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Burning Man App Becomes Tool for Hong Kong Protestors

Hong Kong Protest, 2014.
Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

Protestors hold up their phones while chanting pro-democracy slogans during evening speeches at the protest site on October 1, 2014 in Hong Kong. 

Now into a fifth day of pro-democracy protests that has seen downtown Hong Kong, one of the busiest districts in the world, come to a virtual stand still, demonstrators have been notable for their preparedness.

Goggles, face-masks, plastic ponchos and umbrellas have been standard items carried by most protestors to counter the elements, pepper spray and tear gas. Water, food and mobile battery packs are also reportedly essential parts of the kit for demonstrators expecting to dig in for the long haul. But the most intriguing tool has been the smartphone app FireChat, which up until now was mostly popular with music festival goers and Burning Man attendees than political rallies.

FireChat is a free app that uses Bluetooth technology for its chat platform, negating the need for a WiFi or cellular connection. Launched in March and developed by the small, privately held company Open Garden, the app has been downloaded over 100,000 times in Hong Kong since Sunday, reported The Wall Street Journal on Monday.

Although it is still unclear how many protestors are using it, the leaders of the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement expect that authorities may be tempted to shut down the cell network to cause disruption and keep organizers from communicating.

The Chinese government, which governs Hong Kong as a Special Administrative Region, is known for tight controls on communications inside its borders. On Monday, the Chinese government reportedlyshut down mobile-photo sharing app Instagram in various parts of the country.

This article was first published by The Hollywood Reporter