning of another era in a long-term democratic movement.

“This is definitely not the end of the movement,” lawmaker Leong told TIME just hours before his arrest. “With this awakening of the Hong Kong people, we have sown the seeds for the next wave of the democratization movement.”

Chow, the student leader who was later arrested, told reporters before the clearing that he was “very optimistic that people will be coming out again.” “People in Hong Kong have changed,” he said.

Workers began demolition at the camp’s periphery at around 10:30 a.m., cutting and sawing at barricades fashioned from bamboo poles and crowd-control barriers that had been seized from police in the early days of the so-called Umbrella Revolution. Facing them was 12-year-old student, Jimmy Chow — exemplifying the youth of many of the demonstrators, among whom high school students in uniform have been frequently seen. He was poised to launch a paper airplane on which he had written that the government was “criminal,” but under the gaze of bailiffs decided not to throw it.

Nearby, workers pulled down a barricade with a banner reading, “It’s just the beginning” — words of defiance from the protesters, but a phrase that could be equally read as a warning to them from the demolition crews forming on Connaught Road.

Though the injunction covered just part of the protest site, police had also said they would dismantle the entire camp on Thursday afternoon. For the most part, they met little resistance in disassembling a formerly neat encampment into a sprawl of tarps and spare wood. Many demonstrators had left before police began their clearance, packing up the boxes of crackers and cakes that have fed this movement, rolling up their sleeping mats, and leaving the streets behind.

It was also an injunction won by transport companies that quickly felled a protest encampment last month in Mong Kok, a blue-collar neighborhood in the heart of the Kowloon peninsula. Demonstrators in Admiralty said that they were powerless to prevent the new clearance and wondered what was next.

“I feel hopeless,” says Kevin Choi, 26, an engineer, dismounting a skateboard he was riding through the increasingly sparse protest site. “There’s no direction after this.”

Yet some protesters said that they were, in other ways, stronger then ever.

“I don’t think we can stop the police,” said Frank Cho, 21, a student sitting on a concrete highway divider, just before the teardown began. But, he continued, “In two or three months, we will come out with bigger numbers and stronger faith.”

Since late September, Admiralty district has served as the heart of the pro-democracy movement. It has been home to a village of tents whose color and size have been in stark opposition to the grey, titanic government headquarters looming near them, yet whose smoothness of operation would be the pride of any civil servant.

The village has been an incubator to a generation of politicized Hong Kongers. Yet it had fallen on hard times in recent weeks. The weather turned wet and cold. Numbers that had, in October, reached the tens of thousands bottomed out to the hundreds by November. Morale fell further when student leader Joshua Wong — one of TIME’s Most Influential Teens for 2014 — and other students began a hunger strike then quietly ended it after failing to move po-faced government officials to restart talks. By the time Wong called off his fast, at 108 hours, he was in a wheelchair.

Numbers returned in the past couple of days as Hong Kongers came to say farewell to what has become one of the most significant sites in their history — and may one day prove to be one in China’s too. Many took photos and videos of the posters, the people, and the protest art and other landmarks found throughout the village, which protesters called Umbrella Square.

Some carried on as usual, diligently tending to homework in the tarpaulin-covered study area. Others just draped their elbows over the flyovers that have been popular lookout points, watching and waiting. The Lennon Wall, an internationally recognized expanse of concrete that had, for the past 75 days, borne brightly colored Post-it notes of support from all over the world, was stripped almost bare, its messages to be archived by volunteers.

The night before the teardown, protesters had flung yellow confetti and glitter into the air, celebrating a beginning, not an end. At the far reaches of Harcourt Road, the tarmac was still thickly strewn with it, and it glittered in the weak early morning sun of Thursday. Chalked, posted and hung on banners everywhere was the promise “We’ll be back.”

— With reporting by Rishi Iyengar, David Stout and Helen Regan / Hong Kong

TIME Conservation

Report: Elephants at Risk as China’s Demand for Ivory ‘Out of Control’

Authors of a new report say China “holds the key to the future of elephants”

Skyrocketing demand for ivory in China has stoked the booming illegal trade and led to the slaughter of tens of thousands of elephants annually between 2010 and 2012, according to a new report.

Researchers from Save the Elephants and the Aspinall Foundation found that “every metric on the ivory trade has exploded upwards in recent years,” from the price of raw ivory to the number of factories and retail outlets. “All have shot up,” the report says.

In 2002, the report says, there were 5,241 elephant ivory goods on sale in Beijing and Shanghai. But in 2014, that number had risen to 8,444. A decade ago, there were 9 factories and 31 authorized ivory retail outlets in China. By 2013, the researchers found, there were 37 factories and 145 retail outlets.

The authors say China “holds the key to the future of elephants.” China has become the major source of illegal ivory smuggled in from Africa, even as it holds on to a stockpile of ivory that can be sold legally. The Chinese government has begun cracking down on illegal smugglers in recent years, but they’re currently losing the battle against dark trade.

“At the moment we are not winning the conservation battle against the elephant poachers, traffickers and consumers of ivory. Laws are in place but even in China they are not being adequately enforced. The system is presently out of control,” say the authors of the report in a press release.

Many countries have taken steps to combat the illegal trade of ivory in recent years, often holding large and symbolic events showcasing the destruction of goods. During his current trip to the U.S., Prince William has been calling for more countries to do more to conserve wildlife and end ivory trafficking.

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